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Should I submit my film to a film festival? And How?

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

For independent filmmakers, film festivals represent one of the best ways to not only bring your film to an audience besides your family and friends, but also to enhance the chances of your film being picked up for distribution (if it's a feature) and to generally promote your skills as a filmmaker.

Literally thousands of film festivals are held around the world each year. These range from small local community events, to large prestigious festivals like Cannes and Sundance. Local events are often underwritten by community clubs, regional governments, or arts bodies, and tend to be about helping local filmmakers showcase their work. Top events are run by dedicated organisations and attract millions of dollars worth of funding and sponsorship so that they can present the very best works from across the globe. The following events are generally considered to be the world's top festivals:

Check out for an extremely comprehensive list and coverage of events around the world.

If you are thinking of submitting your film to a festival, there are several areas you should consider before sticking a tape in the post and sending it off.

Firstly, which festivals are right for the film? Regardless of size, each different festival has its own agenda for what it is trying to achieve, and the type of films it is looking to promote. Consequently, it is essential for any independent producer to thoroughly research which festivals are right for their film before making a submission. Choosing events which suit the individual film not only enhances the chances of it being selected, but also helps keep costs down.

Secondly, don’t always aim for the top. Getting a film into Cannes or Sundance is every filmmaker’s dream. But that also means that the number of submissions for these types of event is incredibly high, and therefore the chances of selection incredibly low. On top of this, more marginal films at these types of events run a real risk of being "lost amongst the noise." In some cases, getting a film into high-profile "B" festival can be far more valuable than being lost in an "A" festival.

Thirdly, cost. Festival submission can be an expensive activity. Not only do most events levy a non-refundable submission fee, but there are additional costs which must be borne by the filmmaker such as preparing submission tapes/DVDs (often in multiple formats to cater for different television systems); preparing the projection media if the film is selected; and shipping all the materials to locations around the world. This makes it doubly-important to locate festivals which are the most likely to accept the film.

Fourthly, preparing film festival submissions is time-consuming. Once you have the details, you need to complete the entry form, put together supporting materials (synopses, credits etc), prep your submission media, arrange to pay the fee (often in foreign currency), then go down to the post office to send it all off. It can be a lot of work, and consequently you may want to consider using a service like Withoutabox - an online system for managing entries to multiple film festivals.

Finally, use your common sense to keep an eye out for shysters. In recent times there has been a spate of fake film festivals soliciting for entries on the Internet. Filmmakers are asked to submit their film and pay an entry fee, but there is actually never going to be any event (and of course, all fees are non-refundable). Be very wary of festivals you haven't heard of or do not appear to be supported by a reputable organisation. If you have any doubts, simply avoid them.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 04-Nov-2004


Older Comments

ri stewart  |  16-Apr-2009
Withoutabox streamlines the process of film festival submissions for the Indie Filmmaker.