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Are film festivals a waste of time and money?

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  • Are film festivals a waste of time and money?

    I tried to get my first film into several horror-oriented festivals, and all they did was take my entry fee. What exactly do film festivals look for in a film? I wasted more than $200 in fees several years ago and I hate to take that road again for a documentary I'm working on currently, especially since I only work p/t.

  • #2
    Sometimes and sometimes not. If you chose the right festivals, not cut it close and send it in close to the deadline, add something startling or attention grabbing in the beginning (judges usually don't even watch full entries), and set aside money before production for submission fees and traveling, then they might be not a waste of time.


    • #3
      I'm NOT going to say that all of them are worthwhile, but I've had some very good experiences and met interesting people (some filmmakers and some not) at festivals.
      Screenwriter and script consultant:


      • #4
        Just out of curiosity Mara, were there any festivals you went to that you recommend people go to, or stay away from?


        • #5
          I am an actor and also founded Golden Door Film Festival. From the filmmaker/actor side I can tell you that going to the RIGHT festival can be extremely fruitful. You can make many new contacts and meet likeminded people and really get entrenched in the industry. You also get feedback on your work (good and bad) and if you are recognized for your work through nominations or awards it can bolster your project's chances of getting distribution. If you go to the not so right festivals, it can be a complete waste of money and time. Now from the festival side, not to toot the horn of my fest, I founded it on doing exactly the opposite of what the bad ones made me feel awful about. Do research on the type of festival it is in terms of genres they prefer, its location if that pertains to your audience, entrance fees etc. My festival is great but may or may not be right for everyone, however we do make a very strong point to treat all filmmakers equally and the same respect regardless of their notoriety or lack of. :)


          • #6
            I'm only going to be positive, and mention the ones that I found to be especially good. I didn't have any bad experiences, personally. Golden Door in Jersey City yielded some especially good contacts, and has very good seminars and after parties, So did the Central Florida Film Festival in Orlando, AOF in Pasadena CA, and Woods Hole in Cape cod, Mass. Trail Dance in OK was one of the most interested and enthusiastic audiences I've ever had, and was full of local people who love movies. I always meet interesting people at the Indie Gathering in Ohio, which I've been to quite a few times.

            I'd emphasize that it takes work - I wrote an article for this forum a few months ago with my recommendations on what to do when you've been accepted to a fest - it's still available under the Articles tab. I really think it's not worth submitting unless you can attend if accepted.
            Screenwriter and script consultant:


            • #7
              My advice. Save your money on film festivals. Go for the ones with no entry fees. If you get selected for a film festival that has no entry fee vs thousands of submissions then and only then would I consider paying fees to enter the film into paid festivals. When it come time to pick said paid festivals I would look for genre specific ones, startups and small ones. And if you win at any of them it lends credibility to your film and may make it more likely to get into larger festivals.

              I have a film that is being screened in April at a small 2nd year festival in NYC. The entry fee was free. I don't know the total # of entries but depending on the reception of the film I will be looking at taking it to the next steps listed above.


              • #8
                Film Festivals to enter.

                1. Festivals in your area.

                That's it.

                Why? Festivals are just like everything else, it's about the money.

                How do festivals make money? By putting butts in the seats.

                If they get 100 ok movies from around the globe, how do they choose? Some micro-budget film maker from Ohio sending his movie to Tennessee is going to have a hard time getting his friends and family to travel to see his movie on the big screen. But, if they get some local film makers, they can get their friends and family to attend.

                It's always all about the MONEY.

                A way to help your chances of getting into a festival is by hiring a B movie actor to act in your film. Even if it's just a guest appearance, your chance of being picked increases, because that actor has fans. Those fans might show up to see his work.

                Festivals are a RIP OFF.

                One of my favorite stories about festivals regarded Sundance. The author went to a viewer's apartment and there was a stack from floor to ceiling of unopened envelopes containing screeners from contestants. This was AFTER the festival. These people paid outrageous fees to have their movie watched so it might have a chance at being shown at Sundance. These envelopes weren't even opened.


                • #9
                  Depends on the festival. I have noticed 100's of bogus or rip off type festivals.

                  I still want to do the one here though. But we aren't getting a good turn out :(


                  • #10
                    I can't answer for any other festivals, but I've worked with Dances With Films ever since they premiered my movie in 2000 and I won Best Screenplay.

                    At DWF, we recognize that filmmakers have shelled out hard earned money to submit, so we ensure that every movie is watched all the way through at least once. All movies are seen by 3 screeners. If you want more details, you can read my blog by going to the Dances With Films website and clicking on the B for Blog.

                    Is it worth it? We've had films get signed for distribution on the spot. That's more common now with digital distribution. We've also had filmmakers sign with agents based on their DWF screening. I think we have a better record than YouTube. :)

                    By the way, I'm new to this forum, but not forums in general. I was Xenastaff, the moderator of Universal's Netforum for Xena: Warrior Princess back on the day. I used to haunt Without A Box's forum, and now I can be found on Agent Query Connect. I'm glad to see there's another filmmakers forum getting active. They are a tremendous resource.

                    See ya around the boards.


                    • #11
                      I would say yes and no. Like the others said, it really depends on the festival, and what you're looking to get out of it. I enjoy going to some of the smaller ones personally, but I'm a person who doesn't necessarily like crowded places, especially when watching a movie.

                      Festivals are great for networking. I went to the Atlanta Film Fest a few years ago, and met some great contacts that I still work with(occasionally).

                      For submitting a film, try to get everything done early(for cheaper prices), or at least on time. If you get into a festival, great. Just make sure to do your homework before submitting to every film festival you can find.