Film Festivals: Go Big & Go Home

laurels aren't everythingI’d just like to preface this editorial by pointing out that I’m an autodidact in this business and that any perceived wisdom I may have to impart should be taken with that grain of salt.

Minushi’s been invited to submit to more film festivals since I decided to self-distribute than it was rejected from prior to distribution… Go figure. That said and flattered as I am to have received this attention I haven’t taken any of these fests up on their offer to screen the movie. I know, I’m a self-destructive idiot right? Maybe so, but on the other hand this is how I’ve rationalized my decision:

As far as I’m concerned (and this is really a subjective appraisal of things) film festivals are there to serve two basic functions for me, the filmmaker. Press and the possibility of distribution/representation. Now I’m not saying that’s the only purpose a film festival serves! For a particular community or for the art of filmmaking festivals are a great resource. But if you’re an indie filmmaker who’s boiling the broom for soup then you may have to be a bit more pragmatic in your feelings on the matter.

So I say again; press and/or the possibility of distribution is what I have to consider if I want to continue to eat. So I had to look at what any given festival was going to bring me in terms of those two criteria. And realistically, your average small town festival isn’t exactly going to be attracting the kind of business folks you want to have screen your movie… (Unless your small town happens to be L.A. or N.Y.) And again, that’s not to say there isn’t value to these festivals! There’s enormous value culturally, but even small festivals can cost you in the way of time and money to participate. And for me, that time and money was best served in going after a festival in my own hometown. This way if your film is selected then you have that hometown advantage of not only being able to attend the festival but also with any luck capitalize on the buzz of being a homegrown filmmaker.

There were only a handful of other festivals to which I submitted Minushi. Giant festivals for which the possibility of selection seemed impossible. And ultimately was. But I take solace in telling myself Minushi just isn’t “that kind of movie.” The point is, it can’t hurt to try because you never know what a selection committee might be looking for any given year and if you ever do land a giant festival well then that’s just pay dirt isn’t it?

My only exception to these guidelines laid out with my finite knowledge would be specialty festivals. If you’re making a vampire movie and you know of a horror movie festival that’s maybe not so big or local but it fits your film’s genre then that would probably serve you well as far as finding an audience. However, I think these days, the 24/7 festival of the internet can probably fill that need better than any other source at the moment.

To sum up: Big festivals that look at little movies; good. Hometown festivals; good. Some small town festival on the other side of the planet; good for the filmmaker who lives in that small town on the other side of the planet.

But maybe that’s just me?

2 Responses to “Film Festivals: Go Big & Go Home”

  1. Esn Says:

    I don’t understand… do YOU have to pay for them to screen it? If not, then what do you lose by letting it be shown somewhere?

    What I’d do (supposing that I didn’t have to pay the festival in the first place) is let it be shown in as many places as possible, and arrange it so that there’s somebody outside the doors after each screening selling Minushi DVDs. I would expect to get a bunch of sales that way from folks who liked my movie but would never have known about it otherwise.

  2. Tyler Says:

    Esn, yes, many festivals have submission fees which add up fast if you submit to a lot of them. Selling copies of the movie at the festivals isn’t a bad idea but against that I have to weigh the time and money it would cost to promote at and attend those festivals. Maybe that’s reasonable for some filmmakers but so far it hasn’t made sense for my situation. Another factor that comes into play here is the actual exhibition copy of your film. Most of the mid sized festivals want the film in a decent format (Beta tapes or 35mm film) and to get those prints or copies made you’re looking at a chunk of change - plus you’ve got to ship that material around the world.

    Again, I hate to have to look at the festival circuit so pragmatically but the business side of the art of film is a little too cold to be ignored.


    ps. Thanks for commenting! I know it’s not the same as the old Babble Board but it’s home.