In a lot of ways the festival/film-market world is like a traveling circus that represents the center of the film world as execs, buyers, sellers and filmmakers converge to watch movies and negotiate over distribution rights. In the aftermath of Toronto, IFP Independent Film Week, San Sebastian and NYFF, and ahead of AFM, Sundance, and Cannes, we are in the thick of the festival season. And so this seems to be the perfect time to talk about how to best prepare for festivals. If you are a filmmaker contemplating attending your first festival or a festival veteran looking to get more out of your next visit, here are a few tips picked up over the years.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
In all seriousness, research is the best thing anyone can do before going to a festival or film market. From reviewing IMDB pages to get info for potential meetings to researching the films showing at the festival, the more you know the better. In addition, if you can find out who the people you’re meeting with have worked with previously, and find connections among your own network, you’ll be that much more prepared and able to find common ground with your contacts.
2. Be flexible.
Even though you’re super prepared and ready to go, it could be that you are not going to meet who you originally planned to meet. This shouldn’t throw you off, though. Just relax and be open to talking to everyone around you. In fact, it’s the connections you make at the bar, in line at brunch, or coming out of the theater that may be the most useful to you and your company. Which leads to …
3. Get that elevator pitch ready.
Be ready to sell, sell, sell the film, company, or service you are offering. Everyone else is, so practice your elevator pitch before you get there: the 30-second snapshot of what it is you are at the market for and what makes you, your film, or your service so special. Just as importantly, make the pitch memorable. It’s not just what you say but how you say it — you want them to remember you from the hundreds of other pitches they’ll hear.
4) Be current.
Have you seen the latest blockbuster? Do you have an opinion on “Gone Girl” yet? Are you ready to expound on the new digital deals rolling out every day? If not, time to pick up the latest copy of Variety and hop on to Deadline.com (or Indiewire.com!) and whatever pop culture sites you surf, because what’s been playing or what you’ve watched recently is often the icebreaker for more meaningful conversations.
5) Follow up.
Once you’ve made your contacts, swilled a few handmade drinks and had your fill of filet and caviar, make sure to email/call/ and re-acquaint yourself with those you’ve been in touch with. After all, it’s not networking if there’s no follow up!
Keep these simple tips in mind to make the most of your festival experience.
Kephart is the Director of Business Development at Scarecrow VFX and a story analyst for Sundance Institute. Prior to joining Scarecrow, Taylor co-founded Benaroya Pictures and produced several films.
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