Film Festivals are a bit like conventions or auto shows. The bigger ones get the entire industry and they transform from a cultural celebration to one big networking showdown. The energy is driven by the potential more than the reality: will your film be discovered and you be given a pot of gold and the keys to Hollywood? Many try to adjust to reality and just hope to meet some agents and distributors that they can follow up with later? The ambitious dream of meeting financiers or movie stars.
Besides launching your film and helping to put it on the map there are a number of other known reasons for being in film festivals: potential for reviews and awards (which are still good ways to create notice for your film - especially if you blog about them on your website!); meeting other filmmakers from around the world, boosting your confidence in your filmmaking abilities, getting to travel to fun locales (hopefully at the festivals expense).
However as there are ways to actually monetize your film festival experience. Here are a few ways that we did it for Bomb It - after we got tired of showing our film for free at festivals. (Remember servicing all those fests can take time and money)
1. Some festivals - especially foreign festivals will pay. You just need to ask. These are not the top 10 or 20 fests. It is the next level of festivals. We have been paid from $300 - $1000 to screen the film in some festivals. (Few fests will fly you and pay you though)
2. If a festival can't pay, perhaps they can provide something else. This is particularly true of foreign festivals again. If you don't have a PAL copy and they require it. Often times they will do the dub. You can insist on having that dub given to you (they don't need it after the festival right!). We obtained our first PAL version of Bomb It from a documentary festival in Lisbon that then went around on the circuit.
3. Think of other things that you might need for your distribution. Again - foreign festivals need to translate your film. Although we had already created a transcription for Bomb It - you can ask a foreign fest to do it - and also provide the translation. We have received Spanish, Portuguese and Russian translations of Bomb It that we will be using on our self produced multi-language, PAL, region free DVD. (more on this in another post in the future)
4. Some festivals are actually connected to theaters in their community - and sometimes the people running the festivals actually program those theaters. One of my first theatrical bookings came from Wilmington, N.C. when I told Dan Brawley of the Cucoloris that I would rather have a theatrical engagement in his theater as an alternative to being in the festival, and he wonderfully obliged.
Further - although it would have been better for me to go to the wonderfull True/False festival in Columbia, MO (I had teaching obligations), I asked Paul Sturz if he would book me into the Rag Tag as part of our theatrical run and he agreed.
For more about my self distribution experience with Bomb It - check out my article in Filmmaker Magazine this month.
Festivals are a great place to sell DVDs of your film, but will the Festival let you? It's probably a good idea to inquire in advance. Will you be able to set up a table outside the theater? Will you need to have a website in order to sell them? Will you need to have some one do the fulfillment? Figure this out before you show up.
Major Festivals are great for media exposure, but they reach a really limited audience. Sundance is predominately film industry professionals and wannabes; what about the real ticket buying people? If someone hears about your film and they can't attend the festival, how will they get to see it?
Corporate Sponsorship of a film, in any way, is a tricky thing. A viewer who becomes aware of multiple agendas in a film, generally is no longer going to be "with" the film. They become suspect. But sponsorship is not the same as turning your art into a commercial. There are many methods and many benefits to consider when considering corporate sponsorship (I will try to cover the negative side in another post in the future).
(Today's post courtesy of director Jon Reiss)
Get the key art sized for a 4x6 postcard as well as at full film poster. Its way too expensive to offset your film poster now. But you can get single printouts from most digital printers for about $50-$60 each and you only need one or two.
For the postcard, have your key art on the front and have film, contact and screening information on the back. Printing postcards are very inexpensive now. You can get 4000 for $100 at NextDayFlyers.com (and 1000 postcards for $39.95). For super low budget create one postcard with your general contact and film information on the back and leave room for putting stickers for your show times. BUT since postcards are so cheap now - I really recommend printing your screening time on the back of the postcard. It can take a bit of time to print and stick the stickers on the back of the postcards and you are very busy. A compromise is to print your first festival screenings on the back (esp since this is often your most important screening) and to use the rest for other fests putting the label over your first set of screenings.
Don't forget business cards - I recommend putting your film title treatment on the front with your films website so that people remember why they have your card. Again these can be printed very inexpensively - 1000 for around $10-$20.
In a couple of weeks I will start putting downloadable PDF samples of Key Art on my website www.jonreiss.com
When I first started going to Sundance, it was just a bunch of filmmakers and a bunch of filmlovers. Filmmakers had no entourage. No one told them what to do or what they thought was right; instead they shared information and secrets. But that was then.
For years, I have recommended filmmakers do all they could to bond with the other filmmakers they met at festivals, for as the films travelled festival to festival, these other filmmakers would become their support group, their friends, perhaps even more.
It seems ludicrous to head into a festival these days and not have a website or blog for your film in advance. It seems silly not to have that web address built into you film end credits. It doesn't have to be a final or even a polished site, but there should be something. How else will you tell your audience how they can participate in the experience or even see your film?
Beyond a website or a blog, filmmakers should do the simple outreach chores. Build a Wiki page for your film. Create a MySpace and/or Facebook profile for your film. Make sure all the info is in IMDB.
If you are so fortunate as to have your film selected for Sundance, there is a good chance that your festival screening will be the peak point of media activity on your film. Unless your film is going to be released by a major distributor, more attention will be paid during this period ever again. Are you going to take advantage of this attention or are you going to squander it?
Its that time of the year when filmmakers nationwide get all antsy. Sundance generally starts to let filmmakers know whether their work has been selected for the festival around the end of October. This ritual extends for about four weeks until Thanksgiving gives everyone a break.
Scott Macauley linked to yesterday's post on the Filmmaker Magazine Blog and included a link to Chris Holland's book "Film Festival Secrets". Seems like a good thing to read up on as you dream about being selected for Sundance. I am going to give it a look. You have to sign up, at least temporarily for Chris' newsletter and then they send you the book -- so I haven't gotten to look at it yet.