Films Festival Vs Film Distribution: The Filmmakers Quandry

I’m waiting in the Heathrow Departure lounge awaiting a flight to the Berlinale and the European Film Market. In Berlin, I’m going to be researching film distribution. My flight’s been delayed 3 hours giving me a chance to catch up on emails.

I’m reminded of two dear friends who both have films nearing completion. They both have submitted to the so-called Tier One film festivals and each of them has had offers from distributors. So the quandary is, do you accept the distribution deal and possibly see the premier status of your film ruined? Or do you wait it out to see if your movie is in a big-time film festival?

Elliot Grove presents an intense weekend masterclass Lo To No Budget Filmmaking Enter IndieFilm at checkout for a ten percent discount

One of my friends, who happens to be a Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree student is waiting for the SWSX and Tribeca Festivals. They announce their lineup beginning of March – a fortnight from now. In her case I think she should wait, hoping to get accepted and if so use the festival appearance to leverage a higher price. If she isn’t accepted perhaps she could consult with her distributor and take advice about entering into Toronto for a North American profile, or consider some of the great autumn European festivals like Venice and Raindance.

My other friend has a micro-budget film with some name talent. He is currently juggling offers from two different distributors for North America rights. He doesn’t think his film will make it into TIFF in Toronto in the fall, so has submitted to some of the excellent Tier 2 North American festivals like Banff, Seattle, Santa Barbara, New York and Vancouver. I don’t need to remind you what the objectives of attending a film festival are, do I? r

The strategy is to hype up the bidding war, and if a distributor ponies up with the cash, then the distributor will decide whether or not to proceed with the festival screenings.

Both filmmakers have a similar head-banging decision to make. Do you wait for the big festivals to get back to you? And remember that SWSX had over 10,000 submissions last year. Or do you go to the Tier 2 festivals and hope you can use those festivals to leverage a distribution deal. Tier 2 festivals usually don’t require world premieres. Usually (as Raindance) only require a national or regional premiere.

Another factor to consider is the length of time a film goes from “SOLD” to distribution can vary greatly. When my film Deadly Virtues was sold to Germany – it was ten months before it came out in Germany.

Other Film Distribution Strategies

Why not consider going a film market? I’m en route to Berlin and the European Film Market.

I next will go to Marche Du Film in Cannes in May. The American Film Market hits LA in November. It could be you can time your film market debut with a sales and distribution push.

A film market allows you to manage international sales efficiently. You can then leverage your international sales as a way to promote your film to other territories, along the lines of “The Runaway Romanian Art-house Hit!

Elliot Grove presents an intense weekend masterclass Lo To No Budget Filmmaking Enter IndieFilm at checkout for a ten percent discount


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.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

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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