If you’ve survived the challenge of making a film, you’re probably familiar with a stress-releasing hobby called weeping. While budgeting should leave ample tears for post-production, film festival submissions should be a zero-weeping zone. What’s one great way to rejection-proof your film? Reframe what you consider rejection and focus on what you really want from being involved with a film festival.
As the director of Connect Film Festival and a content creator myself, I am always seeking films that suit our festival, as well as collaborative filmmakers to join our creative tribe. Our judges are not executioners who delight in rejecting the majority of submissions — we’re searching to find work that is a great match.
Film Festivals are a place to showcase a constellation of dreamers, a community that expands—film by film, person by person.
We want you to succeed. To up your odds of that, here are a few tips.
Here’s something I’ve come to believe over years in the festival world: getting into a festival — any festival — is a very big deal. HUGE. Hop up and down celebrate huge. Conversely, not getting into a festival (regardless of the festival or the film), is not a big deal. How can both be true?
Simple: it takes enormous work to run a festival. It’s the culmination of a lot of dreaming, planning, collaboration, and effort— any minute of screen time offered to one film could have been given to someone else. Huge. Honor.
At the same time, there is an even bigger random factor in selection. Even phenomenal work gets rejected. It’s not a judgment of the film itself —it’s a matter of what films align with a particular festival during a particular year.
Every festival is different, so I can only tell you about my experience running Connect. Finding films is a year-round task. While the majority of our submissions come in online we’re also actively looking for films. I feel like every member of the festival team is a bird running out to bring something shiny back to the nest.
In the first few years of Connect, I traveled extensively not only to big festivals like Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca, but also to wonderful regional festivals like Bluestocking in Portland, Maine. In addition, I went to every screening I could find in Los Angeles.
I recruit at film festivals, graduation screenings, student showcases, and awards ceremonies. Connect has no premiere requirement and screens films of all ages, so I’m not only looking for films, but for filmmakers.
One of the first questions I always ask is “what other work do you have?” I recruit from anyone involved in a production — not just the director. If something is well-edited, I want to see everything else that editor has done that might suit our programming. I have contacted individual cinematographers, writers, and even a supporting actress whose performance impressed me from just three lines in a short film.
All of our judges have their own style and their own methods, but we’re all looking for the best work we can find.
I love our judges in Australia to be especially active in referring work as Connect started from a specific community of Australian filmmakers, and promoting extraordinary Australian filmmakers in an international environment is one of our core principals.
Everyone knows the staggering statistics of large festivals getting thousands of submissions for only a few dozen spots. What most people don’t realize about smaller festivals is that a lot of times they survive because they’re curated by absolute creative nutters — lunatics like me who recruit and have a creative team and a network of involved alumni who also recruit. Any year we could curate multiple full festivals from the great work we cannot accept.
There is a festival out there that specifically wants your film. Find it! Don’t know where to start? Find other films like yours and see their festival history. There’s no better way to know a festival than by actually attending and experiencing how they handle logistics, staff, care for films, and how they curate blocks along with the stories they choose. If you can’t attend, you can usually track down past years’ work online. Are there special awards or opportunities at those festivals? How do they express their values and identity? Look at your production and think: “who might earn an award?” Additionally, how shocking is your film — might you apply to a midnight madness block? On the other hand, is it a child-friendly film? All of these open up ways to find a festival that will celebrate your story. If the internet or an alumni cannot answer your questions, show that you’ve done some research and respectfully contact the festival requesting links to past work or more information.
4.Celebrate your local resources
If you live in Los Angeles, you have many resources and screening opportunities. For short films, I have to send a huge shout-out to two that really knock it out of the park: HollyShorts and New Filmmakers Los Angeles, both of which have monthly screenings. HollyShorts in 2014 helped inspire me to move to Los Angeles, and is still one of my favorite short film events anywhere in the world.
If your film is selected by any festival, of any size, and by a team that cares about programming, you should feel like you’ve won a golden ticket straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- For more on festivals try THESE great articles from Ms. In the Biz.
- For more from the Festival Director’s perspective try THESE books by Jon Gann.
- Feel free to connect with me at Connect Film Festival: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Want to submit? Enjoy this 25% discount code: MSINTHEBIZ2018 http://www.filmfreeway.com/festival/connectfilmfestival
Find your festival and find your film allies. Be the revolution. Viva la filmmaking fire!