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The following are tips and helpful advice about film festivals given by various people. Film Festivals are constantly growing and changing so please take the following information as it is. Enjoy!
HOW TO PACKAGE A FILM FESTIVAL SUBMISSION By Susan Youssef (edited and updated by Sarah Gonzalez)
1. The DVD
Buy a gazillion blank DVDs from Pro-Tape or Media Toolbox. Both are in local shops that sell DVDs for much cheaper than Radioshack. I would say buy at least 50. Yes. 50. You will need to submit to at least 10 festivals, and then when you get in, you will give lots of DVDs out to new friends and contacts at the festival.
2. The Label
For DVDs this process may vary. A number of companies manufacture and distribute blank DVD and CD labels that are designed to be used with an inkjet printer. You will also need publishing software to design and print your labels. Using the “Labels” option under “Tools” Microsoft Word, make labels that contain the following information:
* Contact information (e-mail address and/or phone number)
* Total Running Time (TRT)
* NTSC or PAL (NTSC is American format; PAL is European)
* Subtitles (if appropriate)
Example: Here’s one of my spine labels.
Forbidden to Wander • Dir. Susan Youssef • • (512) 555-1526 • TRT: 35 min. • NTSC • English subtitles
3. Write a synopsis.
A short one. Three sentences max. Some festivals require they be as short as 25 words. It’s okay to hint at the resolution in your synopsis but be careful to not give everything away. Don’t write a review. Make sure this captures the what the story is about.
Example: For my short film Las Amigas Bonitas, my synopsis is, “A young girl escapes from her own private hell to the grocery store.” This is closer to a log line because it hooks people. “The sheriff of an island town takes to the seas when a bloodthirsty shark invades the local waters.”
Have a longer synopsis ready and in your press kit just in case a festival requires it. Keep in mind the difference between logline and tagline because if a festival asks you for one and you give them the other, it shows you don’t know what you are talking about.
A log line is a brief summary, often providing both a synopsis of the plot, and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest. It usually introduces you to the protagonist and his/her problem.
“Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.” – Log Line for The Wizard of Oz
“When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.” – logline for Jaws
A tagline is a variant of a branding slogan typically used in marketing materials and advertising.
“We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz!” – Tagline for The Wizard of Oz
“Amity Island had everything. Clear skies. Gentle surf. Warm water. People flocked there every summer. It was the perfect feeding ground.” –Tagline for Jaws
“Don’t go in the water” – Tagline for Jaws
4. Film stills
Send stills of scenes from your film—not photos of your production crew. Consider submitting a still from a scene that is nicely composed and interesting to the eye. A boring-looking or poor-quality still is not going to help you. Your film still may be the first thing that festivals happen to look at even before viewing your tape, so it’s worth your effort to try to make a good impression. Furthermore, the still you submit may be used for publicity in catalogues and web sites, so keep in mind that the image you select will be your face to the world.
If you failed to take film stills during your film shoot or the photos you took turn out badly, you may consider re-staging a scene with your actors at a later date.
If you are cheap or broke, you can opt not to send stills, but it is best to send one image. You need all the publicity help you can get to become the next Jane Campion or Wes Anderson or Todd Haynes.
You can send your still as a print or digital image. One of the best and most affordable options today is to submit a digital image saved as a 300 dpi TIFF file. You can submit digital images on CDR, or with permission, as an e-mail attachment.
5. Filmmakers’ Biography or Filmography
If you think that something significant has happened to you and /or your films, and you would like to let them know, write it down.
Example: Josh Khali’s work has screened at film festivals all over Texas, including the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival, and the Dallas Video Festival.
Otherwise: Josh Khali is a filmmaker based in Austin, Texas.
6. Press Packet
If they ask for a press packet, don’t sweat. It’s usually not necessary to submit one for short films.
However if it comes up don’t sweat. Press Kits help festivals promote your film. A basic press kit includes the following:
You can submit a CD-R with :
* Film Synopsis – Text File (Write a short and long one)
* Director’s Bio – Text File (200 words maximum)
* main Crew bios (producer, Director of photography, etc) – Text File (200 words maximum)
* Photo of Director – Jpeg, Tiff, PSD (3inch x 5inch at 150dpi minimum)
(Optional but highly recommended)
* Project History – Text File (discuss any cute stories associated with how it was made. where else has the production been screened? Has it won any awards? )
* Reviews and Third Party Endorsements – Text File (Do you have any blurbs that other accredited people have said about the film?)
