Filmmaking Lesson 20 Film Festivals


Film festivals offer a great way to get your movie seen on the big screen in front of a living audience.  I mean, it’s enough to make you lose some sleep with excitement. I remember one of our earliest festivals. We were invited to some private party in a fancy hotel in Hollywood. There were a few celebrities and respected indie filmmakers milling about.

But what was really odd, was the fact that most everyone approached our director and myself and introduced themselves in an overly friendly way. What we didn’t realize that night was – we were about to win an award!!!

The next night, we arrived on the FOX Studio Lot – that’s where they had the award ceremony. I can remember how exciting it was when they called our name and we claimed the award with flash bulbs going off in our eyes. It was totally surreal and amazing. After that, we had about a two week open door to submit our spec screenplays to various agents and managers.

But getting into the festival, winning the award and creating professional relationships was a result of careful planning. First we had to make the movie. After that, we had to submit our movie to a festival appropriate for our material – and gain acceptance. After that, various judges had to watch the movie and make judgments.

What I’m saying is, the stars have to align just right to get into a festival and win an award. But assuming you want to potentially experience an awesome audience reaction to your movie and also, make friends with like minded filmmakers – here are some actions/tips:


  1. Submit to film festivals. I’ve had some success with withoutabox — Do your research. What festivals usually feature your type of movie? Is the festival good for awards, meeting distribution folks or simply somewhere you can get free beer? Watch out for festivals that try have a reputation of not treating filmmakers very well.
  2. Make sure you network your way around the festivals. The judges are supposed to be impartial. But they are human and often attend the parties. Make sure you are nice to everyone… And make sure you “sell” your film to anyone who will listen.
  3. If you are contacted by an acquisition executive, good for you. If not, consider getting a good sales rep for your movie. If one of these professionals approaches you, make sure you do your homework. Watch out for people who try to charge you up front. There are a few good companies that do this… But for the most part, if an agency or a sales rep offers to represent your movie, they usually take a profit on the back end.

Movie Maker Action Pack BannerObviously navigating the festival circuit is pretty broad. So if you would like more information specific to the crazy world of film festivals, you should check out the following guide: Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide Fouth Edition: The Essential Companion for Filmmakers and Festival-Goers

Happy Filmmaking!

Filmmaking Lesson 19 Edit Your Movie

Editing your movie is the final rewrite of your film. This is the time when you add all sorts of amazing layers to your work and smooth out the rough edges and finally – complete the picture.


When you reach this point in the filmmaking process, prepare to sit for hours in a dark edit suite. Now, even if you’ve edited your previous shorts – with a feature, you might consider getting a second set of eyes in the edit suite. I prefer to work with an editor and then provide loose notes. I have some filmmaker buddies who prefer to cut the entire movie themselves.

Either way, the editing process will provide you a perfect opportunity to lose yourself in the rhythm of your movie. You’re going to cut some scenes out. Scenes you thought were minor will become pivotal to your story. You’re going to add music and sound FX and clean up any rough actor dialogue. You will design and you will refine.


  1. Get some music from local, talented up-and-coming bands. MAKE SURE YOU  GET A RELEASE!  Seriously.
  2. Cut the entire movie into a rough cut.
  3. Once you get a rough cut, have some friends watch it. After their feedback, cut  the fat. Keep the scenes that work. Repeat this process as necessary until you  have a fine tuned movie!

If you have a computer (I assume you do) but no editing software, the industry standard for editing is Avid and Final Cut (Mac).

Avid once provided a free download trial of their Avid DV software. However, this is no longer available. When I visited the website, the site redirected me to the download page for trial version of Pinnacle Studio Ultimate. I have not tried Pinnacle, so you’ll have to perform your own research.

Filmmaking Lesson 16 Local Publicity

As they say, when trying to promote a movie that folks have otherwise not heard of, all ink is potentially good ink.

And in this regard, even if you’re producing your movie somewhere locally you need make sure you present your marketing message with consistency. I say this because, regardless of publication or geography, most anything written about your movie will end up on the internet.

So always be mindful of how you present your project


If you plan on producing your movie outside of major film cities, like Los Angles and NYC, then getting the attention of local press might be pretty simple. And you might even be able to attract attention for a short movie. Why is this important? Because you will want to keep an ongoing collection of all good press written about your project.


  1. If you’re shooting in a small town, contact your local news. You’ll probably get written up in the paper. You might even get interviewed for the nightly news.
  2. If you’re working in Los Angeles, this could prove to be a bit more challenging, but not impossible. In the big cities, try to contact journalists who write about your type of small movie.
  3. When these folks agree to profile your movie, try to think of interesting topics you can discuss.
  4. If they take pictures, get yourself around some lights and equipment. That will make you look like a serious filmmaker.
  5. Finally, as they say in sales, if you don’t ask for the sale, you don’t get the sale. Do not be afraid to call journalists up and treat them to lunch to discuss your project. Never know where that will go…

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Happy Filmmaking!

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Filmmaking Lesson 15 Hollywood Publicity

Publicity is great. Especially when it’s free. And especially when the publicity is international.

When we produced our first zombie movie, we had the great fortune of being profiled in a national entertainment magazine. In fact, once the magazine hit the stands, so many people flooded our website that our server went bonkers.


Getting publicity for movies in Hollywood is made easier when you have a few movie stars attached to your project. But even if you aren’t producing a big studio picture, there are still a few simple ways to get your project noticed.

Yes. You’ll need to present your project as newsworthy and cool if you hope to attract press attention. And this is super important, but you’ll have to target journalist and publications focused on your type of movies. For example, if you were making a horror movie, unless you had some crazy tie-in, I hope you wouldn’t approach a dog lovers magazine to run a story

Instead, I hope you would craft a pitch specific to the publication.


  1. Get your production listed in the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety. You can do this online.
  2. You’ll probably get a call or two from potential distributors or acquisition executives. Don’t get overly excited. Their job is to find material to acquire. Take down a number for later. Then get back to making your movie.
  3. Create a press release or hire a publicist. If money is an issue, check local colleges and universities to find PR students seeking experience. Then create a press kit.
  4. Have you created a website for your move? Pick a domain name and a hosting company.
  5. Make sure all press material clearly lists your contact information and your website, if you have one. Make your press kit a down-loadable PDF on your site.

When I first moved to Hollywood, I saw Michael Levine speak about Public Relations and Publicity. I’ve since utilized some of his strategies when promoting my movies. I’ve also read one of his books. It looks like he’s since updated. Check out Guerrilla P.R. 2.0: Wage an Effective Publicity Campaign without Going Broke.