How Festivals Can Really Help -- By A Festival Itself

Joanne Feinberg of the Ashland Independent Film Festival writes in...

Referring back to your post "Who Do you Really Need to Meet at Film Festivals?" I wanted to talk about how we (film festivals) can be helpful to filmmakers beyond the hope of a big distribution deal... I think I can speak for most of us when I say that festival programmers are in this because we are truly passionate about film, and really want to help films find their audience. I think there are many ways that festivals can help independent filmmakers reach out into our communities and build their audience. Our audience here in Ashland is hungry for truly independent film (and for the interaction with filmmakers that is such an essential part of the festival experience). I hope that we can continue to work with filmmakers to develop new business models that will benefit both their distribution efforts, and a healthy future for film festivals and independent theaters, as well.

You asked for some suggestions... I mentioned recently in a response to your blog (, that our festival helps to bring back festival films for theatrical runs at our home base, the Varsity Theater (part of the Coming Attractions theater chain). We work with their Programmer by giving suggestions of films we think are appropriate, and then we help them by publicizing the films to our mailing list (building on the word-of-mouth that was created during the Festival), and by use of in-kind advertising that we have with local media.

I've heard many positive stories from our filmmakers about meeting up with other programmers and exhibitors during the festival who have then gone on to book their films at their festivals and theaters. These are people who are often on our juries (another benefit to having your film at a festival - a great way to build relationships and get exposure to people in the industry). For example, Richard Beer, the Artistic Director of Film Action Oregon/The Hollywood Theatre Project in Portland (and part of The Art House Convergence
happening at Sundance this month) is on our Advisory Board, has been a juror at our festival, and he and I often share ideas about films we are excited about. This has been mutually beneficial for our programming here at the festival and at the Hollywood Theater, and especially for the filmmakers whose films we both screen. Recently Richard told me that after meeting director Todd Darling at our '08 festival, he programmed SNOWMOBILE FOR GEORGE as part of his weekend documentary series, and after seeing THE CAKER EATERS here, he invited it to POW Fest (where it won Best Feature) and will be giving it a theatrical run this spring.

Filmmakers have told me about selling large numbers of dvds after screenings (in our lobby), collecting emails from the audience to continue their outreach, and of making contacts with attending press (also often on our jury). I think the Art House Convergence at Sundance is a very exciting opportunity for programmers of festivals to network with exhibitors, and for filmmakers to meet us all.

Personally, I'd love to hear more from filmmakers about their successes and especially about what festivals can do to help self-driven distribution efforts, so we can offer more than the hope that "your film [will] be discovered and you [will] be given a pot of gold and the keys to Hollywood." :-)

Joanne Feinberg
Director of Programming
ashland independent film festival
8th Annual, April 2-6, 2009
P.O. Box 218
Ashland OR 97520

non-profit (501) ( c ) (3)

Ted adds:  Joanne's wish to hear more from filmmakers about how the festivals can help is ours too hear at TFF.  What ideas do you have?