Are Film Festivals Worth It For Serious Indie Filmmakers?

Are film festivals worth it? For years filmmakers have leveraged festivals as a way to get their work seen and hopefully sold. And while the prospect of getting into top-tier festivals is intoxicating, many filmmakers do not accepted.

In response to rejection, many filmmakers frantically apply to most every regional film festival. Upon acceptance, instead of meeting acquisitions executives, many filmmakers bump into other filmmakers, presently pushing post cards to promote their screenings. To make the circumstances more meaningful, many second-tier festivals do provide free beer to filmmakers. So there is that…

If you have delusions of Hollywood grandeur, you’re not alone. You never know who you’ll meet at a film festival. And in truth, the networking opportunities represent a major part of film festival fun. But given all the changes in distribution, and the fact you probably wont win Sundance, it’s vitally important that you create a film festival strategy PLAN B.

are film festivals worth it

Are Film Festivals Worth It For Serious Indie Filmmakers?

If you’re asking the question: “Are film festivals worth it?” You’re serious about making your movie profitable. But make no mistake. The market for indie films is all sorts of upside-down. And if you really want to make film festivals worth it, you’ll need to take responsibility for the marketing, promotion and distribution of your movie.

Inline with this strategy, you must view regional and second tier festivals as an opportunity to build your list. But instead of handing out postcards to other filmmakers, your marketing strategy will be smarter. So are film festivals worth it? Here are five tactics to help you decide:

  1. Write a press release specific to the festival and then distribute to the local press. This also involves picking up the phone and personally inviting the press to attend your screening. Many festivals will have a press list. You can use this – but I would also advise conducting additional internet searches for other press outlets.
  2. Many local towns have a filmmaker community. Reach out to them. If you are traveling, it’s great to have someone to pal around with. The secondary benefit to this is, many of these same people will have relationships with the festival staff – always good to know people on the staff.
  3. If the festival allows it, see if you can take several clipboards into your screening. You’ll want to collect the names and email addresses of each viewer and get their permission to email them. Later you will enter this data into your list.
  4. If your film website does not include a blog component, add one. Then update frequently. Add pictures and video. Let the world know your movie is screening. People like this stuff.
  5. And finally, most regional festivals have panel discussions with industry experts. Make sure you attend these. Take your business cards. And then try to build relationships with whomever is on the panel. (And as a side note, if you know anybody looking for a panelist – I suggest inviting Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff? Just sayin’)

One of the most important ways to make film festivals worth it, is to leverage the opportunity grow your fan base. This way, when you focus on building your list, you stress a lot less about the traditional distribution deal. And the festival can serve as a great way to source an audience for a minimal marketing.

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About Jason Brubaker

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