* Movie Poster – Jpeg, Tiff, PSD (3inch x 5inch at 150dpi minimum)
* Production Stills – Jpeg, Tiff, PSD (3inch x 5inch at 150dpi minimum)
Buy bubble envelopes from HEB, and be sure to mail them “media mail” from the post office. That’s the cheapest way for your film to get there in one piece. Do not send them in fiber stuffed envelopes!
Priority and express mail are not necessary unless you are running late for a deadline.
Send a self-addressed, stamped postcard that they can mail you to let you know that they received and are processing your submission.
9. The Fee
Yes, this is expensive. Unless your particular work has already screened at lots of festivals or you have been invited to submit, suck it up and pay it. I do on occasion ask for a fee waiver or discount, but only from smaller festivals or from festivals where I personally know the programmers. (On the other hand, smaller festivals often need the fee money to keep themselves in operation more than the larger, more established festivals do. You decide.)
10. About “Without A Box”
It’s an online service that gives you a way to submit to tons of festivals, using only one form, and get discounts on submission fees. It’s also a way to find out about all the festival deadlines.
“Without A Box” may be good for you do if you don’t want to do a lot of research or fill out a lot of submission forms, and are seeking a very broad distribution plan (i.e. to submit to tons of festivals). Visit www.withoutabox.com.
If you miss the deadline for submission, write the festival an e-mail and ask if you can submit late. Sometimes they will accept it. Most of the time, they won’t. It doesn’t hurt asking.
12. “I won’t be done in time for the deadline!”
Send them a rough cut that makes the deadline. Then send them updated cuts as they come along. (Until you get in or rejected from the festival.) You can do this as long as you think you will finish the film in time for the festival. If the festival isn’t receptive to this then there’s always next year.
Festivals you should know about
-by Susan Youssef
Think of applying to festivals as similar to applying to colleges–they cost about the same to apply to, some of the judging is arbitrary, and it is highly rewarding if you get in, but if you don’t–don’t take it personally.
There is a group of festivals referred to as the “A-List.” They are basically really, really hard to get into (think of getting into these festivals as getting into Harvard or Yale). They are a destination for major media people–distributors, reviewers, and film enthusiasts.
A-list festivals* include:
-Toronto International Film Festival
-Rotterdam International Film Festival
-Berlin International Film Festival
-Venice International Film Festival
*Note: Some people might argue about the categories I am creating; just use this a general guide to understand how to create a festival distribution
There are many other highly competitive festivals, where the odds of getting in are still pretty slim, but more likely. (Think of this as getting into UT-Austin or Rice) Below are examples from a variety of categories:
-South by Southwest
-Full Frame (documentary festival)
-Clermont-Ferrand (shorts festival)
-New York Underground (experimental film festival)
-Outfest (gay & lesbian film festival)
-Lunafest (women’s film festival)
-Ann Arbor (a destination for art films and experimental work)
Unlike applying to colleges, there is no SAT to gage where you belong. In deciding where I apply to, I handle it pretty much the same as I handled applying to colleges.
I have reach festivals, target festivals, and safe festivals.
For example for my first short “Las Amigas Bonitas,” I applied to:
-Sundance, Telluride, and SXSW–as reach festivals. As a first-time narrative filmmaker, without previous contacts with programmers or a previous film reputation to go on, I knew getting in would be really, really hard. (And I didn’t get in.)
-NYC Mix Festival and Cinematexas–as target festivals. “Las Amigas Bonitas”
is a queer experimental short. Mix and Cinematexas program a lot of experimental short work. It got into these festivals. Mix and Cinematexas are so well-reputed that other programmers from other festivals dialogue with them and review their catalogues. This helped me get into a lot of other festivals, including Slamdance.
-Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-as a safety festival. I knew my film
would have a good chance of getting in because it is a locally made queer film. And it did.
How do you gage where your film belongs?
