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Film Festivals


Brian Dzyak
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Submitting films to festivals is usually the domain of the Director/Producer, but just in case you have made your own movie and want to get it out there, I've put together a comprehensive list of 200 film festivals around the world.

 

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a multitude of web outlets where you can upload and screen your movie on the internet.

 

Go to www.whatireallywanttodo.com and click on the Film Festivals link. And good luck!

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Submitting films to festivals is usually the domain of the Director/Producer, but just in case you have made your own movie and want to get it out there, I've put together a comprehensive list of 200 film festivals around the world.

 

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a multitude of web outlets where you can upload and screen your movie on the internet.

 

Go to www.whatireallywanttodo.com and click on the Film Festivals link. And good luck!

 

Cool. Thanks.

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Just a note on festivals from some one who has been down this path....99% of the time they are a waste of time and money.

 

They take your entry fee and dump your DVD in the garbage, well they might watch the first 30 seconds so they can say "they watched it."

 

People should especially avoid the festivals if you have a genre movie, i.e. action, horror, thriller. Unless the festival is specifically for horror films, and there are lot's of those.

 

For the most part festivals take "human condition" stuff. i.e. "non-commercial." If you have a global warming film by all means submit it, they can't get enough of those.

 

Just to give you an idea...Sundance receives 3200 feature film submissions per year and they program 120. That's a 3% acceptance rate. Of those, 5% will land any kind of deal.

 

If you have a commercially viable product then you are much better off going to a producer's rep that will take your film to AFM or the Cannes Film Market. Since this is where movies go that actually might make money. (note the Cannes Film Market is different from the festival, although they run at the same time.)

 

At AFM and Cannes Film Market it's all about money, nobody gives a monkey's butt about the "human condition."

 

R,

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They take your entry fee and dump your DVD in the garbage, well they might watch the first 30 seconds so they can say "they watched it."

 

Maybe after the first five minutes... But I certainly don't think they're mostly a total waste of time and money. Many fests have midnight shows specifically for genre stuff. I saw "The Descent" for the first time at Sundance.

 

I don't know anybody that's done as well as these guys with such little money...

 

http://www.sonyclassics.com/baghead/

 

I've actually heard "Baghead" is really scary even though it's sold as a comedy.

 

These guys did quite well in the midnight section of South by Southwest this year...

 

http://www.danceofthedeadmovie.com/

 

If anything, they give films a little street cred before the filmmakers go in to the very difficult task of actually selling it.

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Just a note on festivals from some one who has been down this path....99% of the time they are a waste of time and money.

 

They take your entry fee and dump your DVD in the garbage, well they might watch the first 30 seconds so they can say "they watched it."

 

People should especially avoid the festivals if you have a genre movie, i.e. action, horror, thriller. Unless the festival is specifically for horror films, and there are lot's of those.

 

For the most part festivals take "human condition" stuff. i.e. "non-commercial." If you have a global warming film by all means submit it, they can't get enough of those.

 

Just to give you an idea...Sundance receives 3200 feature film submissions per year and they program 120. That's a 3% acceptance rate. Of those, 5% will land any kind of deal.

 

If you have a commercially viable product then you are much better off going to a producer's rep that will take your film to AFM or the Cannes Film Market. Since this is where movies go that actually might make money. (note the Cannes Film Market is different from the festival, although they run at the same time.)

 

At AFM and Cannes Film Market it's all about money, nobody gives a monkey's butt about the "human condition."

 

R,

 

That's very valuable insight. Thank you!

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Just a note to say that while my experience is limited to shorts I've found festivals very open to accepting genre films and I've had some success in that regard. The point is that generally festivals have a particular taste or even program that they're trying to fill and while they might enjoy your film it just isn't a fit for the festival. Fair enough. A waste of time? Well its the only place some films ever get screened (and on the big screen to) so while your expectation shouldn't be to leave with a picture deal at worse you got to watch your film with an audience.

But; there are certainly some dodgy, rip off organizations out there and be very wary before entering a festival with costs involved. While I'm not against the service they provide (and they do it very well) I've always thought Withoutabox.com needed to do a better job of vetting some of the festivals involved. Its just so easy to blow $50 US on an entry and not really know anything about the festival you're sending it off too. There are some great European festivals which have free entries and provide accommodation to participants, that's hard to pass up.

