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How to Produce an International Film Festival


see the winnersAre you thinking of starting your own film festival? An international film festival? Or even a film festival that takes place in Europe and here in the US?

Well, I’m one of those crazy people who decided to take on this challenge. I’m the founder and director of the Evolution, Mallorca International Film Festival (EMIFF). EMIFF holds its main event every November in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and the following summer, the winning filmmakers screen their work in Hollywood, CA.

This year we celebrate our third festival, and let me tell you, it’s been a bumpy and gratifying ride. I started the festival because I’m half-Spanish, half-Californian, and I wanted to develop a creative project to unite my two passions: film and travel. Since then, EMIFF has developed into a true international celebration of film driven by the goal of bringing together independent filmmakers from all over the world to showcase their work and form new connections.

Since the inception of EMIFF in 2012, I have traveled back and forth from California to Spain more than eight times. Trying to attempt the impossible feat of running two festivals simultaneously in Europe and the US seemed completely unattainable. However, after figuring out how each country works and realizing their differences, preferences, and ideas of success, it all started to make sense to me.

Here are 6 ways producing an international film festival in the US is different from producing it in Europe:

  1. Government Funding

Europe is rich in art and culture, and a big chunk of taxpayers’ money goes towards funding these pursuits as well as museums, films, educational programs and festivals that showcase such art and culture. The European Union has an Educational Arts foundation that supports film festivals all over the country. Even start-up festivals have the opportunity to apply and receive support after their third year. The US does not provide this kind of support and makes it rather hard for cultural events to grow and thrive.

  1. Private Sponsorship

Even though private sponsorship is a much more common form of support in the US than it is in Europe, in the US or, specifically, Los Angeles, private sponsors have rather low expectations regarding turnout and attendance. Additionally, European sponsors want to make sure enough celebrities attend the event whereas US sponsors care more about the amount of total attendees.

  1. Submissions

In the US submissions always cost money, but in Europe 90% of festivals offer free submissions. This difference is a problem because filmmakers from both regions have contrasting views on the value of the submission fee. US filmmakers believe that spending more money will increase their chances of being selected to the best festivals. European filmmakers who are not used to paying any submissions fees do not understand the concept of paying the submission fee, and those who are prepared to pay expect the festival to be prestigious and popular.

  1. VIP Attendance

VIP attendance is highly rated in Europe where entire events are rated by how many celebrities show up. In the US or California, film events are so saturated that festivals with more of an independent feel and fewer VIPs, actually seem refreshing to the audience and press.

  1. Cultural Output

The guidelines regarding what a cultural event endorses and promotes are strictly enforced in Europe. Each event/festival must clearly state its cultural purpose in order to receive funding. In the US, film festivals have been popping up left and right, without a clear vision and/or mission of how and what cultural purpose they serve.

  1. Preparation Timeline

Producing an event in any part of the world demands a good amount of planning. However, judging from my experience, I feel US sponsors and filmmakers are more spontaneous and willing to support festivals than Europeans. In Europe, sponsors, event locations, special guests and so on want to double check the event to make sure they know to what they’re committing. In the US, people are more driven to say ‘yes’ and are less afraid to endorse a product and support it. As a result, preparations for the actual event definitely take more time in Europe than in the US.

While hosting a film festival in Europe and the US presents a unique set of pros and cons, ultimately, the challenge of working with two cultures has made EMIFF a truly diverse experience. Our cross-promotional campaign helps bridge the cultural gap and gives sponsors the opportunity to advertise globally. Although early on this festival seemed to be an unattainable vision, all of our sponsors have seized the opportunity to use our multicultural platform to promote their products, and our filmmakers have embraced EMIFF as the new, innovative film platform for emerging talent.

Our upcoming Evolution, Hollywood Film Festival event, #SEETHEWINNERS takes place Wednesday August 27th, 2014 from 4pm-10pm at the Los Angeles Film School on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, CA.

For information about the Festival please visit




About Sandra Seeling

I am Sandra, an actress, filmmaker, entrepreneur and I need to do it all to be happy. I love to create projects that I am truly passionate about, there is no greater thrill and satisfaction. I thrive to work with people who share my obsession of acting, producing and directing. I am all about sharing great ideas AND making them happen. In 2011 "just" making movies and acting wasn't enough for my already full plate, so I followed my heart and created an International Film Festival in my home town of Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Mallorca is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean and it just felt right do 'go for it' and see what happens. Since the first festival in 2012, Evolution has grown every year at a pace i could have never imagined. Embraced by the European and International independent movie scene it has flourishing in all aspects, becoming the new hip film event for innovative and provocative upcoming creative filmmakers from all around the world.