-by Susan Youssef
It costs money to apply to festivals, and I suggest applying to about 10 anyways.
It is really hard when you are a first-time or novice filmmaker to break into the festival circuit. But still if you break into just one, there is a very high chance that you will get into others. As I mentioned previously, programmers share resources.
I would not spend all of my money on A-lists. They are usually the most expensive festivals to apply to. Plan wisely: find your niche markets–be it Jewish, outdoors, children–whatever, finding your specific market will help A LOT. You will have a higher chance of getting in because the programmers are looking for films like yours.
Examples of niche festival categories:
You can easily research these festivals online.
Film Festivals I recommend
-by Susan Youssef
So what are the highly reputed festivals that are not the A-list festivals?
I will break them up into category. This is by no means the end all list of
great festivals. This is a general list to help you devise your plan:
Longhorn Film Festival
Gay & Lesbian:
Ethnic/Minority Film Festivals:
Sundance-Native American Showcase
Festivals that I think UT students should DEFINITELY apply to because they are free/cheap to apply to, local, student-aimed, or all three.
-Texas Filmmakers Showcase-It’s free to submit and they will take your work to L.A. to screen at the Director’s Guild of America. All categories of work accepted.
-Longhorn Film Festival-You can win cash prizes, and all people who apply get festival badges! All categories.
-Student Academy Awards-It’s free to apply, and who doesn’t want an Oscar? All categories.
-NextFrame Student Film Festival-It’s a touring film festival.
I GOT INTO A FESTIVAL. NOW WHAT?
By Susan Youssef and (edited and updated by Sarah Gonzalez)
1. DO go to all the parties.
Schmooze. Make friends. Even if you sit at the bar, drinking alone and feeling pathetic. It’s good practice. You will make friends by just being out there. Compliments go a long way in starting conversation.
2. DO approach filmmakers whose films you liked.
Come prepared to meet people. Have cards and DVDs ready. Be ready to give them a copy of your film. Don’t be shy. You were good enough to get into this festival and so was this filmmaker. You are professional equals.
3. DO NOT GET DRUNK but do have a good time. It’s okay to drink but it’s not okay to be known for being a drunk ass in front of people you are trying to impress.
4. DO NOT go home with the gorgeous, super-hot filmmaker from a distant city.
You don’t want to burn any bridges or build bridges that go down the wrong roads. Remind your self that you want to come off professional. This isn’t just a normal vacation. You are a professional. Remember that.
5. DO go to panels and learn.
Take advantage of all a festival has to offer. Go into it humble and ready to learn all you can. South By Southwest, for example, has wonderful panels on things like festival distribution.
6. DO watch the films!
You are at this festival to screen your film but you are also there to network, learn something and hopefully be entertained. Make sure you attend other people’s screenings. That way you have something to talk about with all the people you are going to approach.
7. DO be courteous and respectful!
While you are at the screenings, be on your best behavior. Don’t get to a screening late. Try not to walk around during someone’s film. And as always, turn your cell phone off! You don’t want to be that guy who’s phone went off during the screening (especially if you have a ringtone that might make some sort of embarrassing statement). Make sure you sit through the credits. Festival rookies might not know this, but you always clap when the credits roll and see “directed by…”.
FILM FESTIVAL STRATEGIES by Greg Pak
So you’ve finished your short and want to show the world.
What to do? As you know, there are a few giant film festivals which everybody’s desperate to crack: Sundance, Telluride, Berlin, the New York Film Festival, Toronto, Montreal…
Of course you should enter all of these huge film festivals, particularly if your ultimate goal is to get an agent, sell your screenplays, and make feature films. These are the festivals the big and small cheeses in the industry go to and talk about; it’s a great place to make a splash.
Do not agonize for more than half an hour when you get your rejection letter from Sundance. Sundance and these other giant festivals are not the be-all and end-all for independent films, particularly for shorts. Nor is getting into one of these festivals any guarantee of your film’s ultimate success—I’ve had friends who have taken their short films to Sundance and had little business result.
There are dozens, even hundreds of decent venues for your short film. Any one of them can provide you with the exposure and contacts you’re looking for to further your career. And all of them can give you that all-important experience of seeing your film screened before an audience other than your family and friends.