I agree that if your intent is to sell your film then you should be at a market like AFM or Cannes but I don't have any experience there.

 

Sasha

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If you have a short film then obviously festivals are the only option. I had a short that did well in two festivals.

 

There is no commercial value to shorts at AFM or Cannes of course.

 

I still think that if you have made a film that is designed to make money and is commercially viable then skip the festivals. You will invest a lot of time and money for most likely nothing.

 

Read the boards here and you'll see what I mean:

 

http://www.indietalk.com/forum.php

 

Take a cue from the big studios...they don't waste time with festivals they go right into the revenue stream. Now people will say indie people can't do that, but you can, book the theaters your self, go direct to the producers reps or the buyers. It's no where near as difficult as people think it is.

 

The problem is that 99% of filmmakers just want to "create" they have no interest in the business side of things and are terrified by the word "marketing." All the ones I know, with the exception of myself ;) , are loathed to make a cold call or even send a cold e-mail.

 

I've cracked so many doors in the last five months it's staggering. There will be a big push for my movie at Cannes next week and I've already been through one successful round at AFM.

 

Fact is 99.9999% of filmmakers will NOT land a buy out deal at Sundance or any other festival for that matter. This leaves the filmmakers as the only ones who will push and sell the movie. Now if Warner Bros buys your movie at Sundance for seven figures and there is nothing left for you to do, then great!

 

But the odds of that happening are the same as winning the Power Ball.

 

So over all if you aspire to commercial filmmaking I wouldn't spend valuable time and money on festivals. Waiting for responses from festivals and then waiting for your movie to play, is just a huge waste of time that could have been spent selling the movie.

 

Why do people think the fests try and get as many entries as possible? They don't care about your movie, they want your entrance fee.

 

A more honest approach for festivals would be to have an entry fee of zero dollars. Then charge the ones that get accepted and will actually be shown a $500.00 fee. This way people that submit are not sending in a film only to see their money taken and nothing given in return. And the ones selected by the jury will get good value for their $500.00 fee since they are guaranteed a screening.

 

R,

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Fact is 99.9999% of filmmakers will NOT land a buy out deal at Sundance or any other festival for that matter. This leaves the filmmakers as the only ones who will push and sell the movie. Now if Warner Bros buys your movie at Sundance for seven figures and there is nothing left for you to do, then great!

 

But the odds of that happening are the same as winning the Power Ball.

 

I hear what you're scream'n Richard, but (having spent the last year of my life making my first feature) not even submitting to a couple fests because the odds are against me seems to short-change all my really hard work.

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I hear what you're scream'n Richard, but (having spent the last year of my life making my first feature) not even submitting to a couple fests because the odds are against me seems to short-change all my really hard work.

 

Well....actually, if it's commercially viable then submitting to fests may be what short changes you.

 

Again, you are wasting valuable time, for instance...do you have a rep that will be showing your trailer and art at Cannes next week? If not why not?

 

The festivals have little commercial value. Sure a few olive branches on the front of the DVD are nice. But the price in time and money is seldom worth it, especially for genre movies.

 

Festivals don't like to hear what I am saying in a public forum populated by filmmakers, my thoughts will hurt their bottom line.

 

Now if your film is say a "family drama" by all means hit the fests. If it's hot blondes firing machine guns in bikinis, look out AFM here you come!! :D

 

R,

 

PS: I own all international rights to "hot blondes firing machine guns in bikinis". And all sequel and merchandising rights.

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PS: I own all international rights to "hot blondes firing machine guns in bikinis". And all sequel and merchandising rights.

 

If, say, I made "Hot Blondes Firing Machine Guns in Bikinis" (why are the machine guns wearing bikinis? :unsure: ), what is the average cost of renting a theater and any other expenses that go along with organizing that day? Do you keep the audience to privately invited guests, like friends and family along with (hopefully) the invited distribution execs? Or do you open it to anyone and how would you go about filling the theater?

 

Thanks!

