Why Filmmakers Fail At Film Festivals

With thousands of backyard indies being made each year, getting your film noticed at film festivals is increasingly challenging. Whenever I give talks on film distribution, invariably filmmakers ask questions about “how to land a HUGE minimal guarantee” and how to find a “major film distributor.”

Even the most pragmatic filmmakers enter film festivals fantasizing about getting discovered, getting a big deal and landing a studio gig. But the truth is, only a hand-full of titles get picked up by traditional distributors. And many of those deals are limited to marketplaces you can access yourself!


Why Filmmakers Fail At Film Festivals

The big reasons filmmakers fail at film festivals is because many have the wrong strategy coupled with mismanaged expectations. Just because a film festival has accepted your film doesn’t mean your work is over. You need to have an festival strategy for each film festival.

Your film festival strategy will fall into two tactics:

  1. Regional Film Festival: Filmmakers fail at regional film festivals because they are expecting acquisitions professionals to show up and pick up their films. This rarely happens outside of major festivals. If you get into a regional film festival, focus on increasing audience buzz and also, build an email list for your film.
  2. Major Film Festival: Filmmakers fail at major film festivals because they don’t take time to target and contact the appropriate acquisitions professionals. When it comes to major film festivals, your goal is to pick up the phone prior to the festival and introduce yourself to the right people.

In both instances, you do not need to wait for someone else to validate your filmmaking. Go into film festivals with a solid game plan for self distribution. That way, if you happen to get an offer that sucks, video on demand technology will allow you to simply sell your own movie!

If you are looking to create a distribution plan beyond film festivals, Nic Baisley at the First Glance Film Festival asked some good questions. Here is the interview:


My ongoing goal is to help you, help yourself. As a result of increased competition coupled with the demise of DVD distribution, the world of indie filmmaking has changed. There are a lot of movies competing for eyeballs. To succeed, you have to change the way you make, market and sell movies.

Repeat after me: “My audience is my business. Without an audience, I have no business. As a serious filmmaker, I am responsible for sourcing my own audience.”

If you know someone looking for film distribution, tell them to download the film distribution checklist.


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ARTICLE BY Jason Brubaker

If you'd like more tactics like the article you just read, make sure to grab a copy of the filmmaker checklist. You'll get 65 useful steps you can employ to produce your next feature film.