This point is worth emphasizing: you should jump on chances to screen your film not only for self-promotional purposes, but also because seeing your film screened will make you a better filmmaker.
Furthermore, I’ve often find that excellent experiences and business contacts come from the festivals or screenings for which I’d had low expectations. More and more cities these days have tiny micro cinemas specializing in independent films and shorts—if all of your expectations have centered on Sundance, you might have ignored these venues. But screening at small local venues can be invaluable, introducing you to a community of local filmmakers, programmers, and film buffs.
So where should I submit my films, you ask?
I’d recommend reading the festival listings in “The Independent,” the magazine of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. On the west coast, the Film Arts Foundation has a similar magazine called “Release Print” with even more extensive listings. Indiewire regularly posts festival deadlines; if you do an online search for “film festivals,” you’ll no doubt come up with many other resources.
As you’ll quickly see, there are hundreds of festivals in the United States alone. Your next task is to decide where to send your film.
I have a few criteria I use.
1) Submit to the big fests.
You never know.
2) Submit to strong second-tier fests.
There are a number of well known festivals which, though not as huge as Sundance, are excellent places to show shorts and get a little attention. I always submit to South by Southwest, the Austin Heart of Film Festival, the Shorts International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the AFI Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, Slamdance…
Clermont Ferrand, a shorts festival and market in France, is a great place to get screened—short film buyers from around the world pick up films there. And other filmmakers tell me that the Aspen Short Film Festival is an incredibly fun place to screen a film.
For documentaries, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the DoubleTake Film Festival, the Yamagata Documentary Film Festival, Cinema du Reel, and the Margaret Mead Film Festival are good choices.
3) Submit to places you like.
There are a few festivals which have shown my films in the past, which I enjoyed attending, and which I just plain like. Just because they know me is no guarantee they’ll accept my future films, but I like these folks, so I’ll always submit to festivals like Cinequest and Film Fest New Haven.
4) Submit to the appropriate specialty festivals.
I always submit my film to any specialty festivals which are appropriate. Many of my films have Asian American content—I always submit them to the many excellent Asian American festivals around the country. Do some digging around and you’ll find festivals which specialize in everything from Native American films to gay and lesbian films to nature films to underground/subversive cinema to digital art to dance.
I’ve found that some of the best festival experiences, particularly for short filmmakers, can come at these specialty festivals. These festivals often are run by idealists whose agenda is to celebrate their community and support their filmmakers. It’s a nice feeling, being celebrated and supported.
If you have a gay or lesbian themed film, by all means submit it to the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Since my short “Po Mo Knock Knock” played there, I’ve received emails or letters of interest from at least a half a dozen other interested festivals. I’ve had great experience at almost all of the Asian American film festivals—for contact information, visit the AsianAmericanFilm.com Filmmakers Network page.
5) Submit to places nearby or where you have friends.
I look for festivals I can actually attend (or which friends and family can attend). I live in New York, so I tend to submit my films to just about every venue I hear about in the five boroughs, no matter how small. As I’ve pontificated above, there are huge benefits to seeing your film in front of an audience. I’m also more likely to submit to festivals in places like Texas or the Bay Area—places I have loads of friends and family.
6) Submit to places with prizes.
Whether a festival gives prizes is an important consideration, particularly if you have a film like a documentary short or an experimental film which can fit into a less competitive category.
Here’s the way I think about it:
The vast majority of shorts submitted to festivals are fictional narratives, dramas or comedies. So if there’s a general competition category for “Short Narrative,” the number of films competing is enormous. Now, many fewer documentary shorts and experimental shorts tend to be submitted. So if there are separate categories for experimental or documentary shorts, your statistical odds are simply better. It may seem cold and calculating, but if you’re weighing the worth of coughing up another thirty bucks for another festival entry fee, a little cold calculation may be in order.
