One of the most important things to remember when trying to get your film accepted to any film festival, according to experts is: pay close attention and follow the rules and regulations of the festival committee.
This advice is not only for the big leagues but smaller, regional festivals as well.
Seems obvious, right?
Well, apparently not, according to Elliot Grove, independent film producer and founder of the London Raindance Film Festival.
"Sitting on the festival side of the fence, there are a lot of things that filmmakers do that annoy film festival programmers," Grove said on his website.
All festivals have their own specific reason for being, so pay attention to something as obvious as the submission rules. Rules are inherently important to improve your opportunity for acceptance.
"You wouldn't believe how many phone calls and emails we get from filmmakers who obviously haven't read our rules and regulations," Grove continued.
What to pay attention to for acceptance
Now that we have that out of the way, what is the secret sauce that gets some films accepted while others rejected? Is it the quality of the screenplay, subject matter, color correction, sound mixing or all of these? JMC Academy advises filmmakers to pay attention to the overall genres of the event as it is imperative that the tone of the festival is clearly understood.
Being accepted into a film festival feels like the "right of passage" to success.
Noam Kroll wrote on the Indie Wire blog that he has directed many short films and has been fortunate that several have been screened at film festivals and have won awards. Yet, he says, just as many have been rejected.
"I can certainly relate to the disappointment of not getting in," he said. "It wasn't until I started working as a festival programmer that I truly understood the submission process, including the massive amount of films that come in, and the extremely hard decisions that need to be made in order to take hundreds (or thousands) of films and cherry pick a few dozen of them to fill out various programming blocks."
Pick the right festival
Like most other contest sites such as literary contests, cooking or essay, film festivals all have their own focus.
For the best shot of getting in is to thoroughly research the history of the festival and see if it has evolved over the years. What films were accepted a couple of years ago may not be in the same category now? Look at who the audience may be. A festival in San Francisco, CA most likely will be very different than a festival in Melbourne, AU or Rome, IT.
Think about the genre of other films that will be screened and the age and type of people attending. Find out the kinds of themes each film festival focuses on and only apply for the ones your film fits into.
There are hundreds of film festivals yearly. Sign up for newsletters and announcements to be sure you get the latest information. Identify the festivals that most closely aligns with your film.
Tips to keep in mind for a successful submission include:
· Evaluate your goals- What are you trying to say in your film and why would an award make a difference?
· How to submit- Be sure you understand how a particular festival looks for submissions. Not all are the same. For some extra help, there are festival admission services such as Withoutabox. Their free service has listings for more than 5,000 festivals worldwide. With each entry, you get an IMDB listing for your film as well as your own press kit.
· Read the fine print- Be sure that your film completion falls within the guidelines. Many festivals require that your submission is within two years of its completion date.
· Releases- Be sure you have releases from your actors and clearance on any music you included in your film.
· Submission format- Does the festival require DVDs or streaming? While more expensive, DVD viewing will always be clean.
· Security- Embed some form of a unique number on your film to guard against theft.
· Acceptance- Review the films that were awarded in previous years to increase the likelihood of being accepted as well as improve chances of success.
· Submission Schedule- It goes without saying that you must be sure to submit your film timely. But, even then, submit early. You will save money and have a better chance of your film getting more time for review.
· Category- Remember to submit to the correct category and is produced within the designated time frame for the category. Programmers want to include as many films in their programs as possible, so make sure your edit is tight.
· Salt the audience- If the festival has an audience choice award, the best way to win is to fill the auditorium with friends and family. Festival directors like to see the filmmakers' participation in promotions for the film and the festival on social media.
You won. Now What?
If you win an award at a film festival, your film career will change for the better. Even an award from a small festival will point towards a path to the film industry and quite possibly a career. Examples of this route are Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino that shows the value of film festivals.
All awards, tops or segment, are a boon for any independent filmmaker. Awards mean publicity, which is a prime mover for filmmakers and their careers.