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Bryan, are the fests in your list geared toward lower-end/lower-budgeted productions, high-end, somewhere in between? I'm definitely on the lower end of the spectrum. I have a short that I'm currently submitting, and while I'm proud of it and it's gotten good response at all the screenings I've seen it in, it was shot on miniDV, no big stars, no sharks (that's an "Open Water" reference), etc. There are only a handful of specifically digital/DV-oriented fests that I've come across so far, and a lot of fests seem geared towared higher end stuff, judging by past entries/winners, and the photos of various celebs everywhere. Forget Sundance, etc. Just looking for worthy places to submit. Besides the NY Independent Film Festival, of course. Being that there are over 3000 fests worldwide, just curious as to why the 200 that are on your list are on that list. Thanks.

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Bryan, are the fests in your list geared toward lower-end/lower-budgeted productions, high-end, somewhere in between? I'm definitely on the lower end of the spectrum. I have a short that I'm currently submitting, and while I'm proud of it and it's gotten good response at all the screenings I've seen it in, it was shot on miniDV, no big stars, no sharks (that's an "Open Water" reference), etc. There are only a handful of specifically digital/DV-oriented fests that I've come across so far, and a lot of fests seem geared towared higher end stuff, judging by past entries/winners, and the photos of various celebs everywhere. Forget Sundance, etc. Just looking for worthy places to submit. Besides the NY Independent Film Festival, of course. Being that there are over 3000 fests worldwide, just curious as to why the 200 that are on your list are on that list. Thanks.

 

 

Josh,

 

That's a great question. As you noted, the number of film festivals is quite overwhelming. Putting the listings together is very time-consuming. The quick answer is that I've begun with some of the more well-known and influential festivals, however additional festivals and resources are added as time permits and suggestions come in. Also, some festivals are perennial while others tend to come and go so staying current isn't always an easy task.

 

That said, the purpose of including listings of festivals and markets is a bit ancillary to the primary goal of the website in helping aspiring crew (those on set) build a viable career. It is not so far off the path though as many aspiring Directors and Producers find that they must work in a technical craft or other department as they work off set on their own projects. Well-known Directors, like Frank Darabont and Tim Burton, began not as Directors, but in other departments until their actual aspirations were able to be realized.

 

So, with that in mind, the list of festivals at present is geared toward those which are indeed larger and hold the potential for someone's work being seen and/or recognized in some manner which could contribute to their career aspirations. As others have pointed out, some festivals are meant to be showcases for specific causes or themes and won't necessarily bring the desired kind of industry attention to someone's work. While having the opportunity to screen a movie anywhere is not necessarily a bad thing, a filmmaker wishing to create a viable career must find those outlets which hold the most potential for positive and useful exposure to those who can help a career progress.

 

I think that all too often, filmmakers who are eager to get going fail to take the time to think about the process all the way through to exhibition and distribution. Getting the story told is important, but so is the method. To truly compete in the professional world, shooting with any old camera and putting unknowns on screen makes it more difficult to A) get access to screening opportunities like some of the more influential festivals, and B ) to be taken seriously by distribution outlets who are looking for product and talent. Obviously, most indie filmmakers don't have the resources to shoot in 35mm and put A-list movie stars in their movie. So anything else a filmmaker can do to make his project stand out is of utmost importance. The best thing an indie filmmaker can do who is looking to place his films into festivals is to first research those outlets and find out their requirements before any film or tape is rolled on set. Your story might be the best ever conceived, but if no one sees it, it might as well not exist.

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If, say, I made "Hot Blondes Firing Machine Guns in Bikinis" (why are the machine guns wearing bikinis? :unsure: ), what is the average cost of renting a theater and any other expenses that go along with organizing that day? Do you keep the audience to privately invited guests, like friends and family along with (hopefully) the invited distribution execs? Or do you open it to anyone and how would you go about filling the theater?

 

Thanks!

 

You don't have to rent a theater, although you can always go that route. The best option is to talk to the owner and have them program the movie in on a 50/50 gate split, if your movie is half decent and can make some money.

 

If your movie is a "mini DV special" then you may have to rent the theatre. The Boots in NYC charges $1000.00 to four wall on a Friday or Saturday night. But hey you've premiered in NY!!

 

A theater in a market the size of Dayton Ohio will be $225.00-$250.00. Many only allow four walling Sun-Thurs.