The Top Ten Film Festivals
- by Chris Gore
1. Sundance Film Festival
2. Toronto International Film Festival
3. Cannes Film Festival
4. American Film Institute (AFI) Los Angeles International Film Festival
5. Berlin Film Festival
6. SXSW: South By Southwest Film Festival
7. Telluride Film Festival
8. Los Angeles Film Festival
9. Seattle International Film Festival
10. Tribeca Film Festival
The Top Ten Film Festivals for American Independents
- by Chris Gore
1. Sundance Film Festival
2. SXSW: South By Southwest Film Festival
3. American Film Institute (AFI) Los Angeles International Film Festival
4. IFP Los Angeles Film Festival
5. Telluride Film Festival
6. Seattle International Film Festival
7. Tribeca Film Festival
8. New York New Directors Film Festival
9. Denver International Film Festival
10. Cinequest San Jose Film Festival
10 important Factors to Consider When Applying to Festivals
- by Chris Gore
As the filmmaker (writer, director, producer or the combination of the three), your job is to act as the ambassador of your film. When you travel to a festival, you represent everyone who worked on the movie and the movie itself. Make no mistake, selecting the festivals to submit your film to is an important decision. You will be throwing away vast amounts of time and money if you do not consider these ten important factors before submitting to any festival. In order of importance, they are:
1.) PRESTIGE. Submitting your film to a prestige festival will give your movie its best chance to be sold to a distributor, receive loads of press coverage, get your next film deal, and (cross your fingers) launch your brilliant career as a filmmaker. Also , just getting accepted into a prestige festival can make a great quote on a DVD sleeve – something as simple as “Official Selection Sundance Film Festival.” I’ll bet you’ve noticed that on more than a few films. Prestige counts for a lot. Being accepted into one of the top ten film festivals is an honor, so keep that in mind.
2.) DISTRIBUTORS. Is the festival considered a “discovery” film festival – one that distributors attend? If the ultimate goal is to sell your film, this must be of paramount concern to you. Make sure to ask the festival staff which acquisitions executives will be attending.
3.) REVIEWS AND PRESS COVERAGE. Getting exposure in newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, American Cinematographer, Filmmaker, web outlets like FilmThreat.com and IndieWire, and trades like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety is another important factor to consider. Your chances of being covered and/or reviewed by these outlets increases when they actually attend the festival. But it’s also your job to be sure that they see a screening of your film. Ask the festival office to provide a list of the journalists attending the festival. If the festival has only attracted local press, it may not be worth your time. Unless, of courses, that local press is in one of the Top Ten markets in the US.
4.) PRIZES AND AWARDS. From sizable cash awards to film equipment to lab deals, prizes should play a role in your decision to submit. The winner of the Grand Prize for Dramatic Feature at the Heartland Film Festival gets $50,000 – that’s a damn good prize. Cash awards are always a nice dividend. Be sure to research the prizes awarded and take them into consideration when submitting. Inquire about audience awards, judges awards, and so on. Any type of award that your film receives only serves to increase its overall value. While it’s an honor to receive a jury award, audience awards hold a lot of clout since they are the true gauge for whether moviegoers respond to your film.
5.) LOCATION. Could this film festival be a well-earned holiday as well as a chance to schmooze with the big-shots of the movie world? If it’s a choice between Hawaii Film Festival and a festival in Ohio, the choice is clear. Surf’s up! Hawaii!
6.) PERKS. How does the festival treat you? IS the flight paid for Are you put up for free? For example, The Florida Film Festival treats filmmakers like royalty, even offering passes to Disneyland and Universal Studios Theme Park while the filmmakers are in town. Be sure to inquire about paid expenses and other perks. Travel costs can add up fast, so research what expenses festivals will cover. Almost all festivals cover lodging , fewer cover airfare, and a small few will give the filmmakers per diem. Get the facts before you submit.
7.) APPLICATION FEE. Festival application fees can be really steep. Upwards of $50 for some. At that price, enter 20 fests and you’ve spent a $1,000 bucks. With over 1,000 festivals world-wide, those application fees can add up fast. You could end up spending enough in application fees to fiancé your next film. Be sure to ask if a festival is willing to waive the fee. It’s always worth a try, and some of them will actually be willing to do it. If your film has no chance of being accepted anyway, why bother writing the check and submitting the film? Do your homework.
8.) RESEARCH AND RECOMMENDATIONS. There is a list of festivals in specific categories (on this site), but you should do your own research and contact other filmmakers who have either attended or had their films shown at that particular festival, if at all possible.
