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Students who are pursuing a path in film studies can find themselves wondering how to get the films they worked on during their time in school in front of an audience.
Priscilla Rojas, Eduardo Aguirre, Miguel Escobar, and Andrew Wallace graduated from Full Sail’s Film Production MFA degree program in 2016. The group met during their first month of class and were assigned to work together throughout the duration of their degree program. One of their classes required them to write a script for their thesis film. A script written by Miguel called ‘Bad Taste’ was proposed by the group to their instructor, who approved it for use as their thesis film. As the trio proceeded through their program, ‘Bad Taste’ was cast, shot, and edited, resulting in a final short film that the group was proud of.
However, as graduation approached, they wanted to submit it to film festivals, but had no idea how to get started.
“We looked into 10 [festivals],” says Priscilla. “We’ve probably been accepted to five.”
If you’re looking to transition your student (or graduate) work to film festival contender, the team behind Bad Taste has provided some worthy advice.
Film Festival Selection
When it comes time to submit your film, don’t overlook smaller festivals. This can be a great way to test the waters and offer you feedback on your work. Smaller festivals can open the doors to a variety of contacts.
Priscilla and Eduardo collaborated on another short film called Blue Blood. The short is about a new species of vampires who have capabilities beyond the reach of humans and are able to alter the human race in an unthinkable fashion. Blue Blood has been selected to show at the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Transylvania. Spots in the festival are coveted by the filmmakers in the horror genre community.
Niche festivals such as the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival gave Priscilla and Eduardo the opportunity to present their film to a receptive audience.
“If we get into more festivals it will be better for us because more people can know about us,” says Priscilla.
Know The Rules
As you’re getting ready to submit, remember that each festival has its own sets of rules. Familiarizing yourself with these rules can set you apart and allow you to gain respect from the selection committee. Persistence is important when trying to break into different film circuits, but guidelines are set by each festival to help streamline processes; so make sure you carefully read all submission guidelines, including style, format and, especially, deadlines.
Keep Budget in Mind
Film students are used to maximizing resources. The festival submission process should be no different. Make sure to create a budget – and stick to it – when planning your festival submissions. While you may want to submit a lavish package to every festival under the sun, you’ll be much better off targeting your submissions to the most appropriate festivals. Keep in mind that alongside submission fees, press kits and promotional material for your film should also be factored into each film festival budget.
Some festivals don’t charge any submission fees, says Priscilla, but most do, and those fees are usually in the $25-$100 range.
Costs associated with submissions also vary depending on festival location.
Waivers for submissions are sometimes available, but the likelihood of being granted a waiver is only realistic if you have previously submitted and been accepted to the film festival.
Rejection is Hard, Networking is Key
Rejection in any form is never easy to accept. Film festival rejection may be harder to come to grips with because you may start thinking about all of the work, money, and passion that went into your project. Even if you face rejection, says Priscilla, it’s important to remember not to take it personally, and to keep forging ahead.
“If you want to want to do something that you really love, you have to actually go out there and do it,” she says. “ Take your camera, go outside, film something you have imagined or an idea you have had. You can do it.”