…and how festivals, many of them bogus, make millions
I disagree with not submitting to newer film festivals for several reasons. Firstly, there is less competition for awards and prizes. I've won more money and accolades from newer festivals than older festivals plus it's easier for your film to get buried in older festivals if you are a newer filmmaker. Secondly, because festivals are about relationship building, there is a greater likelihood to establish lasting relationships with programmers from newer festival who may move on to other bigger festivals in their careers. However, I would avoid monthly and quarterly festivals, especially those which charge filmmakers a fee for their trophies!
I do agree with avoiding the fees of Sundance, Tribeca, New York Film Festival, all the biggies. Submitting to these festivals is like cold call sales. If you don't have representation or a sales agent, you're just not gonna get in and it's a waste. These festivals are big business and they want to sell premium priced tickets and passes.
Love the deep dive and the tough talk Sean! So true! Great advice, I hope the industry acts on it and filmmakers listen.
Great post Sean, thank you for your service!
thanks for commenting Christopher. Point taken re: newer festivals, though there are just so many these days that extra diligence/risk management is required.
Thanks for this article, I've been trying to say similar stuff for years on my film festival lists (https://adriantofei.com/top-100-international-film-festivals/), but your words as an insider are heavier than mine and, especially in the case of top tier festivals, shocking, and should raise alarms (which are far from being raised).
Very good info except maybe to not submit to festivals with “awards” in the name. I won a Craghoppers Film Prize of £20,000 from the Discover Film Awards and I sure do love them there haha I guess I’m biased! I suppose there’s always an exception to the rule.
On the issue transparency: I have seen many posts on forums about whether the festivals on FilmFreeway actually view the films, as there is no way on our dashboards to know that. Filmmakers often opt for keeping their films on Vimeo Pro account to keep track of how many times their films were viewed and were...
Some filmmakers, seeing their films had not been viewed on that platform, took umbrage and reached out to this festival or that... the festivals' responses were that "Vimeo views aren't always accurate." (true—I have tested it). I reached out to FilmFreeway and asked about whether my film was viewable (it seemed so but a programmer actually had the decency to reach out to me and say that their sound from the FF posting was not playing and could I supply a Vimeo link?), I also asked if they could tell me the number of views that my film had had... they said they are "working on that feature."
I don't mean to detract from your very timely post, but in terms of transparency I would like to see all festivals make the viewing stats public to the filmmaker. Slamdance claims that all films are watched twice minimum in their entirety. As a former screenplay reader, no matter how "rough" a screenplay is, I read it very carefully because I knew how much work had gone into it.
Great article. Re- 2-4% selection rate for Sundance: isn’t this assuming that all submissions are “open” ones? If only 10% of submissions are “open” ones then wouldn’t the acceptance rate be closer to 0.2-0.4%? Less and 1%.