9.) CONTACTS. It’s vitally important to make useful contacts for investors in future films, distributors, acquisitions executives, agents, lawyers, and especially other filmmakers who can help you along in your career. Or simply to make friends in the industry. You never know how these contacts can pay off later.
10.) FUN. Yes, fun. If it’s going to be miserable, why bother? Working the festival circuit, plugging a film day in and day out, can be grueling after the fiftieth post-screening question and answer session. Select festival in places you’d like to visit – that way, if the festival is a bore, at least you’ll have the opportunity to explore a new city.
Avoiding Mistakes on the All-Important Festival Application
-By Chris Gore
All you have to do is fill out the applicator, write a check, enclose a video, mail it off and your in, right? Wrong! Filmmakers who follow this path are only fooling themselves. There are some very simple things you can do to make the lives of the people running the festival a little easier and thereby greatly increase your chance of acceptance. Follow this advice and avoid the mistakes that turn many festival entries into recycled videotapes and DVD coasters.
1.) FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. The first thing that can leave a film teetering on the fence of rejection is not the following the direction on the application. This only serves to upset busy festival workers. If you have any questions or extenuating circumstances regarding your film, be sure to call the festival.
2.) LABEL CORRECTLY. A package sent to a festival generally includes the check, application, the film on tape or DVD, the sleeve and press kit, press materials, photos, etc. Be sure to label every single one of these things and include your contact information on everything. If you send a video, the contact info should be on the sleeve and the video.
3.) INQUIRE ABOUT A FESTIVAL’S PRE-SCREENING PROCESS. Most festivals won’t admit this, but many submissions are viewed, generally by subordinates, and only the first five to ten minutes are actually viewed. This is an unfortunate reality. However, when you consider that some festivals receive over 800 films, resulting in close to 1,500 hours of viewing time, you can’t blame them for rushing through the screening process.
4.) RESEARCH THE NUMBER OF SUBMISSIONS ACCEPTED. Your chances may be better at a smaller festival with fewer submissions.
5.) SAVE YOUR PREMIERE FOR THE RIGHT FESTIVAL. It’s something you’ll hear more than once: your premiere should be protected, as it is your film’s virginity (and you can only give it up once). When submitting to a festival, full disclosure is necessary, so be honest. Lying on the application is never a good idea since the festival staff will eventually find out anyway. If the film has screened elsewhere, you must include this information. One way to get around “premiering” too soon is to screen at a festival as a work-in-progress out of competition and be sure you are not listed in the program guide. This means you can still officially “premiere” at a bigger festival sometime in the future. Don’t hesitate to ask a festival whether playing at another will exclude you from acceptance. Play Toronto in September will not exclude you from playing Sundance in January, but if you play the AFI Fest in November, you chances for playing Sundance will be over.
6.) DO NOT INCLUDE A LONG APOLOGETIC LETTER POINTING OUT YOUR FILM’S FAULTS. Dailies are for you to examine, not the film festival. Send as close to a finished film as possible. Your cover letter should include all the basic details and should be no more than one page. If the film is an answer print, certainly point that out, but don’t dwell on it or go into exhausting detail.
7.) MAKE A PERSONAL CONNECTION. Any kind of connection you can make in your cover letter or follow-up phone call or email to the festival is helpful, Attaching a voice to a name make you human and not just another application. But don’t be bothersome by constantly sending letters asking, “are we in yet?” In the case of festivals, the squeaky wheel gets annoying really fast, so be understanding and respectful of festivals staffers’ time. There are hundreds of other filmmakers also waiting for a response.
8.) DO NOT INCLUDE PROMOTIONAL JUNK. T-shirts, sticker, pens and other promotional give-always will often make their way into the garbage. You’ll need this stuff later to promote your film – after it’s been accepted. Don’t send it in with your film.
9.) HAVE A STORY. I mean your own personal story. There is a reason you made your film, and your struggle to get in on screen can be as compelling as the film itself. It makes a great story in a festival program and will set your apart from the pack. Is the film auto-biographical? What makes your film so important that people should be willing to pay to see it? What hardships did you endure to tell your tale? The viewers of your film will look differently at it if they know you had to sell blood to get it made. If you really have no story, be creative.
