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Helpful tips in sending your film to festivals.


You've worked hard. You've sweated and have had many sleepless nights completing your film. So what's the first thing you want to do after finishing something that you are very proud of? Do you post it on the internet? NO! Absolutely not.


Many festivals are making it clear that they will not accept a film if it’s on Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, or whatever other new site that may pop up in the near future. Why? Because the festival wants to be sure that they get an audience to see your film. By having it stream online somewhere it is more than likely that your friends and family have seen it. And, after they’ve already seen it would they then leave the comfort of their home and shell out some hard earned money to see it again?  Probably not. And the festival programmer will think most definitely not. So, be patient. Wait. Yes your mother paid for your film, but wouldn't she like it all the more while being surrounded by an audience congratulating you on your achievement? I would think so. Your family can wait.


And remember if the festival you are sending your film to is local, this is especially true. Festivals are a business and are dependent on attendance. That means having your family and friends coming out and supporting your work. Yes, some festivals don't mind if your film is online, but the important festivals such as Tribeca, Chicago International, Edinburgh, The Berlin International and Cannes will not accept films that are also online. And the biggest platform for short film recognition is the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Oscars. Many festivals are Oscar qualifying and the Oscars will not reward a film that has premiered online.


There are also other points that the filmmakers must consider. Such as “Which festival do I send my film to”?  Well festivals are popping up all over the place and some cities, Milwaukee for instance, has more than one festival. In the last year alone there was us (The Milwaukee Short Film Festival) The 48-Hour Project, Milwaukee Film, The Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, The Horney Goat Film Festival and MARNmovies, while out of Milwaukee there are The Wisconsin Film Festival (the best in the state), The Beloit Film Festival, Weyauwega International Film Festival, Driftless and Wildwood. That’s quite a few, isn't it, and I'm sure I'm missing a some.


Most festivals prefer to have premieres, again going back to that that attendance thing. They need to be sure there are enough ticket sales to cover costs. After all nothing is free and putting on events can be pricey. So do your own research to see if your film is the right fit to the festival you are sending it to. Festivals do have personalities as you can see by viewing the past line ups on their websites. That should help you make a decision on whether your film fits. This goes for submitting your film outside of your area as well. Don’t start writing checks to dozens of festivals and get mad that your film didn't get in. There are many reasons why a film doesn't get selected and being bad is only one of them. There’s also that personality thing. Your film just might not fit the parameters with how they program their festival. Maybe they needed more comedies to balance out the dramas, and you had a very heavy drama.

Or, you maybe you didn't enter your film properly. Read the guidelines carefully. Think of it as a job interview, you don't want to screw it up, That would just gives the programmers a reason to dismiss your film. Sending in a 40 minute film when a festival doesn't show anything over 15 minutes is careless. You've given them a reason to not watch your film. Enter your film in the right category as well. Yes all this is common sense, but you would be surprised at how many people do not do this. One last point is asking for a waiver. Festivals do grant them, but with us it is mostly based on the case and how they ask. The usual reasons are:

1. Ran out of money.
2. That they are a student and ran out of money.
3. They live in a place like Iran.
4. Or a PR firm sends a standard letter saying how great the film is, had been in 30 festivals and won awards, and wants to get in for free.

If you are being honest with your reason, explain your hardship so you stand a chance to get that waiver.  Don't have a PR firm ask for you, that becomes a turn of because they are being paid to send out those emails. You do that, it shows that you only want to collect laurels.  And be aware of when you ask for a waiver, asking during the cheap early bird period when the submission fee range from $10- $20 might not sit well with the fest.  Nearly everyone can afford those prices if you cut out a trip or two to Starbucks.


You might also consider sending a synopsis or stills. Some festivals will not consider a film if they don't have an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) along with that film. They would just rather not have to keep asking for one from you. It’s just another hassle for the festival. The least you could do is send a few lousy stills that you shot with your cell phone while on set. A poster is a must.


Here’s another thing to keep in mind. Festival programmers at times don't watch films all the way through. We do, but some don't. If you don't grab someone in the first two minutes that screener is turned off. So don't have the first two minutes of your film be opening credits. Most likely you are making a short not a feature so leave the credits for the end. It will help you out in the future.


And in closing if you really want to do the whole festival thing avoid premiering your film elsewhere. Again, festival programmers like premieres as venues are not cheap. If you’re not going the festival route then go ahead and screen your film outside of a festival. But if you do decide after that screening to then submit your film to your local festival be prepared to not get a prime spot.

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