Before you comb withoutabox for your next group of festival submissions, print your hundredth promotional push-card, or stuff your next DVD screener into that padded envelope, consider some advice from guest blogger and New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF) Program Director Clint Bowie. And with NOFF submissions now open and NOVAC’s 40 second film festival gearing up for the fall, this may be just the extra nudge or advice you need.
People often ask what it takes to get a film accepted into the New Orleans Film Festival—and I wish I could simply answer, “make a really great film.” The problem with that answer is that we receive more “really great films” than we have room for. In 2011, for example, we received over 900 submissions, but we could only screen around 15% (which was around 140, and that was about 40 more than we accepted the year before). Even though the other 85% all received the same rejection notice, that’s not to say they were all bad. In fact, we probably could have screened more like 30% of all submitted films without compromising the quality of the festival. Alas, budgets, time, and space don’t allow us to show every good film that submits, so we have to make some very difficult decisions. (On the very day that notification emails went out last year, we had to cut 50 films that we really wanted to screen but simply didn’t have room for. It’s hard, but it has to be done.)
Know Your Film and What You Want
There are a number of things you can do to ensure that your film doesn’t end up being one of those that gets left out. For starters, make sure that your film is a good fit for the festival that you’re submitting to. Check out their previous line-ups. Would your film fit in nicely with their selections last year?
Before even submitting to festivals, it’s important to think about what you’d like to get out of your festival experience. Do you simply want your film to be seen? Do you want to connect with other filmmakers at the festival? Do you just want the “official selection” laurel to put on your website? Are you hoping your film will find distribution?
If the latter is what you’re interested in, I’ll be frank—it’s probably not going to happen. The myth of indie films being discovered and finding distribution at festivals is mostly just that: a myth. These days, festivals themselves serve as the main distribution method for most indie films. If they’re lucky, some features will end up at libraries and maybe on Netflix, but the life of a short film pretty much ends after the festival circuit.
So before choosing which festivals to submit to, it’s important to think about who you want to see your film. Does your film target a niche audience (environmental, social issue, women’s interest, LGBT, ethnic, etc.)? Are you looking to reach industry professionals? Or audiences in a certain region? Think about who you want to see your film, then research the festivals you’re interested in and find out who makes up their primary audience. READ FULL ARTICLE.