10.) SUBMIT ON TIME. Submitting late will only give the festival staff an easy excuse to reject your film. It also means that most screening slots have already been filled and that your film will most likely not be viewed in its entirety.
How do I find out about festivals deadlines?
Subscribe to any of the following:
- Without A Box (https://www.withoutabox.com/) a new way of getting down on the paperwork via on-line form filling which stays up-to-date with the film festival scene
-Film Festivals.com – a list (too big sometimes) of every festival worldwide
-Austin Film Society e-mail list become a member of the Austin Film Society and receive constant updates on film festivals, opportunities and screenings.
-Cage website and newsletter
A good book to help with your festival needs is Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide.
Alan’s Tips for Student Films
-by Alan Hogan
I’m not a film student. But I’m the guy who mutters about how annoying your mistakes are while attending the student film festival — and I’m the guy who can’t stop talking about how great your film was when you get it all right.
These are some tips to keep me happy.
I swear a bit in here, but you film students are used to that. Mom, skip to my next blog entry.
1.) Spend more time writing your script than creating a logo for yourself.
* Read your script out loud.
* Don’t be afraid to rewrite your whole script. No cut-copy-paste superficial editing: rewrite the whole damn thing. After your first draft, you will have a better idea of what you are trying to say, and your next draft will let you really focus on saying that.
* You had better have a great point or make me laugh. Nothing is worse than a film with no point. I don’t give a shit if you used a camera angle you never used before.
* I’m serious about revising. Otherwise, you might end up like the poor sap who was laughed at by the whole theater for simultaneously attempting to reveal crucial plot information at the beginning of the film and pretending that no one knew that information and “suspensefully” building up to its disclosure at the climax.1 It’s idiotic, but even an idiot would avoid this mistake once he/she decided he/she wanted to go for suspense and rewrote the script to eliminate the giveaways.
2.) Seriously, about your logo. Don’t over-do it
You can create a cutesy “X Productions” name and logo2 for yourself if you really want, but if your film focuses on it for more than 2 seconds, I start choking on your delusions of grandeur. At 5 seconds, I throw up and can’t finish my oversalted bag of popcorn (no butter, if you’re buying to thank me for my brilliant and frank advice).
3.) Ask friends for feedback on for script. Have them focus on plausibility and dialog (or humor, if that’s what you’re going for).
4.) Lighting matters.
Don’t half-ass it. Keep your color balance consistent. And if your dialogue indicates it’s 3 A.M., don’t let me see light shining through the goddamn window.
Oh, and back-lighting is nearly always bad. When done well, it can really make your film shine; typically, though, it just makes it hard for us to see your actors. Which leads us to our next tip:
5.) Do not use effects because they’re cool.
In web design, we have a maxim that no design element should be used without a purpose. I imagine the same rule works for effects of all kinds in films. What does it do? Nothing? Take it out!
6.) Spend a lot of time editing.
Boring parts suck. Wow, you zoomed out from the detailed close-up to a wider action scene? Great, but if you take 30 seconds to freaking zoom out, I’ll pass out from a lethal case of boredom. Stop wanking while thinking about how classy your zoom-out is and cut to the chase already. If the audience is all aware of your camera work, you’re doing it wrong; they are missing your message.
Long speeches suck. You should have edited your drafts enough to prevent that, but for a documentary that isn’t exactly how things work — so play the money quote and skip the rambling.
7.) Get feedback on your edited film, then edit it some more.
Your friends have eyes that haven’t already seen this on-set, in rough cuts, or the script. Use those eyes. Ask them what parts didn’t make sense. DO NOT dismiss their concerns, as your ego will ask you to. Figure out why your friends were confused. Was dialog ambiguous? Did it contradict something visually? Fix it.
8.) Soundtracks are hard.
I am impressed by how well-done many of your soundtracks are.
Tips: Use music that suits your film, not just your taste.
Don’t use a song if the lyrics don’t fit.
Don’t layer a song with lyrics over dialog.
