Always carefully select the festivals
Applying to festivals is time-consuming and expensive. They all have different requirements in terms of paperwork, cover letters, synopses… but most of all, every festival programmer has different tastes and ideas about which films to screen.
It is therefore in your own interests to do some research and make sure you’re picking the right ones for your film. When you contact the festival to send them your work, always try to include the particular reason why you want it screen at that particular event. At the end of the day, programmers are trying to give your film good exposure through their own audience, so obviously the two have to match.
Complete all the details
Application forms are often long and detailed, but it is massively important to fill them in properly. Even if they ask about some technical details you’re not entirely sure of, it’s worth it to check online what they are asking for. You don’t want to be remembered as the filmmaker that wasted their staff’s time as they had to email you back asking for missing details.
Keep it short
Remember that hundreds (if not thousands) of filmmakers apply for each edition of each festival. It takes them weeks to watch everything they receive, so they don’t have much spare time to write 5 pages of bio and overly detailed synopses. It’s good to give a first impression of your work and make them like it even before they start watching it, but be careful keeping your emails and any other form of communication as concise as you can.
Reach out to the programmer
It’s always good to establish a personal connection with the decision-maker who’s going to eventually determine your admission to the festival. You can achieve such a connection in several ways: networking is always a good idea – always attend other festivals and events to have a chance to meet some of the people who can actually get your film screened. Them knowing your name, or even just you knowing theirs, could make you stand out among dozens of other filmmakers.
Carefully manage your World Premiere
Offering the festival to screen your film as a World Premiere might be a value added to your work, as it adds marketing potential to your film. The only problem is: you only get one World Premiere, so manage it wisely. For example, if a small festival offers you a World Premiere but you were aiming at a bigger one, with more exposure, or which you think may suit your work better, try giving them a call and check if they’ve already watched it or made a decision about it.
Be careful about the support or file you submit
Whether you use a DVD or a digital version, the support you send is the one thing that truly matter about your submission. If you use a physical support, make sure it’s labelled and packaged properly, that it works and that the film’s quality is good enough.
Same goes for Vimeo links or other online submissions: quality is crucial, and also be careful not to change the private video’s password after you’ve submitted.
Don’t be pressing
Keep in mind that festivals’ programmers have to watch hours and hours of films each year: it will take them a while to get back to you. You don’t need to call them up every day to ask them about their decision, as it may actually lower your chances of getting selected.
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get in
Plenty of quality material is discarded by festivals each year: the oversupply in the industry simply causes good films to outnumber available slots. This takes nothing away from your film and certainly shouldn’t discourage you from submitting to other festivals where you might have better luck.