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How to Decide Which Film Festivals You Should Submit Your Film To

» Introduction
If you've got a film ready to make its debut on the film festival circuit, I'm sure you're wondering which film festivals you should submit you film to. This targeted action-based strategy will help you target the right film festivals to submit your film to based on the goals you are hoping to reach.
» Step 1
First let me say that "all festivals are not created equal" so you should choose your film festival wisely. Let's take a quick look at three major factors that will inform the film festival you choose to submit to. First: film festival politics, second: industry connections and third: distribution opportunities.
» Step 2
Film Festival Politics

Film festival politics is probably the most important factor you should consider in deciding what festival to submit to. You don't want to "cancel out" your chances at one festival by applying to another. What I mean by that is you don't want to miss the opportunity for a slot at a top tier film festival because you've already "premiered" in a small, no-name festival. Many film festivals have screening policies that preclude you screening at any other festival prior to their festival because all festivals want to tout the number of premieres they screen. Some are written policies and others are unwritten policies so you have to do your homework. The unwritten policies are the ones that will get you if you're not paying attention. I can't begin to tell you how many films miss an opportunity to screen at a top tier festival because they had jumped the gun and accepted invitations to a smaller, no-name festival first. Think that doesn't happen? Think again. It happens all the time.
» Step 3
Industry Connections

The second factor that will inform what film festivals you decide to is industry connections. Ask yourself if one of your goals is to make industry connections. If you are, be sure the festivals you submit to are visited by industry professionals such as agents, managers, producers, sales agents and distributors. If you're screening at a little-known festival outside of the major markets or outside of the regional big film festivals, you need to ask yourself what industry professionals will you have the opportunity to meet? I'm not saying there is something wrong with screening at that festival, I'm saying keep in mind what your goals are and make sure the festivals you choose move you closer to achieving whatever your goals are.
» Step 4
Distribution Opportunities

The third factor that will inform the film festival you choose to submit to is Distribution. If you're hoping to land a distribution deal, then you need to make sure that distributors attend the festivals you are submitting to. If in doubt, ask the programming dept. which distributors have attended in the past, and more importantly, what films have been picked up for both theatrical and direct-to-video distribution as a result of screening in their festival. Its not enough that distributors attend the festival, you want to make sure they are actively acquiring films at that festival. Also find out if the festival has any special programs where filmmakers are able to engage in more direct, one-on-one contact with distributors. Many festivals now offer face-to-face meetings with distributors as part of their programming strategy.
» Step 5
Other Factors

Other factors that will be more or less important depending on your overall festival strategy are which festivals have good prizes? Who has participated on their juries? What are their attendance figures? Do they get much press coverage? What type of hospitality program do they offer? How many films from the festival have been picked up for theatrical distribution?

At the end of the day you have to be clear on your goals for screening on the festival circuit and decide which film festivals you should submit to based on your goals. Bottom line, make sure you're going to get a good ROI in terms of exposure via a top tier festival, industry connections and and the opportunity to nab a distribution deal.

Always remember, an invitation to premiere at a film festival is certainly a great accomplishment, but it is also only the beginning of your journey. Once you get accepted, that when the real hard work begins.

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