9.) The only default font you can use for your title and credits is Helvetica. If you haven’t studied typography, you probably shouldn’t pick anything besides the following ridicule-safe fonts:
* Helvetica (Arial works as a substitute. See Helvetica the movie if you have any doubts)
* Gotham (Though you should be aware this is now associated with Obama, at least when used in all caps)
* Gill Sans (for credits/scenes; great readability, but ugly for titles)
* Futura / Century Gothic / Neutra (for a modern feel; titles only, not credits)
* Large, beautiful, classical (not edgy) serifs
If all else fails, just remember to never use any of the following:
* Times New Roman
* Comic Sans (seriously.)
* Courier or any other unforgivably ugly monospace or typewriter font
* Bank Gothic (tempting since the pros use it, but it’s the most over-used film font since Trajan, and it’s wide as all hell anyway).
Also avoid “pure” (fully saturated) red, yellow, green, and blue (#ff0000, #ffff00, #00ff00, and #0000ff, respectively) for text. You’ll look like an amateur. Less-saturated colors, black, or white will do fine. We’re here for the movie, not to ooh and ahh over the fact you figured out how to change the font color for no bloody reason.
An uncommon font that directly relates to your subject is usually excusable, but let me stress that while it is a boring, vanilla choice, you can never go wrong with Helvetica.
Seriously, I cannot vote for you at the film festival if you use Comic Sans, and I will laugh out loud if your title is set in Curlz.
10.) Do not over-compress your movie or edit at a low resolution.
Your film should not look like someone is playing a YouTube clip on the big screen.
11.Hope (or double-check well ahead of time) that the projectionist will show your film with the proper aspect ratio. Nothing is worse than all your hard work being ruined by the fattened look of your 4:3 actors being shown in 19:6. Yes, this happens, and it makes jerks like me want to walk out.
Written: Wed., April 29th, 2009
NOT To-Do List For Film Festivals
- by Stacy Parks
…a list of things NOT to do when plotting out your film festival strategy
1. Do NOT haphazardly apply to festivals by bum-rushing
the entire list at one time.
2. Do NOT apply to festivals without a finished cut of your
3. Do NOT premiere your film at a small festival if there is
potential for you getting accepted into a Tier 1 or 2 festival.
4. Do NOT call the festival programmers and bug them about
your film getting accepted into the festival.
5. Do NOT screen your film at a festival without having all
your music rights cleared for ALL RIGHTS distribution.
These may seem like common sense to you all, but believe me
when I tell you, I see these mistakes made ALL THE TIME.
Film Festival Advice from SXSW Fest Producer
1. Now that you’re done, think very seriously about what you’ve made. Who’s it for? Not only who’ll enjoy it once seen, but who would want to see it in the first place? How original is it?
2. Consider your goals – what are you looking for? Appreciation of the work? That could mean many different things: either by appreciative audiences? Industry? or prize juries? They’re not all the same. And these days there are more varieties of the viewing experience. An entree to travel the world? Income?
3. Research the landscape. The film world is changing dramatically, both independent and mainstream. Research! What kind of films are getting attention. What kind of attention? What are the hidden costs of promoting your film? Is there any income stream?
4. Research festivals – try to find ones that fit YOUR film. Don’t apply indiscriminately. You can however, use more than one criteria: Where will your work be appreciated by fans? by industry? by press? Where would you like to go? Some festivals are in amazing places, some will support your trip financially, and others will provide a fantastic network and experience.
5. Pay particular attention to the length! Where will it fit? Eight minutes or shorter is considered a more programmable length for short films. Keep in mind short films are usually programmed in a group or singly in front of a feature. If it’s @ 30 minutes – where is it “showable?”
6. Read the submission guidelines carefully!! Follow them carefully!!
7. Observe deadlines.
8. Once you’re accepted at a festival (or festivals!), again, research the particular event and locale. Determine what kind of publicity and marketing is needed for that screening. Don’t expect the festival to do the work! They’re providing you with the date, time, locale. How are you going to take advantage?
9. Determine your web presence – whether that means creating a website or putting a trailer on YouTube. Pay careful attention to how much of your work to make available online, when. Even in these rapidly changing times, too much Internet exposure can harm your festival chances. By that I mean streaming the entire work, not talking about it.
10. Meet other filmmakers. See their work! I can’t stress enough how important that is. It’s not enough for you to make your own film! You have to watch other films and support fellow filmmakers as well.