For most aspiring filmmakers, getting a film accepted at a prestigious festival is a life-long dream. With more directors and producers submitting their films to festivals than ever, however, it is best to approach this process with a winning plan for success. Here are just a few tips on getting your film accepted into this year’s best film festivals.
Do Your Very Best, and Make No Excuses
When applying to film festivals, be honest with yourself about whether your film is as good as it can possibly be. Would another round of editing hone your story down to its ideal length? Are you seeking out feedback on your work from people you trust and admire? Are you willing to accept hard truths in place of flattery?
Merit and artistic excellence isn’t always enough to get a film into Sundance or Cannes, but it is vital that we admit when our film isn’t living up to our ideal of what a film should be. The better our work is, the better shot we have at getting into a great festival.
Do Your Research
Many filmmakers make the mistake of applying to gatherings like Sundance when their film wouldn’t fit with the program of such festivals. Building buzz in the film industry isn’t necessarily about making a splash in Park City; many times it involves making lasting connections with other people that we meet along the way. Often, smaller festivals can provide those connections in spades. To put it another way, a great audience at a smaller festival beats a lukewarm audience at Sundance any day of the week.
Go Easy on Yourself
Applying to film festivals can be a stressful process for even great directors. He’s a darling of Hollywood film circles now, but Wes Anderson actually had his first feature film rejected from Sundance when it was first released in 1996. In fact, Anderson’s film did so poorly with test audiences that his writing partner (an actor you may know as Owen Wilson) considered giving up filmmaking to join the Army. To wit, it can be difficult for even the best filmmakers to get their work screened at festivals.
Don’t Give Up
Within the film festival circuit, there are a variety of reasons why some films get picked and others don’t. Sometimes producers know festival administrators and can get their film green-lit with little effort or merit. Sometimes festival admissions committees simply have a particular viewpoint that they tend to express through the films they choose for admission.
Whatever the case may be, don’t let a few festival rejections get you down. Keep practicing your art. Resolve to make your next film even better than your last film. Continue to look for festivals that share your artistic vision. Above all else, don’t give up! If you can make films that are truly good, your work will eventually reach an appreciative audience some way or another. That is what filmmaking is all about!