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by Paula Bernstein
September 20, 2013 10:19 AM
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5 Tips for Filmmakers on How to Navigate the Film Festival World: An IFP Film Week Report

Tom Hall

Sarasota Film Festival director Tom Hall  delivered succinct advice to filmmakers on Thursday during IFP Film Week.

Hall, who, along with IFP and festivals from around the world, is developing a set of Best Practices for Film Festivals with the goal of greater transparency. 

"One of the things we're pushing for as a group is to come up with a set of standards and practices where you know exactly what you're getting – we can do a much better job as an industry telling you how we operate and what happens with your screening fees," said Hall, who assured the filmmakers that "we're not counting on screening fees to keep our festivals afloat, but we're trying to pay for the actual process of watching 1000 movies in 4 months."

Hall doled out these 5 tips for to filmmakers on how to navigate the film festival world:

1.     Focus on long-term relationships.

If you are programmed in a film festival, think of it as a starting line, not an ending line. We want to be told what you're working on next, who you like, what you need….If we can help you, we will. Festivals want to invest in long-term relationships with filmmakers.

 2.     Be straightforward.

We talk to each other at film festivals, so if you're waiting to hear from another festival, be transparent about what you're doing. Just be straightforward. It's a help to everyone.

 3.     Communicate.

Don't be afraid to talk to festival programmers. Constantly reach out. But don't be annoying. Don't tell me what you had for breakfast. There's a line.

4.     Plan ahead.

I would encourage you to put a physical plan together of where you see your movie going and then aggressively pursue that relationship with all of those festivals. 

5.     It's not over until it's over.

If a festival says they're still looking at your movie, then that's what it means. When the rejection comes, you'll know. Up until that point, generally, things are in play.

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2 Comments

  • Carl | September 23, 2013 3:32 PMReply

    What about festivals that scam you?

  • Laurie Kirby | September 20, 2013 4:31 PMReply

    Tom,
    Thanks for the tips. For the sake of transparency and proving his point, Tom & I have crossed paths (happily) for years. Everything you say is true. Festivals have the challenge that filmmakers truly believe festival programmers only program the films of filmmakers they are friendly with. I get this feedback all the time. Point 1 demonstrates the bootstrapping of the argument: festival programmers may have a relationship with a filmmaker because they do good work and thus have been chosen for prior festivals. A filmmaker with nothing interesting to say will not get a buddy pass on good looks and personality alone. Do creative, interesting and well-produced work and there will be a festival that wants you. Every programmer wants to discover new talent as a feather in their cap. Thus, discard the mantra it is all about connections and continue to produce good works. The cream will continue to rise to the top!