Submitting to Film Festivals

You’ve made a cinematic masterpiece and now you’re ready to share your film with the world.

(helpful tips by Emily Price)

Getting your film shown at festivals often depends just as much on applying correctly just as much as having a great film. Here are some tips on making your submission materials just as impressive as your film.

  • Check out Past Submissions. Take a look at films that have won the film festival before. Are they made by new filmmakers or by filmmakers with a few hits under their belt? While there’s a small chance your first film may be Sundance worthy you should look at the films that have previously won a competition and see if you think your film measures up before you decide to enter.
  • Read the Instructions. This is probably the most important step in entering a film festival. Film festival operators write the rules for a reason: They want you to follow them. If you try and bend the rules, or not do something the way you’re told to in the instructions chances are your film will be thrown out or returned to you without the staff ever watching it. Read the instructions through a few times and make sure you are doing everything exactly the way you are supposed to.
  • Submit in the correct format and length. Does the festival require your film in 35mm or will they accept a DVD? Make sure you are submitting your film in the correct format for the festival. Another important thing to note is how the film will be played in the festival if accepted. Many festivals will accept DVD copies for preview, but if you are accepted you are expected to supply a copy on a higher resolution exhibition format, which can be quite expensive if you don’t have a copy already on hand.
  • Label Well. Make sure your tape or DVD and its case, as well as all of your festival materials are clearly labeled with your name and the films name unless you are expressly told not to do so in the film festival instructions. This is a good time to figure out how to use the label printing function of your printer and print professional looking labels. If you look like a professional then you are more likely to be treated like one.
  • Submit Additional Info. Has your film been admitted into other film festivals? Did you get a Hollywood actor to play one of the parts? Submitting a press release (with a some evocative production stills and movie frames) along with your film can give you the opportunity to toot your own horn about your film, as well as give the festival some background information about you and your movie.
  • Submit early. Many film festivals view submissions as they are submitted. If you submit on the last day then they could have already filled all of the slots in the festival before they even watch your film. At that point your only hope is to have them decide to remove an already selected film and replace it with yours. It definitely happens, but it is much easier for you submit early and make sure your films is one of those already picked for inclusion into the festival.
  • Mail With Care. Send your film in a protective envelope or box to the festival. You don’t want to run the risk of your film being damaged during shipping. Also send a self addressed stamped postcard along with your movie. The festival can drop the card in the mail and let you know your submission was received.

Film Festivals and Profgramming Opportunities We Recommend

After your film is ready to be submitted to festivals, you can create a FilmFreeway account to get updates on upcoming festivals that match your project details. Here are some others that we recommend:

Highland Park Independent Film Festival
Ivy Film Festival
New Filmmakers LA
Student Academy Awards
College Television Awards
Film School Shorts (PBS Program)
Truly California (PBS Program)