Beginner’s Notes For Festivals

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Whether you love or hate them, festivals are an inevitable part of any filmmaker’s journey. Attending the big name festivals like Cannes, Sundance or Toronto is a dream to many.  And it mostly stays as a dream because for an emerging filmmaker, it’s practically impossible to get accepted to festivals of that magnitude without personal connections or significant financial backing. 

Fortunately, there are hundreds of other smaller or lesser known festivals that are much more welcoming than the big name festivals. These are great events to get to know the industry, make the inevitable mistakes and learn the ins and outs. There are many types of festival-goers; overreaching networkers, experienced but never made-it producers, semi-struggling actors, brutal film critics and more. Some might sound better to hang out with than the others but you never know that right person is to propel your career.

Apply to a lot of festivals but choose them wisely because submission fees are no joke. You can find lists of popular, must attend festivals everywhere online. Other than these you should also find smaller but more relevant festivals for your specific film. You need to do a lot of research.

Your film got accepted and you are at the festival, congratulations! But your work is not done, it’s time to market yourself and your movie. It’s fun to get tipsy with fellow filmmakers but you have to play it strategically. Do your rounds, meet as many people you can but also do not waste your time. As you go to more and more festival, finding the right people will become more natural.

Always carry a business card. Of course festivals are fun events but most importantly they are professional networking events where everyone meet tons of people. Going through your bag of business cards to see who you should stay in contact with, is a post-festival task for everyone.

On top of business cards, you should also bring printed marketing materials to the festival with you, such as a small poster of your film, with social media links, good visuals and anything else to make that piece of paper more memorable. Because people do forget. It’s ok if you feel like one of those people on the street handing out flyers. It’s also a great idea to have a website where you can showcase your other works and to have an online presence when people look your name up online. On this mobile age a website is an essential tool to market yourself.

Many festivals have workshops, try to attend to them. Maybe your instructor will be the the perfect connection. Or you will just learn a new thing or two. Nevertheless you never know where your big festival connection will come from.

Finally, don’t lose your motivation if you get rejected by festivals. It’s an industry fact that most of the submitted films don’t even get watched or gazed upon by the programmers. They are usually concerned with filling up time slots to schedule the screenings better. You will see films that are poorly made, making you wonder why they are being screened in the first place. The only thing you need to know is that the film industry experiencing a golden age where new content is more valuable than gold. Take the right steps, keep dreaming and creating.