Tips to maximize your chances for festival success
Getting your films into their first festivals is a major career milestone that is a real cause for celebration. To get into festivals, you need to be resilient, persistent and organized. Here are some tips to maximize your chances.
1. Submit often, and expect to get rejected. Rejections are a good thing; the more the merrier. It means you are submitting at the right volume to eventually get accepted. Despite what it looks like on social media, NOT getting accepted to festivals is overwhelmingly the norm. The ratio of around 25-50 submissions to 1 official selection seems to hold true for everyone. Keep getting rejected, and don't give up!
2. Build your film roster. Having more "product" to submit works in your favor. As you make more films, give some thought to having different lengths and genres to submit. Add a one-minute micro short or a short documentary to your palette of films; add some comedy or drama; broaden your themes. Shorter films in general are easier to fit into a program and have a better chance.
3. Target appropriately. Getting your first short film into Sundance is a great fantasy, but it is largely a fantasy. There are a lot of terrific festivals out there that are smaller and will give you good exposure and a nice feather in your cap for you and your cast and crew. Look on FilmFreeway or another similar site to find festivals, and aim your film at a festival that will appreciate it. Spend your time and money wisely.
4. Have your materials ready. Don't get caught by surprise when a festival asks for a high-quality download of your film, a poster, a synopsis, some production stills and a director's statement. Make it part of your DNA to prepare these things right away without being told, and have these items organized for easy access and sharing.
5. Be a good friend to festivals. Help promote festivals you have applied to, connect up with them on social media and share their news. When you get an official selection, make some noise about it! Stay in touch with festivals from year-to-year. Most festivals are delighted to hear about their "alumni" and their future successes.
When you are organized and focused, managing your festival submissions just becomes another routine producer task, usually requiring less than an hour or so per day. Be prepared, methodical, thorough, and diligent in your follow-through and success will surely follow. Good luck!
Robert David Duncan, award-winning director, actor, writer and producer with a passionate interest in art, storytelling and the whole amazing journey called life. Founder of Fat Punk Productions and Festival Director of the Miniature Film Festival.