For all of the (fake) blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into your student film project, it’d be a shame to let it fade into the archives after its GradFest premiere … especially when there are more than 5,000 film festivals worldwide looking to showcase great new projects.
“Festivals are a great opportunity for film students to showcase their talents and network with industry professionals,” says Dean McDermitt, a Lab Specialist for the Film department’s Documentary Filmmaking courses. Dean has had three of his own short films accepted to the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner.
Independent filmmaker (and Full Sail Film grad) Brian Quain agrees. “I think it’s important for schools to remind students that they should definitely be submitting to festivals,” he says. Brian founded Before You Submit, a company that extensively screened filmmakers’ work and provided constructive criticism before the film was submitted to festivals. He still consults with filmmakers on a freelance basis, and has seen hundreds of films hit the circuit.
Early submissions for next year’s Sundance Film Festival are already being accepted, and many international film festivals are currently taking submissions as well. While some times of the year are more popular for festival submissions than others, at any given point you can be submitting your film somewhere.
But, before you slip that DVD in its envelope and send it out, heed the advice of Dean and Brian with these four useful tips.
- Know Your Festival. Before you apply to a particular festival, look at its history and see what types of films have been showcased there in the past. “Ask yourself, ‘Has it played there? Can it play there? Would it play there?,'” says Brian. If you have a dark comedy or horror film that would make an excellent midnight screening, but the festival doesn’t do that, then you’re probably not looking at the most excellent fit.
- Start Small. “For a first time filmmaker, I’d say try the smaller festivals first,” says Brian. “You want your film to have eyes, plus, bigger festivals do look at smaller festivals. It’s good to look at a film’s resume and see that it has been showcased at six smaller festivals.” For a comprehensive list of film festivals, check out Without a Box, a sister site of IMDb that lists submission information and guidelines for more than 5,000 festivals worldwide.
- Generate Buzz. Dean recommends spreading the word about your project by posting it on various social media sites and creating a web site for it to help spread the word. One example: The recent Full Sail student documentary Pour Stars, which was just screened at the Sarasota Film Festival. The film has its own website and Facebook fan page.
- Submit Early. “The earlier the better,” says Dean. “There are often three prices: early bird, regular, and late.” Submitting to multiple festivals can quickly get pricey, so take advantage of the early submission fees. Brian recommends browsing Without a Box for festivals with no submission fees.