Why Autumn Film Festival Season is Important for Indie Filmmakers

The summer heatwave here in London may not inspire you to dance – unless of course, you’re working like mad on the launch of the 27th Raindance Film Festival! With the silly season half gone, it’s time to reflect on the autumn film festival season and why it matters to independent filmmakers.

A brief history of the film festival circuit

Raindance frequently gets asked by filmmakers when’s the best time to launch a film. The answer is obvious: When your film is finished.

There are two main cycles of film festivals: Winter and Autumn.

The winter season kicks off with Sundance and Rotterdam Film Festival in mid-January, which overlaps with the Berlinale in Berlin. I always attend and think of Berlinale over Valentines Day. Then the season winds up in spectacular fashion with Cannes Film Festival in May. These are really important film festivals and are used to launch films both small and large. Berlin and Cannes also host major film markets, the European Film Market and the Marche du Film, respectively.

Autumn starts with the massive Venice film Festival followed by San Sebastian, Karlovy Vary. A crescendo builds  with the Toronto International Film Festival and then Raindance at the beginning and end of September. London Film Festival tails along after Raindance in October.

The Autumn has three film and media markets as well: MIPTV in late September, the Pusan Asian Film Market in October and the American Film Market in Los Angeles in mid-November.

Why is the Autumn film festival season so important?

autumn film festival season

1. It’s the start of the awards season

First and foremost, the Autumn festival circuit is the precursor to the Awards season culminating with the BAFTA and Academy Awards in February and March. Films who do well at the Autumn festival seem to have a much better chance of being noticed by selectors and jury members of the different award-giving organisations.

Hype starts with festivals and awards are very hyped

autumn film festival season

2. It’s a great time to get people out to the cinema

After the follies of the summer, everyone is back to work and school. And speaking of school, students are a major target demographic for new releases. It’s the second largest demographic of moviegoers. The largest age demographic of moviegoers is 25-39 – the very people who have had summer holidays and are now back at work.

3. Distributors are looking for content

One of the main reasons filmmakers attend film festivals is to sell their film. Distribution companies hire specialist scouts or acquisition executives to view and acquire new films. These acquisition executives and film buyers scour film festivals on the hunt for new talent and new films. They flock to the major film festivals, both the winter season and the autumn season, where new films get their world premieres.

4. The weather

Ah. The weather. North America is not yet wintry. The UK’s rainy weather has usually passed. Autumn is ideal weather for attending festival screenings without the threat of getting frozen or soaked. And if it is raining, what better way to escape the weather than in a cinema.

5. Ah! Raindance

The autumn film festival season wouldn’t be complete without Raindance. The largest (and longest running) independent film festival in the UK starts on 26th September 2018. Raindance brings arguably the very best in independent film: Shorts, documentaries, features, music videos, web series pilots and virtual reality experiences to a discerning audience.

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Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

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Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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