Saturday, February 1, 2020

Improving Your Chances at Submission Roulette

You have a new film or screenplay ready to go and there are hundreds of film festivals out there clamoring for new submissions to choose from. It can be both overwhelming and also pretty hard on the wallet. For many film-makers it can seem like you'd have better luck at the tables in Vegas than getting your project into most of the festivals you submit to.

The first thing to remember when you submit to a festival is that your project's fate is generally in the hands of a few judges who simply just might not like your story.  Even the very popular indie films have their share of critics and it's not uncommon at all for such a film to sweep up all the awards at one festival and not even be accepted into another.

Entry fees can be pretty expensive so it really pays to do some research on the festivals you'd like to submit to. See if you can find some of the films that screened at a particular festival to get an idea of the festival's  quality standards. Some will reject films that don't earn high scores all across the board on technical aspects while others are more forgiving and will accept flawed films that have a really good story.

It's important to have realistic expectations here. If you dream of getting into Cannes or Sundance, you have to be able to compete with the type of films that regularly screen at those events.

Setting your sights on smaller festivals is a good choice if your project has a few snags in the weave, but it's important to read the submission rules carefully and follow instructions. When a festival gets hundreds of submissions in that they have to cull down to a few lucky dozen, any deviance from the rules gives the judges an excuse to reject a project.

If the festival has specific genre categories for submissions, make sure that your project is easy to identify as fitting into that genre. One of the top complaints we've heard from festival judges is the amount of submissions they get that aren't appropriate for the genre. (One festival we know rejected over 400 submissions for this reason alone!)

Pay attention to run time limitations. There are many one-day festivals that only accept films that are less than 15 minutes long. The reason for this is that they can screen more films in a short period of time.  For films that just miss this mark, speeding up the end credit roll may do the trick.

Read all the policies and rules before submitting to a festival. Never just assume that a festival will make an exception for your film no matter how good it is.

Many festivals have film age restrictions, premiere/release status rules, and require additional materials from their selected projects. If your film or screenplay doesn't meet those requirements then you are just wasting your money and their time. 

Honor a festival's policy about not issuing student or hardship waivers.  Sending a sob-story letter to a festival that has clearly stated that it does not issue waivers will generally be ignored. If you cannot afford the submission fee then look for competitions that offer waivers or are free to enter. 

If you are ever unsure about whether or not your project is eligible for a particular festival the best course of action is just to contact the festival with your question before submitting.  Most submission fees are non-refundable, so a little bit of research can save you a lot of money while navigating around festival submission sites like Withoutabox and FilmFreeway. 

Subscribe to this newsletter to get more money-saving tips for film-makers!

Subscribe to this newsletter to get more practical tips for film-makers!


No comments:

Post a Comment