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Top 5 Tips Submitting Your Indie Film to Film Festival in 2019

making-a-movieTop 5 Tips for Film Festival Submissions in 2019 

You just finished your film! So now what? Sure, you can show your friends and family, even put it up on YouTube. But why don't you try getting it out to a much wider audience? Indie filmmakers and student filmmakers can have their movies shown around the globe at film festivals.

Film festivals run the gamut of red carpet affairs like Sundance and Cannes to more local events, online festivals, and university-led events. For example, in Buffalo, there are a number of incredible film festivals like the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival (a local film fest that has a special love for all horror and science fiction), the NCCC Film and Animation (a great venue for students and local film networking), and other film festivals like the Buffalo International Film Festival and the 48 hour Film Festival. 

The 48 Hour Film Festival is a worldwide phenomenon where filmmakers get together and create a film in, you guessed it, 48 hours! Best of the local fest moves nationwide, then to the international competition. It's an incredible opportunity to make and share films. 

Submitting a short film or feature to a film festival is even easier now. You can submit through websites like FilmFreeway and Withoutabox. Some film festivals will require a DVD or Blue-Ray, so be sure to read the fine print. 

Here are some top tips for any film festival:

1. Know the Fest

Always make sure that any festival you send to has a decent reputation. FilmFreeway lets you know how long the festival has been around. Read online reviews about each festival. Newer fests that charge high entrance fees should be skipped unless you are personally involved with the organizers. For example, your university might throw a film festival. Just be smart. 

2. Be Realistic About Your Chances

Some film festivals are the Holy Grail of Film Festivals. These have thousands of submission, with a very, very small number of movies making it through. Don't be discouraged, though. There are bound to be incredible fests in your area or region. Chances are if this is your first film, you just want to submit to smaller festivals, local festivals, online festivals, and low or no-fee festivals. 

3. Attend the Film Festival

Of course, if your film is being shown in Turkey or Argentina, you might not be able to attend. But if you have a film in a local or regional film festival be sure to attend. Ask your friends and family to come to. Shamelessly promote the film to everyone. Meet with fellow filmmakers, take advantage of workshops and film screenings. Talk with visiting filmmakers. You will learn a lot, and maybe make some great connections to boot!

4. Stick to the Right Genre

Seriously, you might have just made a science fiction-romantic-comedy-musical-murder-mystery, but know the genre of your film. This also means that you might want to submit to categories like Student Film, Short Film, Local Films, Films with Female Directors, Spanish or Italian Films, Musicals, Music Video, Web, Experimental, Family, Kids, Animation, etc. Why? Some categories will have a ton of entries while others will not. It also depends on the type of festival. You might have a great Rom-Com, but if it's an animation film festival, you might want to send to another. For example, the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival is open to horror, indie, animation, and science fiction, and is a great promoter of local filmmakers. Because I do a lot of science fiction and horror, and animation, I try to time my productions around the submission times for that film festival. 

Which brings me to the next point...

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5. KNOW the Festival Rules

If you are just sending your films willy-nilly via Film Freeway to whatever contest you want, that's fine. But you might save some time and money by actually selecting films a little more carefully. Start with films in your local city or region, then branch out to national and international festivals. Know the requirements for the festival. For example, many festivals will eliminate you if your film is available in ANY format whatsoever online, or if you have had ANY screenings (private or public), or have made the film available through distribution. So uploading your new film to YouTube immediately is not the best decision. 

You want to get your film out there. You want to win awards and meet other filmmakers. Film fests are more than showing off your movie. It is being part of an exciting creative community. It's also about marketing your production company and brand. 

Market Your Film Like Crazy!

This is online, this is in person, this is fliers and mailers, and calls. If you can, get some local media hype. When my feature film Libertaria: The Virtual Opera (an animated sci-fi film came out), it was premiered in South Florida, but had subsequent screenings worldwide, in NYC (right off of Broadway at Opera America), a TEDx Talk, music reviews, and I even wrote a novel as a follow-up. 

Being a film composer, I've also had the music soundtrack and songs from the film played worldwide. And there's an album. This is admittedly the most marketing I have done for any film. It took some work, and some people really dedicated to the success of the film, but the film was a great success. 

So market your film like crazy. Be sure that you read the instructions, that you attend the festival. Don't forget to bask in well-deserved success! 

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals. 


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