 

The holy grail is to get a 50/50 split booking on both Friday and Saturday nights, many owners may even want you for a seven day run, if you have professional looking posters of course :-)

 

Then there's the promotion, typically this is done with the theater for one, they promote your movie with posters up in advance of your screening and place it in the paper as they would any other title they have on screen.

 

Local newspapers always want to talk to filmmakers who take on Hollywood on their own turf, this is where the dreaded cold calls come in. Call the newspaper and sell yourself like a cheap whore.

 

For indies you should go into theaters outside of major cities before going "downtown." Hollywood uses the opposite approach, indies go the other way.

 

By all means invite every one under the sun, do what ever it takes to pack the theater, offer free beer and get the entire crowd drunk. Think of the great reviews you'll get on IMDB.

 

Of course take pictures of your movie up on the marquee and get copies of the precious as gold press that you got.

 

After your run you can do a direct submission to NetFlix. Not of your direct to video movie, oh no, you are submitting a theatrically released movie and look at all the press you sent in!

 

Now you're in a whole new category of films and filmmakers.

 

Here's the NetFlix direct submission page:

 

http://www.netflix.com/SubmitFilm?lnkctr=cu_tr&role=1

 

You can do a lot on your own, many just give up or refuse to even try.

 

R,

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You can do a lot on your own, many just give up or refuse to even try.

 

 

Very true. And I also think that most people really don't have a clue how to begin or what the various alternatives are so advice like yours can be immeasurably beneficial. Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone! :)

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This is on IMDB today, pay close attention to:

 

"You are seeing a huge glut of unsold movies on the market," SNL Kagan senior analyst Derek Baine told Bloomberg News. "You can have a good pick of independent films for almost nothing."

 

The Sundance Channel, a principal outlet for unsold independent feature films and documentaries, has been acquired by New York-based Cablevision Systems for $496 million in stock and cash. The channel had been a joint venture of NBC Universal, CBS Corp., and Robert Redford. Redford, founder of the Sundance Film Festival and the inspiration for the channel, will remain with it, Cablevision said in a statement. Cablevision owns another channel, IFC, that also specializes in independent films. It was unclear whether the two channels would be combined or continue to operate independently. Analysts suggested that the channels could be operated at relatively little cost. "You are seeing a huge glut of unsold movies on the market," SNL Kagan senior analyst Derek Baine told Bloomberg News. "You can have a good pick of independent films for almost nothing."

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Richard, even do your input is seen as loony to some people I hear you....

I personally believe that you can't get on a festival just by submitting, festivals= politics ergo you need to have a contact on the inside, or someone in their board that will push the movie for you, example Sundance, right, it's a business, you just need to know how to open the door, a 35 dollar entry won't do it, press - reviews- recommendations- hype- and big names will usually do it, if not you don't have an outlet for you movie, no matter how great it is.

Now on the other hand, I had a friend that shot a great film on Super 8 video submit it, and was selected and got deals to direct commercials from so many people. So I think in my personal and humble opinion that to be accepted is not just a question of one side or matter, instead is a combination of different campaigns and effort ... again politics

 

Best Regards

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Brian,

 

Of those 200 do they all accept feature length documentaries? If not do you have a list of those that accept docos or some that come to your mind. Still in pre-production on mine so no rush.

 

Cheers

 

I'm sorry, I don't have specific information like that on hand. Some festivals are specifically geared toward documentaries and some are very specific about the types of documentaries they show in terms of theme. By and large, I've focused more on narrative as it pertains more directly with the "Hollywood" style of filmmaking.

 

However, I can direct you to the following website:

http://www.documentaryfilms.net/festivals.htm which has a more specific rundown of festivals catering to documentaries.

 

Thank you for the question and I'll add this information to the site as I'm sure others out there will be interested too. :)

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I'm sorry, I don't have specific information like that on hand. Some festivals are specifically geared toward documentaries and some are very specific about the types of documentaries they show in terms of theme. By and large, I've focused more on narrative as it pertains more directly with the "Hollywood" style of filmmaking.

 

However, I can direct you to the following website:

http://www.documentaryfilms.net/festivals.htm which has a more specific rundown of festivals catering to documentaries.

 

Thank you for the question and I'll add this information to the site as I'm sure others out there will be interested too. :)

 

Thanks for the input Brian. I will check out their list.

 

Cheers

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