12 Steps to Avoid Going Broke Applying to Film Festivals

The author of this guest essay is a filmmaker whose most recent film is Between Us. He is also the co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival. — Editor

I recently wrote an article about 12 Steps to a Saner Festival Planin which I suggested the volume-method of festivals: Get your film into as many festivals as you can, and build momentum from one to the next. Unfortunately, a lot of people read that article. And the one consistent question I’m getting is if we’re broke filmmakers, how can we afford to apply to so many festivals? Chances are you budgeted some money for festival applications, and then promptly spent that money as part of your contingency. So here are 12 more steps to help you save some money:

1. Be Selective

Yes, there are thousands of festivals around the world, but do your homework. If you see a festival that sounds nice, see what films they showed the year before. Would your film fit into their program? If it’s a Gay Cuban Festival that only shows Caribbean films in Spanish, and you have an Arabic-language Israeli vampire epic, then you should probably pick a different festival. But dig deeper. Track down some filmmakers who attended the year before and ask them what they thought of the festival, and also if they have a contact for the head programmer. Withoutabox can be helpful in narrowing down your festivals and good for deadline reminders, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg: Don’t count on it solely.

2. Make a Personal Connection to the Festival Programmer

Try to figure out who the main festival programmer is. Sometimes they’re the “artistic director,” sometimes a “senior programmer” — it’s different for every festival. Read their websites and look at their press releases. All top festival programmers have egos that get fulfilled by putting themselves in their own press releases. So that’s usually the best way to find out who’s really calling the shots. Then try to track down their personal emails, not just the “[email protected]” on the contact page. Or call them. Or find them on Facebook or Twitter and send a message that way. It really doesn’t matter WHAT you say as much as that you establish a personal rapport and that they remember your name, and the name of your film…

For the other 10 steps, check out 12 Steps to Avoid Going Broke Applying to Film Festivalsoriginally found on Filmmaker.com.