Setting The Foundations
Let me start by saying that film festivals are like the Olympics of the movie world; the arena where efforts of uniqueness and creativity are rewarded. If filmmaking represents a rainbow, the colours will be the plethora of film festivals lined up throughout the year, each unique in its own right. At the risk of sounding incredibly philosophical, immersing myself in cinema feels akin to diving into a dimension where, for a short span, reality is tweaked, sometimes beyond recognition.
To gain entry to a film festival is an aspiration for many - whether you're an established director yearning for greater recognition, an indie filmmaker with a unique voice or a film enthusiast wanting to hobnob with industry professionals. Well, my friends, it is also no mean feat; behind the glamour of red carpets, celebrity sightings, and premier night parties, lies an arduous process. But don't worry about it. One is not so easily deterred, especially when the end goal is as fascinating as sweeping across the big screen!
Dare To Dare: Making Your Film
Let's cut to the chase. To get into a film festival, a germane ingredient is a film, obviously! However, let's shine the focus light here a bit more. Your film needs to be good, and by 'good', I mean that it should resonate with your audience and infuse some value. It isn't a size-fits-all concept though. A broadly accepted parameter is to ensure that your film provokes thought, stirs emotions or at least tugs at the heartstrings of your audience.
It is essential to remember that film festivals aren't exclusive to feature-length films. Short films and documentary films are popular contenders, offering a different dimension of storytelling and often fostering contemporary issues. Whether a nightmarish thriller, thought-provoking drama, or tickly comedy, the genre doesn't matter, as long as the film is well-made and effectively conveys its message. The strength of your script, the effectiveness of your direction, the aesthetic of your production design, the skill of your actors - all these aspects matter enormously.
Alright! You have your film ready, what's next? Getting your film seen, of course! Here's where submissions come into play. Submission is not just sending your film to the festival office, oh no! It involves researching to find the perfect festival for your film, understanding the rules, filling out the forms, preparing a perfect submission package, and the nail-biting wait that follows. Also, did I mention that most reputable film festivals have submission fees? Therefore, strategize your submissions, do your research, prepare a budget and plan ahead.
Rejections can be part of the process. In the world of film festivals, one could potentially hear several 'No's before they hear a 'Yes'. While it's easy to be disheartened with rejections or critique, they're actually a great way to improve. They provide an opportunity to re-evaluate your work, identify potential improvements, and come back stronger. Never forget, there's a myriad of film festivals around the world, and each comes with its own set of opportunities.
Networking: A Key Tool
Being a filmmaker, a saying that I often say to myself that always rings true: "It's not just about what you know, it's about who you know". Networking is key! The red carpets and the after-parties are not just there for you to show off your latest designer outfit; they're for meeting people and establishing connections. It's through these connections that you learn about the industry, catch opportunities and substantially boost your prospects.
Does this mean you have to be a socialite to succeed? Not necessarily. The goal of networking should not be to know everyone but to know the right ones. Be genuine, listen more than you talk and be patient. Remember, networking and relationship building is a process. And who knows? A simple conversation over a glass of wine could lead to your next big break!
Create A Buzz!
Now, here's a tip that comes straight from my personal experience. A while ago, I got into a film festival with a short documentary. Nothing fancy, just a heartfelt story about a local musician in Brisbane. What seemed like a momentous occasion felt a bit underwhelming until I realized a common thread amongst successful films. They had built up a buzz around their films much before the festival! Lesson learned. The key here is to create a buzz, giving your film a better chance to stand out in the sea of submissions at film festivals.
Start by creating a website and social media platforms dedicated solely to your film. Share behind-the-scenes footage, teasers, posters and engage with your audience. Once at the festival, keep your audience updated with photos, anecdotes, and insights from the festival. All of this increases the visibility and anticipation for your film. Not only this, it shows festival organizers that your film has an established following, making it a lucrative bet for them. Trust me, a strong audience presence can make your film more appealing to festival organizers!
Making films is my passion and getting them to film festivals is my mission. And if it's yours too, I hope this serves as a foundation for your journey. As I close my laptop and look out of my Brisbane apartment window, dreaming of the next film festival I'll be part of, I realise how far I've come and how much further there is to go. But that's the fun of it, isn't it? Happy Filmmaking, folks!