How To Dominate Your Film Festival Run Part 3
Filmmakers, you’ve been patient. While you awaited the epic finale of this series on navigating a successful festival run, it is our hope that you’ve already taken some of our previous advice to heart and applied it in your own endeavors as you’ve achieved your own fame and notoriety on the festival circuit. But you don’t have all the answers yet, and we still have a trilogy to wrap up and stick the landing on, so without further ado, let us commence hence!
An award(s) win is the giant red cherry on top of your banana split, and winning an award is a fantastic feeling as it is an endorsement of all the hard work and faith you (and others) put into yourself and your film.
However, awards aren’t the be-all, end-all either. Like Official Selections, awards are determined by several factors, are subject to matters of opinion, and what have you. To even be in the game is an honor in and of itself. So if you happen to not win any awards or receive any nominations at a festival, don’t worry about it as it takes absolutely nothing away from your accomplishment in making a film and having it selected for a festival.
I can testify to the fact that I personally know several incredible filmmakers I’ve met on my journies, both as a filmmaker and festival director, who didn’t win many (or any!) awards and are now directing studio films and major television projects. For example, the director of the recent horror smash Smile, Parker Finn, is an Alumni of our festival and we showcased both his short films before his big break. While we loved his films and he was nominated, he ultimately didn’t walk away with a prize. Something tells me though that he’s not losing any sleep about it either. Remember, awards are ego boosters and may help you significantly advance your career, but they don’t guarantee or predict your ultimate success either.
Yet, I can still feel you wondering aloud to yourself, “How do I win awards?”
The Insider’s Scoop On Awards
Subjectivity aside, it’s been my experience, with short films in particular, that longer short films win more than “shorter” short films. The reason is a longer short (typically 15 minutes and up) is often a more complete and satisfying story that affords its directors more opportunity to showcase their vision, highlights more engaging performances and often has higher production values.
An insider secret is that many festival juries are often more inclined to award filmmakers who have announced they’re attending the festival — and actually do — over those who don’t. While that’s not the gospel truth, it’s definitely something to consider as you pick which festivals you’re going to attend, as it can up your chances for accolades.
Why is that? Kind of seems unfair, no? Well, one factor is that often filmmakers who are attending are already fairly confident in what they’ve made. They know they’ve made something solid, may have already won a few prizes along the way, and so they’ll target events that they not only want to win at but have the previous momentum to feel confident in winning.
Another factor to consider is that awards cost money, especially if the physical award itself is a quality one. A festival would far rather see that award handed out in person than not, as that’s going to help promote the festival—and the filmmaker—with the photos of them winning the prize, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are many festivals that have no problems with shipping awards (or never shipping at all—it happens!) to the winners whether they’re in attendance or not. The “in-person” factor is a real one and can sway festivals and juries in who they ultimately choose to win awards, but it’s not a hard and fast truth either.
Personally, I have zero doubts that I’ve been the beneficiary of all the above at one point or another in my career, and I have no doubt in the slightest that this still happens today.
The Rolling Stone Culture Council is an invitation-only community for Influencers, Innovators and Creatives. Do I qualify?
Learn how to play the game and think how a festival thinks, and you can set yourself up to win the game.
A Festival For Every Film
Remember, there’s no such thing as a film for every film festival, but there is such a thing as a festival for every film.
What that means is this: Say you made a horror film. There are currently close to 2,000 film festivals in the world that program horror films. But does that mean your film is right for an LGBT festival, or that if you’re a white filmmaker that your film is a fit for an African American filmmaker’s festival? More than likely not.
So as you submit your film, remember that there isn’t any one film that is a fit for every festival out there. Thus, be sure to choose where you submit wisely and to take every decision — good or bad — in stride. Your sleep will thank you for it.
Now that the tricks and strategies for dominating your film festival run have been imparted unto you, the circle is now complete. When we started this journey, you were but the learner. Now you are the master.
I impart this final pearl of great price: always manage your expectations.
Hope is an essential ingredient, but don’t fall prey to it. Ask for help, never assume and always be open to learning and experiencing new perspectives, ideas and opportunities. You may think what you want is behind Door #1, but what you really want and need is actually behind Door #2. Be like a sponge and absorb all there is to learn and discover in this crazy world of film festivals.
Now go buy that suede Varvatos jacket you’ve been eyeing. Kiss that baby on the red carpet. Order that Louis Vuitton purse. It’s your time to shine!
May your legend only grow from here.