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Entering short films to insignificant festivals, is it just pointless?


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I'm at the stage of planning ahead after I finish my short film. 

And I see there are about a million no-name, insignificant film festivals out there - as long as you have a post code, there is at least one film festivals attached to it. Hell, nowadays, with the majority of them going online, you don't even need a post code. I find it rather meaningless, if those awards are simply given by some kids out of college, who can't make a proper movie, and decide to put up a party to feel relevant. 

Then there is the million insignificant short films put up their posters with laurel wreath ribbons from those insignificant festivals pretending to be some kind of hot shot, followed by hollow self-serving youtube Q&As, of them ranting about what filmmaking is, or what the industry should be, after making just that one big steam pile. It make me a little sick. But to wail back to the topic ---

Is there really any point in wasting money on those festival fees whether I'm getting recognitions or not, if it ain't the big names like Sundance, Cannes, TIFF, Venice, Berlin..etc...  

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The problem is, there's not a lot of point in being in the big festivals either. They're largely a self-congratulation and promotional opportunity for the pseudo-independent arms of the big studios. If you don't have a serious campaigning budget you're unlikely to get near a big festival, and if you do somehow manage to get in, you'd get completely outshone by productions that do have the money for parties and promos.

I'd say put the effort into doing whatever allows you to make money directly, or whatever else it is that you're hoping to get out of this.

In the end I guess there's no harm in some wreaths, but at least make sure they're from a major city or something!

The real question is what's your end goal.

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 I can't answer your question but I can suggest the following, assuming there is an eventual return to post-covid normalcy.

See if there are any art museums in Toronto that run film series and cold-call to see if your short can be placed in the series for a showing, especially if your film fits the theme of the film series, if there is one, or fits in with a specific film. Conceivably you could even receive a small honorarium.  

Ditto the same cold-call for independent art house theaters in Toronto (if any) but I would suspect no chance of honorarium if you're lucky enough to be shown.

See if there is a local band or musician who's work "resonates," with your film and see if they won't project your short in conjunction with their gig(s). If you don't have your soundtrack yet, maybe approach the band first to do the soundtrack.  

Organize your own one-time mini-festival, an hour or two long, free to viewers and the filmmakers (who you may know or who hear about it), at a bar, coffee house or any space really. Try to get some publicity for it beforehand to get a small audience and/or some filmmaker's films and invite all the local film critics you can think of.

If any of this works at least  you will not have suffered the indignity of paying your own appearance fee and in my opinion have greater potential benefit. 

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Festivals use to be a way to promote films that would normally not get any distribution. They were also a way to help filmmakers and buyers find each other. Today running the festival circuit with anything else but an absolute gem of a movie with an all-star cast, a polished studio look, about a subject matter that is borderline risqué and follows into the current conscious trends; LGBTQ, monitories, social uprising, etc. If you don't have those things, then don't bother submitting to the big festivals, heck... don't even bother making a product either because NOBODY is buying "normal" popcorn fodder anymore. Netflix and Amazon just sent down an ultimatum that they have too much content and they're literally not accepting anymore. Hulu has similar problems. So since home video on disc distribution is dead, the only option ya got for a low budget indy without the aspects I listed above, is to give it away using an on-demand platform OR forget the North American distribution route and go with a European/Asian one. 

Still with shorts, personally it's not worth it. I have plenty of trophies from small festivals. They are nice, but they don't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Just because the Nantucket film festival says your short is the best comedy of the year, doesn't mean much. You aren't taking that trophy to Hollywood and cashing it in on a career. Shorts are a great way to tell stories, but you can show them online, you can present them in person at small short film screenings. The idea is to get eyes on your show, rather than accolades. I shot a film a few years ago that the producer refused... and I mean completely refused, to release publicly until the festival run was done. I haven't seen it yet! I'd love to use the footage on my demo reel, but he refuses to let me see it. Shit like that is what kills me about this industry in general and why the "festival" thing is so over-rated these days. 

Make your film the way you want it and spend your money marketing it. The more eyes you have on your show, the better. Qualified eyes will eventually see it if you poke the right people. They aren't going to be at small festivals anyway and at the big ones, they're watching features not shorts. 

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

The problem is, there's not a lot of point in being in the big festivals either. They're largely a self-congratulation and promotional opportunity for the pseudo-independent arms of the big studios. If you don't have a serious campaigning budget you're unlikely to get near a big festival, and if you do somehow manage to get in, you'd get completely outshone by productions that do have the money for parties and promos.

I'd say put the effort into doing whatever allows you to make money directly, or whatever else it is that you're hoping to get out of this.

In the end I guess there's no harm in some wreaths, but at least make sure they're from a major city or something!

The real question is what's your end goal.

Maybe, I'm wrong, but I think you are talking about feature films, not shorts? 

I guess, I want to attract attention and claim awards at bigger festivals so I can get interest in my feature length project. 

Edited by Wendy Sanders McDonlad
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I have this Spring submitted two short films to various smaller festivals. The more prestigious, high entry fee festivals I'm going to pass. I'm also skipping most US festivals, they are probably looking for something different and for someone different.

My reasons for entering short films to festivals at all:

1) The first film is part of a quadrilogy which, when finished, I already have lots of potential customers for - but not in the traditional broadcasting or entertainment business. When trying to convince those customers, being able to tell that my films have been shown world wide to different audiences and that they have passed some selection process - I think it can be useful. The only festival they'll probably know by name is Cannes, and I'm sure they won't expect my films to have been shown there so...

2) The other film I submitted was just something we did with the family during social distancing. Budget under 100 €. We didn't originally even intend for it to be sent anywhere. But why not? There are festivals for child audiences. Since it's a sci-fi film with kids and for kids, it might even get selected, perhaps even win some award -- as long as it is children doing the selection. Who knows what'll happen, fortunately those festivals don't seem to have high entry fees if they have any.

But as you can see, my reasons are probably not good enough for anyone looking to really advance their career. Submitting your film can also become quite expensive. With the way things are nowadays, attending can also be quite expensive -- and your film might still get seen by only a few: https://medium.com/swlh/indie-filmmakers-beware-of-scam-film-festivals-37e702954bdd

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Posted (edited)

I think your right Wendy. But the wreaths can catch your eye. And if your market is DVD, that may have some sales appeal.

Sometime I see wins for what seem to be token wins and think the film was pretty good and should have won higher awards. And when I see insignificant festival wins it can foster a negative view. 

A tool used with photo books is to buy reviews by commisioning a positive review or statement about the photographer and the work by well known names  Maybe you can do the same thing with a one line artwork blurb from someone with a name. But it all takes $$.

You see something similar when they add big names to films that have little or nothing to do with the film other than renting their name.

Good luck!

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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