Friday, September 28, 2012

So You Want to Make a Movie - The Festival Circuit

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

19. The Festival Circuit

Over the past few years, the number of film festivals has exploded. Today, you can find film festivals playing everywhere from college campuses to small and big towns. But, in reality, there are only a few that really matter. Sundance, Toronto, South by Southwest, Cannes, Tribeca and Berlin International Film Festival are the big players. This is where you are going to find the distributors, buyers and film critics necessary in helping you to make a deal.

Of course, the number one reason why you as an independent producer and filmmaker spend the time and the money exhibiting your film in festivals is for a distribution deal. It used to be that if you were accepted as an Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival, you were practically guaranteed a distribution deal. That’s not true any longer. Today excellent films that play at Sundance are being bypassed. There are no longer guarantees that playing the festival circuit will get you to the Promised Land. Today, you just have to think of it as one tool to get your film noticed.

There is a significant amount of resources from books to videos that can help you to formulate a film festival strategy. So I am only going to hit a few high points. First, you want your film seen. Second, you want to get your film reviewed. And finally, you want to create some kind of buzz about your film. Film festivals are still the best option to achieve those goals. In order for that to happen, you need to get into the right festival. Remember, there are hundreds of film festivals, and they come and go like the the wind. Some are just a total waste of your time and money.

The big festivals are very difficult if not impossible to get into. You will need a big time actor or a director who has a good reputation. If you are lucky to get into a big festival, you might be assigned a 9:00 a.m. showing—not exactly the best time. This could kill your movie. On the other hand, small or mid-size festivals could feature your film on an opening night allowing you to make a big splash.

Do your research. Know the types and varieties of festivals. Go after a few that you think would be a good choice for your film. For example, if your film is a western, look for festivals that specialize in showing the western genre. Do you have any contacts or know people who work within the festival circuit who can help you? Find out the names of the festival directors and managers of the film festivals you are most interested in. The more you know the better. Festival directors are a rare breed. What they want most is a chance for a world premier. They love to discover films and find the next big thing. So use that to your advantage; however, once you give your world premier away, it’s gone forever. So it’s a big decision which festival you start with. It could lock you out of other film festivals because you can no longer offer the one thing that festival directors love the most - a world premier.

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