You have finished your film and now you want to get it out there under the noses of acquisition executives, right? But which film festival do you send it to? There’s over five types of film festival, and with over 5,000 film festivals around the world, negotiating a film festival strategy can be overwhelming.
Before you embark on your festival hunt it’s helpful to plan your strategy – and decide what your priorities are.
There are really 4 basic reasons to attend a film festival:
- to expose your film to acquisition executives and hopefully sell your film
- to win awards
- to sit on a panel / do a Q &A
- to get reviewed and interviewed to create buzz
The question is, which reason are you attending film festivals? And what is the cost of submitting and attending film festivals? Are there any film festivals where you can submit for free?
Film festivals are divided into categories based on the number of acquisition executives that attend. Major and mini-major film festivals charge submission fees. It is here that your film has it’s best chance of being seen by a distibutor.
The major film festivals, in rank, are: Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, Rotterdam and Venice. Cannes is undoubtedly the premiere event. Toronto and Sundance vie for the number two spot, but since Sundance has become a launching pad for Hollywood films, I personally give the number two spot to Toronto – if for no other reason than the important slots it gives to foreign language films. Rotterdam is an amazing festival hosted by an amazing city. Berlin has an excellent festival with Europe’s most energetic and charismatic director. Venice is an important festival as well, but is becoming dangerously corporate.
Mini-major festivals are also excellent festivals to launch your films, and vie with the majors for industry and celebrity turnout. Festivals such as SXSW, Locarno, San Sebastian, Raindance, Tribeca and Karlovy Vary have hundreds of celebrities and paparazzi attending and can be a useful springboard to getting your film noticed.
3. City Festivals
There are many city festivals that attract the attention of filmmakers and filmgoers alike. They do not have a sizeable industry presence, very few acquisitions executives and are designed to appeal to the cineastes within their borders. Edinburgh, Leeds, Cambridge and London are some of the important UK festivals designed for local residents. Palm Springs, Telluride, San Francisco and Montreal are a few of the many in North America.
4. Genre Film Festivals
Certain film festivals cater to specific genres. If you make a horror film you would probably make Sitges your number one choice. London has the London Sci Fi and Fright Fest. While fewer acquisition executives attend genre festivals, those that do are there because they are interested in that genre. In marketing speak, these buyers are pre-qualified.
5. Mom and Pop
At the risk of sounding patronising, mom and pop festivals are small festivals that were created simply for the enjoyment of cinema. They are usually run by one or two people. Sometimes they offer wider themes, such as the Human Rights Festival. These festivals attract local press, but very few if any industry people and virtually no acquisitions executives attend.
Take the time to research film festivals. There is so much you can learn about the top festivals online. Meet other filmmakers at networking events and at local film festivals and get their recommendations. Beware the so-called festival experts who claim to have insider knowledge of the festival circuit based on trips to lowly rated mom and pop type festivals. These so-called consultants are the sort of people who will fail miserably to help you in a meaningful way and often have a series of cons and ploys they like to spring on festival virgins. Trust your instincts, and happy festival travelling.