Filmmaking / Directing : FILM FESTIVALS - Are they worth it? by Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

FILM FESTIVALS - Are they worth it?

I recently read an article that stated the film fest circuit has become corrupt and inaccessible to true indie film makers (can't find the article now, so I may have either dreamed or hallucinated it) and was wondering how other film makers here felt about that.

The article, that I can't find, stated that the big studios had subverted the purpose of festivals to do two things, one to marginalize indies, and to allow "stars" to create vanity projects in exchange for them signing big contracts to big films. Either way, it would mean the studios continue to dominate the business further disallow any newbies from crashing through the ramparts.

It also had something to say about distribution too.

So, first, did anyone else see this article?

Second, what do you think of this information?


Doug Nelson

Worth it in what way?

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Worth it as in getting the right kind of exposure, will you get exposure to industry people who can/will be in a position to further your career, or is it just a scam to make money so that studio "indies" can get exposure.

Doug Nelson

Well Janet - it all depends. What's the "right kind of exposure"? A number of "industry people" do indeed participate in/attend film festivals and it's generally a good place to meet & greet 'em but few (if any) are in a position to further your career. They may offer advice, guidance and a good name to drop if/when the opportunity arises. Are film festivals a scam? I don't think I'd make such a blanket statement although I'm pretty sure a few fall into that category. Running a film festival is a business intended to support its continuation by making more money than it spends - enhancing your career is not paramount. They are good places to meet, greet and network with other entertainment industry aspiring folk. What I'm saying is you are in control of your career and your furtherance along that path is founded on your sociability quotient. You got to get out there and hustle.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Excellent points Doug.

Philip A. May

I've also heard that when you don't have the awards from certain festivals it can get hard to get a good distribution deal. But I'm sure that times are also changing since you can also get worldwide exposure through viral content. I guess it all comes down to strategy and knowing who you're targeting?

Tony Moore

I can't speak to much else about festivals, but they're great for networking.

Joleene DesRosiers

I have been attending the Vermont Television Festival the past few years, and it's a great way to connect and network. I didn't find it corrupt or inaccessible. I think it's been one of the best moves I've made in my growing writing career.

Even wrote a post here that was published not that long ago....

Mike W. Rogers

No way around it, you pay people to read your screenplays, might as well get something for it!

J. R. S. Storch

It depends on the festivals. The large, Hollywood (not officially but yes, Hollywood) festivals are there for the sole purpose of advertising studio projects, many times from Hollywood actors/producers/directors. Now obviously the top festivals only make up a very, very small portion of total festivals worldwide. But most, smaller festivals are there for exposure and exposure only. If that exposure amounts to anything? Slim but as a filmmaker, you have to take everything you can get. Legitimate, fair distribution deals are almost impossible to come by in the lower festivals (keyword is "almost") and so don't expect that from them. I've known far too many filmmakers saying they're submitting their film into Sundance or Toronoto and their product/film has no chance (absolutely none) of getting in and thus they waste their money. That might be because of the production value, no name actors, budget, genre, etc. but there's a pretty clear picture of what those top festivals take. In the end, there are plenty of good festivals out there that one should submit their films to but unless you have all you need, the top festivals are for Hollywood goers.

Rocky Karlage

That's probably true of some larger festivals, but I have found most film festivals are receptive and helpful to Indie Filmmakers of any experience level around the world. They open the door to gaining attention for our films where Hollywood rarely does; if ever. I've also met many good people in the film world at these festivals; some of who now work with me.

Fleurette M Van Gulden

The best harvest have one bad apple. To be in this business one must learn know it and keep up with it change. Communication is at our finger tips on who is who, what they do, their success and representations. Stage32 and associates introduce us here to several they consider reputable so far. Personally, I wouldn't worry about bad seeds in the Festival arena. Currently I'm subscribed with Freeway, and Inktip.

Philip Sedgwick

Film festivals have been more than worth it! I've been hired by being at fests. Met talent and crew that later collaborated on projects. I even met RB for the first time at a film festival. Tremendous place to show your stuff and prove that you're not so introverted after all... if a film project's on the line.

Ken Koh

Yes they're still worth it and yes the politics is also true. You go to film festivals to get viewed and reviewed. You collect these reviews for your press kit important to help sell. And if you film is great, get a buzz, you might just get picked up. But festivals are also a lot of worked, as important and demanding as production.

Debbie Croysdale

Film festivals are not all tard with the same brush. I would not rope them all into one general sweeping statement. There are some fantastic ones, each with their own unique traits, including Moondance and Sundance. Moondance has built a global community and people can watch content on any device, which breaks territorial barriers. Some people think Sundance is just for big players, but I’ve been to workshops and seminars where the hosts went out of their way to reach out to newbies. Also they have a new mentoring programme called Women at Sundance, to try to boost the number of female directors, currently at under five percent of grossed film numbers. There are of course thousands of great Regional smaller festivals, all making their own individual mark and miraculously manage with little funding. There are also “bad seeds” as @ Fleurette mentions and some are little more than just “businesses” as @Doug mentions, but you get that in all walks of life. I think the exposure IS good, having a winning film (answering main point in question) but its only a flash in the pan triumph. After the initial publicity wears off, strategy is needed to keep name in the game, market and distribute etc. I don’t think Studios can hijack Indie Festivals on the whole, and its up to our tenacity for survival, that they wont!

Mike Messier

Janet, I understand your question. As a filmmaker myself, I have put a whole lot of money into festival submission fees. One problem I've experienced is that many festivals do not even have a decent website for the winning films. So I decided to make Avalonia Festival which has a great website that features many of the winning films and our Circle of Champions honors the winners:

Royce Allen Dudley

Festivals are great if you have an inside track to get on the exhibition list without going through submissions. And while many people don't realize that most of the programming is programmed, not submitted blindly. The notable exceptions get attention but the fact is there are so many filmmakers and so many films and so many film festivals it's all so much needles in the haystack. The benefit to your gamble as a true Indie whatever a true Indie is would be the possibility of buzz at a festival, which will be followed with requests by others... And So It Goes.

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