You’ve spent a fortune applying to film festivals. I know this because I do this with my movies. You’ve had a series of rejections – and do they sting. I’ve been turned down by dozens of film festivals with my various projects. Now you’ve finally got accepted to a film festival. Congratulations! You plunk down your last chunk of change and book travel and accommodation to a festival screening. Once there, how do you maximise your festival attendance?
Here’s what I have noticed filmmakers attending Raindance have done to make their screening and their attendance a standout.
Making the most from your festival experience
1. Make connections
Make no exception – the number one reason you go to a film festival is to make connections and these happen on several different levels, and to access each you will need different skills.
- Your screening audience – getting live feedback from a room full of strangers is an experience that you cannot buy. Whether they laugh at the right place, or laugh at all are lessons you’ll carry for the rest of your career. Of course, applause at the end of the screening is a great added bonus too.
- Fellow filmmakers – learning from your filmmaking colleagues is a sure-fire way to gain valuable knowledge. They won’t teach these tips at any film school.
- Attending film professionals – the filmmaking industry is a people industry. Building relationships with industry professionals is much easier at a film festival. Don’t ignore this valuable opportunity.
2. Promoting your film and yourself
Learning the art of self-promotion is an important skill. Start the buzz.
- Business cards – consider a business card as a micro poster about you. Remember to keep the card’s back clean and matt so people can write notes.
- Lobby cards – ideally postcard and letter size with a brief synopsis and your contact details on the back. You will never know how much space is allocated for filmmakers’ cards until you arrive.
- Your film’s campaign image – the most important element of your promotion is an eye-catching visual image. Getting this right can be a series of trials and errors.
- Using social media – this has become the essential skill filmmakers need to know. Learn how to devise and execute a memorable social media campaign – both for your film and for yourself.
- Film trailers – many people make their decision on whether or not they’ll watch your film based on a 2-minute trailer. Try to convey the emotion of your film.
3. Getting press for your film
The art of getting press is another filmmaker essential no film school in the world teaches you. Press is the lifeblood that drives your film to viewers. Without viewers your film will end up in a graveyard filled with the corpses of other films strangled by lack of publicity.
- Creating a press kit – a proper press kit contains all the story and production notes of your film. Successful press kits create their own unique story of the film, almost the written equivalent of a good film trailer.
- Getting press – a press agent or publicist is another essential member of the team. Remember their task is to distribute your story, not to create it. You still have to create the story of your film.
- Conducting an interview – have you ever been interviewed? Film festivals love to interview filmmakers. The interview is one of the key ways you can start the ‘buzz’ for your film. It’s a really good idea to prepare a list of questions and include it in your press kit so journalists get an idea of what topics to ask you.
4. Identifying your goals
Can you remember why you wanted to make a film in the first place?
- Creating a business plan – this simple document should lay out the ‘why’ you want to make a film, contains bios on your key team members as well as the financial information. Make certain you thoroughly examine your distribution strategy – unless you don’t care whether your investors ever get paid back.
- Pitching successfully – the ability to succinctly and clearly verbalise your film’s story is yet another essential skill. Practise on your friends so when you get to a film festival you’ll be able to quickly and confidently answer the question: “What is your film about?”
5. Doing the deal
Isn’t it great when a distributor rushes up to you after your screening and offers to take you out for dinner? Of course you politely decline because you know they are trying to get you out of the building away from their competitors, all of whom are trying to negotiate for your film.
It’s easy enough for me to go on and on about how filmmakers attend film festivals. What have I missed out? Do me a big favour and stick your thoughts and comments in the box below. And see you at this year’s 26th Raindance Film Festival!