Take Your Film To The Film Festivals


There is no single answer to the question of whether micro-budget filmmakers should take their films to film festivals. Some people who are established in the film industry speak highly of the opportunities attached to festivals, while others are more pessimistic about whether the cost makes up for the often-low immediate returns. It depends on the festivals, on how many and what kind you choose to attend, on what you expect to get out of it, on what kind of a film you have, and what alternative means of exposure are available to you.

Even within these variables, there are no widely-agreed-upon recommendations. The size and familiarity of the festival is a good example. Large festivals like Sundance, Toronto, or Tribeca are excellent for networking with other filmmakers and getting your film viewed by audiences, but it’s also easy to be drowned out there. There might be a number of industry executives at these, but it will be more difficult to stand out.

At the submission stage, too, you will want to be careful of where you invest your money. Know that many others will be submitting their films to these major festivals and treat the process like you would a round of college applications, taking account of what you can afford and balancing out the premiere festivals with mid-level and “safety” prospects.

Smaller festivals, meantime, can be unexpectedly worthwhile in their own right. The chance to make contact with other filmmakers, even if they are at the beginning stages of their careers as you are, can be valuable here as it is at the major festivals, and if you manage to earn an award, it will look good on your resume regardless of how obscure it may be. Word-of-mouth exposure can result from a festival regardless of its size. It only takes one viewer—so long as it is the right one—to recommend your film to others and open up a range of new opportunities to build connections and screen your work.

It is important to have realistic expectations regarding festivals. Despite the opportunities for exposure, they are seldom useful places for gaining distribution. If your primary motivation is selling your film, then save your submission fee and travel cash. If you are more interested in networking with other filmmakers, attracting a general audience, and building name recognition for yourself and your film, then you may get something out of festivals.

You may also wish to take into account what other options you have for gaining the exposure you seek. This could depend on what type of film is in question. Some consider short films and documentaries best-suited to the festival format, while features hinge on the film itself and the audience for which it is meant. Filmmakers on a micro-budget might also prefer less costly means of reaching an audience, such as press releases, social media, and creative kinds of internet exposure.

Although these can all be cost-effective measures, they lack some of those network-building advantages that festivals offer. You might be able to add a few important friends on Facebook through a clever use of the internet, but this doesn’t necessarily compare to getting to know other filmmakers at festival seminars and parties while learning from them by viewing and discussing one another’s work.

Festivals are a good bet for some, less so for others, but it’s important to see the benefits from a long-term angle. They won’t give you an immediate return on your investment, especially if you’re working on a tiny budget. But they might set you up nicely for future opportunities if you do your research and invest your time and money wisely.


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