03 October 2007


So I didn't get any writing done yesterday, more banging of my head against the wall, etc. I did, however, get gravida entered in 6 new festivals, bringing the total up to 9.

The thing that annoys me about this festival circuit (and maybe someone like Matt Riviera or David Lowery can chime in here and tell me what I'm doing wrong) is that for a film shot on a tiny budget essentially out of pocket, the $20-$40 entry fees can add up pretty quickly. And that wouldn't be so bad if you could, say, enter 3 festivals and then a month later know if you got into any of them, but most of these festivals have a turnaround time of several months, meaning I probably won't know how many of these I've gotten into until something like February. So you front-load all these fees and such for a project that may get completely shut out. And that's ok, but it just takes so damn long that by the time you know, how much incentive is there really to re-evaluate how you're approaching it? By February, I may be on a different project entirely.

This isn't so bad for a large project, but if your entire film cost, say, $500, then it seems pretty stupid to spend $300 on submitting to festivals.

What I have noticed is that a lot of festivals like to portray themselves as champions of the true indie filmmaker, yet they have entry fees of $30+. The DIY Festival is $35, for example. There's a great disconnect there, I think. I wonder if it would benefit some of these festivals to go find some micro budget films and invite them to the festival for no fee. Maybe they could team with, I dunno, the uber-indie project to ensure they don't get stuck programming something truly awful. Because there has to be a more efficient, cost-effective way for these films to find a festival audience.

Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, here's the 6 (oh, and if you happen to work for any of these festivals, feel free to just plug me into the program, hint, hint[1])

San Francisco Independent Film Festival
Lake Forest Film Festival
Bare Bones International Film Festival
Hoboken International Film Festival
Festivus Film Festival
Oxford International Film Festival

Add those to these previous 3:

Omaha Film Festival
Three Rivers Film Festival

No, I don't expect to get into Sundance, but what the hell.

[1] Joking, but only a little bit.


Matt Riviera said...

I hear you!

None of the three festivals I run charge any entry fees, it's something that I consider quite important. Not only that, but in an ideal world, festivals would pay filmmakers a screening fee if the films get selected.

Having said that, a couple of things:
1) with arthouse distribution and exhibition taking fewer and fewer risks and often withdrawing from the real indie market altogether, film festivals have become de-facto exhibitors. This puts a lot of pressure on us as we are usually non-profit organisations with limited resources, yet we are expected to behave like commercial entities able to recoup investments on multiple screenings. Charging entry fees can be a question of survival, pure and simple. If you think finding the funding for a short film is hard, try finding funding for a short film festival...

2) There are thousands and thousands of short films being made every year, way more than can be previewed by festival programmers. The festival I used to un in England had 1,100 submissions for each event. That's a lot of films to sit through. Sometimes charging entry fees acts as a filter to keep the numbers down.

My advice:

1) seek out the festivals with no entry fees (don't limit yourself to American events).

2)Alternatively, seek out the festivals with cash prizes. I know many short film makers who have recouped not just their entry fees but big chunks of their budgets as well by winning festival awards.

3) Target the key big short film festivals first, the ones attended by buyers and festival programmers (Clermont Ferrand, Brief Encounters, Hamburg, Tampere, WSFF...). One screening at one of these and the invitations from Festival programmers could start pouring in. And of course the great things with invitations is that the entry fees are waived.

Last thing... start thinking about self-distribution. One of the best examples out there is Four Eyes Monsters. Yes it's a feature, but it's never too early to start thinking about these things.

Matt Riviera said...


David Lowery said...

What Matt said: get into a good festival, and the fees start to disappear. But first you have to get into that festival, which necessitates fees. It's a vicious circle.

lucas mcnelly said...


Obviously, I'm not railing against the entry fees themselves. i get it. the festivals have to survive and the selection process can't be fun. the vast majority of all art is terrible, especially indie art, so i assume watching all those entries must be painful

i think it's the turnaround time that annoys me the most.

anyway, i was kind of hoping someone smarter than i would point me in the right direction, and--huzzah!--both you and David have.

still, i think something about this whole process has to be fixable.