As an independent filmmaker with a short documentary about to hit the festival circuit, I am faced once again with planning my film festival strategy. It’s very easy for an independent filmmaker to get so excited about getting into a festival, that they fail to develop a solid plan.
5 Tips To Plan Your Film Festival Strategy
While the parties and screenings are great fun, the film festival circuit is where many distribution deals are made, new friendships and partnerships are formed and future projects are developed. It can be a wonderful opportunity for a filmmaker and should not go wasted.
1. Have a plan BEFORE your first submission.
There are many questions to ask but the first one is to determine what your main goal is. Are you after theatrical distribution, a sale to the highest bidder, exposure, awards, networking opportunities? What tier(s) do you want to target? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you formulate a strategy on which festivals to submit to. This tip leads us to our next one…
2. Consider partnering with a film sales agent.
A Film Sales Agent can help filmmakers get their film sold and distributed. They have relationships with foreign territories and can help make deals for your film. Do your research to identify appropriate sales agents. Talk to other filmmakers about their experiences. Remember this is a partnership of sorts so do your best on vetting the agent before signing any agreements.
3. You will need money so plan for it.
This is a fact. The festival circuit costs money and you have to have an answer on where it is going to come from. One thing I like to do is include it in my budget so the money needed has already been raised. But fear not if you haven’t done this.
With crowd-funding sites, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, there are ways to raise money for festivals, especially with a finished film where you can show potential donators the work you’ve already done with a trailer or clips.
The average film festival submission fees range from $50-$80 for features and $30-$60 for shorts. Deadlines affect fees. Early submissions come with discounted fees. Also, film festival submitting sites, such as Withoutabox and Film Freeway, offer ways of getting discounts as well.
4. Prepare beforehand.
Film festivals bring about opportunities and as the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Be ready for any opportunity. Festivals are well known for networking and making deals and forming working relationships.
Have your pitch ready and be able to make it quick. Have your business cards updated with all your current information. Bring mints. Carry pens and paper with you. And hand out your movie poster postcards with your website on it for an audience to find more on you and your work.
5. Location, Location, Location.
Be aware of the location of the festivals you submit to and think about whether you are willing to travel to attend. If not, why are you submitting? If you can’t answer that, perhaps you should cross it off your list.
Part of a successful film festival strategy is being able to utilize the festivals to pursue your next project. Travel is time and money. Ask yourself if it’s to your advantage to target those closer to home. Also, if a festival is within 300 miles or so, you won’t have to worry about flights, hotels and rental cars.
Film festival strategies are specific to each project though and you as a filmmaker have many options in this globally connected world than ever before. Be diligent in your research and honest with yourself about your film and its goals. Prepare and be ready because you never know what will happen or whom you’ll meet when out on the festival circuit. But don’t forget, have fun in the process!
Armed with knowledge learned on many production jobs, Christina Parisi began making films in 2006. Her short films have played at film festivals throughout the world and can be found on Amazon and GaiaTV. Her latest short documentary, Just Married, is about to hit the 2017 festival circuit. As Christina seeks financing for her co-written feature script, Driving Your Mind, she spends her time working as a script analyst and writing her personal blog, Life As I Know It.