This is the third part of a series devoted to film festivals. Please check out PART 1 & PART 2.
‘Submitted’ For Your Approval: Navigating The Festival Submission Process
After audience testing your finished film you are ready to submit it in all its glory to your first festival.
A word or two about TRT (total running time) before you submit. A short film will play best and will likely be included in more festivals if it is under 15 minutes and even better if it is less than 10 minutes. Festivals often program shorts before features, so longer than 15 minutes can not only be aesthetically difficult on an audience that is expecting a short film, but it is a challenge to fit into a time slot. Programmers might feel your short is stealing time from other films. Audience testing will let you know where the story drags, so take note and make cuts.
That being said, your film is your film, so you decide best what has to be there and what does not. Make your decision on a running time you can live with. Audience testing is crucial to this process. They laughed, cried and/or gasped in the right places. No yawning or fidgeting, so you are picture locked. No more editing.
DO NOT confuse audience testing with a premiere. Do not list test screenings as the film’s premiere before you have completed your film. Festivals may not have strict premiere status requirements for shorts, but they do have completion date requirements for shorts AND features so don’t advertise or list your premiere too early in the process. You want an audience though, so advertise privately if you feel it might hurt you for other festivals.
Make sure your exhibition copy, be it a file/Blu-Ray/DVD or DCP, looks and sounds great under the proper projection situation. Now you are ready to screen your film at a major festival. The next step of the film festival process may be mysterious to most. How do you get your film out there to people who don’t know that it or you exist? Well, the internet is how we do this for everything else, so why would film festivals be different? They are not.
Try Google. Yup, even the kids forget that resource is out there. I have found many lists on “Best Film Festivals.” But like all things internet, consider the source. If I have a medical issue nowadays I only go to the Mayo Clinic website. Every other site just tells me I have cancer. Movie Maker Magazine has a list I scrubbed through: 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2015
But before submitting to any festivals, you need to assemble your EPK (Electronic Press Kit). Here are some helpful hints on what to include. EPKs are Your Best Foot Forward. Hopefully you have been assembling this as you go. EPKs are essential.
They should include the following: production stills (frame exports from final color corrected project), dynamic BTS (behind the scenes photos) to show how hard you and your team worked on the film, bios and headshots of key personnel and trailers. Headshots and bios should be given to you by the people on your team. Trailers and production stills are a post production issue. If you did not edit yourself, you can get your editor to make a trailer and export stills from the film once color corrected. Hopefully, you or someone else remembered to take the BTS photos while you were filming.
Also for your EPK, hope all those rules of High School literature class essays come back to you when you write your Director Statements, synopsis, loglines, cover letters and production anecdotes. None of these written pieces should be too wordy. Director’s Statement should convey your inspiration to make the film, your objective to communicate to the audience and your respect for the team that helped you make it (no one is a “one man band” in this business). It should be of a tone that shows you will be a positive presence at their festival. Production anecdotes should be interesting but don’t focus on the disasters you faced (these can make you look bad, though everyone has these stories). You can include catastrophe stories as long as you handled them like a pro and everyone involved is still talking to each other. Avoid stories where laws were broken or lives endangered to get shots. Seriously, they will not be impressed. You can also include links to news articles or web coverage of your film.
Next up: Samples of photos, log lines and synopsis from the press kit…