How I Make an Independent Film, Start to Finish: Part Four

The film festival circuit, while fun, is a rollercoaster ride unto itself. (And an expensive one). As I mentioned in my last post about post-production and budgeting…submitting to film festivals often presents a similar snafu.

…Newcomers don’t realize how expensive it is to submit to festivals…

Don’t write a script, make a movie, pull all the favors from everyone you’ve ever known, and spend your life savings only to realize you have ZERO funds left to actually get your project screened and seen.

Avoid getting yourself into that pickle by budgeting the festival circuit into your costs.

But this is only one aspect I want to share with y’all. So I’ll jump right in here, starting with more detail on the cost of festivals, how to submit, and how to prepare for them.

film festivals - independent film

Film Festivals are EXPENSIVE

I repeat: film festival submissions are expensive. Submissions range from $25 to over $100, depending on various factors…

One factor is DEADLINE. The earlier you submit to a fest (as in, getting your submission in by the “early bird” deadline), the cheaper it will be. Most fests have an early bird, a regular, and a late submission date. With every passing chance, the price goes up. So, firstly, you want to have a plan for which festivals you’re submitting to. Put the early submission deadlines on a calendar. If you’re submitting to several, submitting early will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Ten bucks here, 15 bucks there… it adds up!

Another factor is the FESTIVAL itself. Sometimes, the more famous festivals charge more just because they can, or maybe some fests charge more because they are lesser known, and therefore have fewer volunteers, and have to make up for that with paid employees. Whatever the reason, just be aware that entry fees vary from festival to festival.

A third factor is the LENGTH of your film. Submitting a feature is much more expensive than a short. It generally costs more like $55 and up per fest, and can easily go up to $100–just to cross your fingers and hope your film gets selected. Then there is, of course, short form, and some fests have “medium” length as a submission option, for films in the 60 minute range.

Finally, there are FREE film festivals!!! Click here for a list of the free ones. (And bear in mind, this resource is a couple years old, so make sure to do your own bit of research.)

film fesitvals - Alanna Rosette

I made it!

film festivals - ybor

Glorious day!!

 How to Submit to Film Festivals

The current mode of submission for 90% of fests is through the website, WithoutABox. WAB is free to use, but they offer certain services at a pretty penny, such as their Secure Online Screeners, which saves you the trouble of sending in hard DVDs to each fest.

To use the one-stop shop that is WAB, you set up an account with ALL of the information needed by any festival. It’ll take you a day just to fill out all the forms. The info includes stuff like title of the film (duh), runtime, short, medium, and long synopsis, list of cast, crew, where it’s screened already, the shooting format used, aspect ratio, sound specifics (as in Dolby Digital or what have you), press kit, contact information, and much, much more.

It takes a while to set up, but any time you want to submit to a festival, you just click a few buttons and provide your credit card information. Everything on your account goes to that fest so you have nothing more to worry about. There are, of course, some pain-in-the-ass festivals that don’t use WAB. They’ll provide you with their own form and instructions.

Lastly, a side note: WAB comes with some other perks too. For instance, it can get you set up with an IMDB page for your movie, once your movie gets selected by a qualifying festival.

Preparing to Submit to Film Festivals

Aside from having the money and making the calendar of deadlines, one other thing to keep in mind throughout the filming process is your “behind the scenes” stuff. It helps to market your film to festivals and also helps fill out your press kit (which is a part of marketing…).

So make sure you have a videographer and photographer on set getting interviews with the cast and crew, stills, and other behind the scenes goodies.

Finally, I recommend you read the book, “The Ultimate Film Fest Survival Guide” by Chris Gore. It provides tons of insight on everything from what festivals are looking for to schmoozing, marketing, and networking at the film fest after parties. Not to mention an extensive listing of film festivals in alphabetical order.

I hope this little series from my own experience has been helpful to you!! If it has been, pass it around and spread the love!

I’ll see you next week with some other anecdote, adventure, poem, writing excerpt, or the like.

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