Ah, film festivals. They sound so glamorous and trendy, but for the true film enthusiast a film festival is a cinematic wonderland. The question is, which film festival is going to be your utopia? With countless festivals catering to all tastes the choice can be overwhelming. Read on to find information that any rookie festivalgoer needs to know.

Firstly, not all film festivals are created equal. They range from the biggies like Cannes and Sundance to low scale mom and pop festivals with quirky themes. Festivals are divided into categories based on industry presence i.e. acquisition executives, celebrities and distributors.

The major festivals are Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, Rotterdam and Venice. Cannes is the undisputed number one film festival in the world followed by Toronto and Sundance. Then there are smaller scale festivals such as Locarno and Tribeca that still draw a lot of celebrities and paparazzi and are a good springboard for new filmmakers. There are city festivals like the London and Edinburgh film festivals that don’t have a large industry presence but are still a great place to catch quality film. And then there are the small mom and pop festivals that are purely for the enjoyment of filmgoers. They often have themes, such as the Sci Fi Film Festival and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

But most importantly there are the independent film festivals. Many festivals claim to be independent but there are only three truly independent film festivals: the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Slamdance and, of course, Raindance. These festivals are also considered “mini-major” in relation to how many acquisition executives attend but they still pride themselves on the integrity of their film selection and dedication to independent cinema.

Still don’t know where to start? Here’s a peek at some of the festivals out there.

Cannes Film Festival    May 17th – 28th 2017

Certainly the most famous film festival. Thousands of people flock to the resort town of Cannes in the south of France every year to attend. The Official Selection consists of a wide variety of features and shorts ranging from films from highly recognized directors to the work of film school students. There is also CANNES CLASSICS, which screens world heritage films, some of which are new, and some of which are restored films. It is undoubtedly a fantastic spread.

Toronto Film Festival    September 7th – 17th 2017

If you’re up for some transatlantic travel the Toronto Film Festival is second only to Cannes and screens 300-400 films every year. In recent years the festival has given more attention to Hollywood and is often considered a launch pad for the “Oscar-buzz” but it is still based in its independent roots and places considerable emphasis on foreign films.

Venice Film Festival    August 30th – September 9th 2017

Started in 1932 the Venice Film Festival is the oldest in the world. And who doesn’t want an excuse to travel to the island of Lido to watch movies? Indie lovers beware: this festival can be quite commercial.

Sundance Film Festival     January 19th – 29th 2017

Held in Utah, Sundance is considered to be America’s top “independent” film festival but has morphed from a low-profile venue into a major media event for celebrities. And it is next to impossible to get tickets; thousands are turned away each year.

Slamdance Film Festival   January 20th – 26th 2017

In protest at the diminishing of independent films represented at Sundance, Slamdance is held in Utah at the same time to provide a true representation of independent film. The festival was started to represent and showcase undistributed films by new directors with lo-to-no budgets. Renowned directors such as Christopher Nolan (Memento) and Marc Foster (Monster’s Ball) have been discovered at the Slamdance Film Festival and major film labels pick up many films screened here. If you’re going to travel all the way to the States for a festival, Slamdance would be the better pick.

Raindance Film Festival    September 20th – October 1th 2017

Raindance champions truly unique films and screens around 100 features and 150 shorts from all over the world each year. Big hits such as Pulp Fiction and The Blair Witch Project have been shown at the festival and jury members, patrons, and award recipients include the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Anton Corbijn, and Ewan McGregor. Located in the heart of London, the Raindance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the UK and the only legitimate independent festival on this side of the big pond.

These are just a few of the big name festivals but keep an eye out for all the city and small scale festivals out there; you never know what you might find!

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By Lauren Harris

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About 

Raindance aims to promote and support independent filmmaking and filmmakers.

From new and emerging to industry pros, Raindance connects, trains, supports, and promotes visual storytellers through every step of their career.

The Raindance Film Festival runs each Autumn in London's Leicester Square.

Raindance has been delivering film training since 1992. A wide range of Open Classes to a 2 year HND Level 5 BTEC in Moving Images to a Postgraduate Film Degree are delivered to students on five continents, both in person and online.