If you’re following us here, it means you’ve most likely heard of film festivals like Sundance before. If you haven’t, though, let’s discuss what a film festival is.

What is a Film Festival

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Film festivals usually occur annually and provide an opportunity for filmmakers to show their work to live audiences. It gives filmmakers great publicity and networking opportunities, and if you win, there is typically a considerable cash prize involved as well.

Some film festivals are specialized, so they only allow submissions of particular genres, whereas other festivals are very broad and will allow any submissions. 

The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady
The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady

Additionally, many festivals encourage new filmmakers and students to submit and have special categories just for them.

If you’re an aspiring filmmaker dreaming of one day submitting your work to a festival, check out our funding opportunities! You could be eligible to win up to $10,000 to put toward your film.

How to Apply to Film Festivals

Although it may sound obvious, make sure that before you even try to send your film in, you do your research on what festivals you want to apply to. There are many festivals around the country, so make sure you find the ones that are most suited for you and your style of filmmaking.

Once you’ve compiled a list, make sure that you have the money to apply and will also be able to travel to these festivals if you are accepted. 

Being able to attend the festivals you are accepted to is crucial because not only will you be able to see your film on the big screen most likely for the first time, but it is also a great opportunity for you to network with other filmmakers and individuals already in the industry.

Additionally, review the deadlines for applying to festivals. The fee to apply for the first deadline is always the cheapest, so it could be beneficial for you to apply at the first deadline. Keep in mind, though, it will not serve you best to submit something that is rushed and not ready to be submitted yet just so you can save money at the first deadline. 

Preparing for Festivals on Set

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Although you may think that submitting your work to festivals can be a thought kept for post-production, it’s actually quite important to keep festivals on the forefront of your mind even during production. 

Ensuring that you’re following certain practices during production can help to increase the likelihood of you being accepted into festivals.

Let’s go over some strategies.

Get Good Stills

It’s always important to have good stills from your film, but it’s especially important if you’re planning on submitting to festivals.

When you’re submitting to film festivals, it’s recommended that you have an electronic press kit (EPK), which includes stills from your film as well as a promotional material for your film. You’ll also want to have a poster printed.

These photos will be widely distributed, so it is crucial that these photos are professional and well planned out.

To learn more about EPKs, check out our post about how to create an electronic press kit.

Obtain Behind the Scenes Content

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Especially in today’s day and age, it is important that you have behind the scenes content for your social media promotional accounts.

If you have authentic behind the scenes footage, it will help your viewers feel more connected to your cast and crew and generate more passion and excitement for your project.

Cultivate Relationships with Cast and Crew

Generating relationships with your cast and crew will not only create a positive work environment on set, but it will also create a positive impression for your audience and potential investors as well. 

It would be to your benefit to set a precedent on your set where cast and crew members are excited and willing to come to your premieres and screenings.

It would also help the promotional process as well if your cast and crew would be willing to promote your film on their social media.

Both of these actions, especially having your cast and crew at screenings, will help to generate outside excitement for your project. 

Remember: emotions are contagious. If outsiders can see you’re excited about your project and can see a genuine connection between everyone involved in your film, it will give rise to excitement and passion beyond just your cast and crew. 

Utilize Social Media

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While filming, it would be beneficial to get quotes from individuals on set that you can later use on your website or your social media pages to promote your film. Obviously cast and crew will be busy shooting, but finding some downtime to gather some director or producer quotes about the film would be a great addition to promotional material.

Having real quotes from real people will help prove to festivals and audiences that there is a pre-existing excitement about your film, and it will stand to prove that your film will not only bring you success in the future, but bring it to them as well.

Knowing that people are proud to have worked on a project and knowing it will bring excitement to viewers is crucial.

Remember Closed Captions

Remember, be inclusive with your audience. Something like closed captions could easily be forgotten during production, but should you remember, you can easily expand your viewership and prove to audience members and viewers that you are an inclusive filmmaker and show them that you want to make sure your film is able to become widespread.

Reach out to Festivals

After you’ve submitted to festivals, or while you are in the process, it would be beneficial to reach out to them. 

By reaching out, you can show a festival your enthusiasm both for your project and for their event. 

You aren’t writing to sway their decision, but rather to prove that you are passionate about film and about their event.

It may or may not impact their decision about whether or not you are accepted, but it will get your name out there and potentially help judges or producers to remember your name.

Tailor your Submissions

Even if you’re submitting the same film to multiple festivals, tailor your submission to each festival and consider submitting a cover letter with each submission. Help the festival understand why you are submitting to them and what your film will do for them.

This will underscore your enthusiasm for your project and also show the festival how working with you can impact them.

Are you wondering how you will fund your project? Check out our contests for your chance to win up to $10,000 and other prizes for your film!

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