Six Ways Independent Filmmakers Leverage Film Festivals - Raindance

Film festival roles have seen dramatic changes over the past two decades. Filmmakers struggle with distribution despite the power of the internet. Film festivals themselves seem to come and go – the festival attrition rate seems to be higher than ever.

So what is the point of a film festival? This is something I’ve struggled with since Raindance Film Festival started way back in 1993. Nonetheless, Raindance has continued and indeed has managed to flourish. today where I sit from Planet Raindance I feel that more than ever a film festival roles are more important for independent filmmakers than ever.

All film festivals are the product of the vision of their creators and the result of thousands of hours of dedicated staff who work, often for little or no financial reimbursement to put on their film festival. Usually, as with Raindance – with little or no public funding. Without wanting to sound bitter (I’m not) a film festival, properly run, offers these six terrific benefits for independent filmmakers.

film festival roles1. Film festivals offer theatrical distribution

The role of a film festival is to deliver a room full of people to watch and admire your work.

The fact is independent films rarely get played in a cinema. A festival plays films in a cinema. Filmmakers can use this for their red carpet screening hoping to attract an audience. Many filmmakers use a film festival tour to kick-off for their online distribution.

film festival roles

Ken Loach receiving an award from Festival director Elliot Grove at Raindance Film Festival 2016

Film festivals offer awards

There’s nothing quite like being nominated for an award. And nothing quite as sweet as winning an award – slamming the laurels onto one’s website and postcard for your film. Although the festival you attend might not be known at all, the mere sight of a laurel wreath somehow adds credibility to your film making it a little bit easier to convince someone else to watch your film.

As a filmmaker one tends to favour festivals with key jury members who presumably watch your film and deliver to it the accolades you know it deserves.

film festival roles

Film festivals develop a filmmaker’s brand

Festivals like Raindance release a hundred films in a week. In order to attract audiences festivals describe their catalogue as a series of genres. Sometimes the festivals are genre specific. London, for example, has the famous Frightfest and London Sci-fi festivals.

Getting the branding right for your film (and your career) is the trick. for example: here is a list of essential horror and fantasy film festivals.

Whichever festival you choose, and whatever festival accepts your film, make sure that it fits your branding.

film festival roles

Journalists at the Berlin Film Festival



Festivals start the hype

The unique aspect of screening at a film festival is how the goals of the festival and the filmmaker merge. Both sides need to get people talking about the film. the festival needs the hype to attract punters to the cinema. And a filmmaker needs good reviews to add to their press kit. Hiring a press agent is often a good strategy for a filmmaker in order to maximise the festival apprearance. And hiring a publicist is an essential for a film festival.

film festival roles

Film festivals are a test screening

Many film screenings at Raindance are essentially feedback sessions. Filmmakers pass out survey forms and questionnaires. It’s not uncommon for a film to be recut after a festival screening. The festival screening itself is interesting here at Raindance because our programmers choose films from all over the world. often a film that plays well in its native country, like Canada or Japan, won’t gather the same type of audience response as it has done in its home territory. Festivals are a cost-effective way for filmmakers to test their films in front of an impartial audience.

film festival roles



 Film festivals provide a community

It’s at a film festival where you meet like-minded people – not just festival attendees but fellow filmmakers. Festivals are a great place to meet new collaborators, and also to bask in the warmth of praise for your work. One of the key film festival roles is to provide an environment for networking.



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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