I just mailed out 4 more submissions to film festivals. That puts my total at 71 since December. Not all of these are ACCIDENTAL ART, some are RELATIONSHIP CARD going to the same festival, or sometimes even REFRACTORY, and in this rare care, it’s also UNCLE PETE’S PLAY TIME and HOW TO DEAL WITH TELEMARKETERS since this is for a comedy festival, but sending more than one movie increases the odds of getting something in the festivals. I figured since I’m doing so many festival submissions, I thought I would share some basic tips, as I’m not an expert, so I can only give rudimentary advice, which I’m sure will piss off someone else in the local film community, but since when will it further my career to care about a high school mentality? My mindset is on a bigger playing field and I’m only interested in furthering my own career without having to step on anyone else to get there.
Why submit to film festivals? Most people have the dream of getting distribution for their feature film when a scout for a company that can release your film on DVD or even more rare in theaters sees it and cuts a deal, or even better you get a 3 picture deal at Columbia. This is the fantasy that CLERKS, SLACKER, RESERVIOR DOGS, ROGER & ME, EL MARIACHI, and BLAIR WITCH did to inspire the entire indie film movement. We all desire this, but the odds are stacked against us. It doesn’t look good. For me, I have a short film, so I’m merely hoping to get enough interest to help fund a low budget feature film continuing the story. The more laurel leaves I rack up, the more proof I have to investors that I am making something people want to see.
Most film festivals in Europe, Africa, and Asia are free to submit to. No entry fees to rack up, and knowing your movie has appeal in other cultures is a good thing. If I get into any of these foreign film festivals, I will use that as evidence to investors that the movies I write and direct have a universal appeal. Any OFFICIAL SELECTIONS I get from other countries just validate the cause. And they are free. A major secret tip, make sure on the CUSTOMS forms, you state that the value is $0 and that it is an “Artistic Sample of No Commercial Value” because in most countries, they charge a tax based on the value you wrote, so the film festival gets hit with charges if they accept the package. They tend NOT to, so your movie and submission will linger in postal hell in a foreign country.
Filmmakers on a different playing field use film festivals to network and market. It has replaced in some ways the limited theatrical runs at art house theaters that were booming in the 1990’s. Virtually every city has a few film festivals going at various times of year and the opportunities to get your movie seen on the big screen are increasing.
I include a nice mini-press kit. Color and Black & White stills from the movie, a 1 page filmmaker bio, and sometimes even press clippings; anything to set you apart from the herd. Of course it comes down to content, meaning a good movie, but even now there are a lot of good movies out there to compete with. The frills do add a special touch.
I’m not necessarily out to “win” anything, as in I am anti-competition. It’s more than enough to be an OFFICIAL SELECTION and get my movie played. The politics in winning awards and prizes bore me. I feel I can sell the idea of the movie without the wins and just the prestige of getting in. Someone else needs or wants the prizes, so they can have at it without ever worrying about me.
I submitted ACCIDENTAL ART to 3 of the top ten film festivals. I will walk on egg shells until mid-February to see if it got in to any of those. I have a festival strategy, but again my end goal is just in getting fuller financing for the feature length film, nothing more nothing less. If I don’t get in, that’s okay, as I have submitted to enough festivals I can expect more than a few to say yes.
I do feel this is a notable short film. If it does do well on the festival circuit, I wonder if some of these people who criticize me will finally let go of their prejudices or perhaps it will cause more jealousy. It is never my motivation, but it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds. Sadly, I believe more of my enemies read this blog than my friends.
To my acolytes and enemies alike, I bid you adieu,
Peter John Ross