Submitting your masterpiece to film festivals can be an exciting yet often excruciatingly stressful. Before investing hundreds of hours and often times thousands of dollars on your movie, glance over the multitude of festivals held nationwide and pay special attention to each’s requirements.
A lot of film festivals have time limitations, exclusivity contracts, budgetary limits, etc By making a decision what festivals you would like to enter you can plan your film around their restrictions. Sundance, for example has a rule that your movie must premiere there. If you are shooting for Sundance, be sure you don’t hit the small festival circuits earlier in the year. If you want a Slamdance premiere, you cannot play at Sundance.
By analyzing the rules, you’ll save yourself a small fortune. There are a lot of different subcategories in each festival. Short films have different rules than features, etc. Be sure you know your category. Each submission can range in price from $20 – $100’s so be sure you set aside entry fees in your budget.
Realize that when entering a festival, your film is competing against thousands of other entries for a coveted spot among maybe a dozen on their screening schedule. If you want a film to play, you must have a high quality project.
An excellent script is a must, but even the most amazing writing will not make up for a project with poor lighting, spotty sound or unrealistic sets that draw the observer out of your world.
Make sure that you are using quality equipment. With the upgrades in digital camcorders, you can actually make a decent picture using a standard recorder. Invest in a quality editing program. Although there are cheaper versions, it isn’t as clean, the quality is diminished when it is compresses the footage, and cheaper programs cause your computer to freeze up and crash.
Hire an experienced cinematographer. Although anyone can push “on”, a cinematographer is trained in setting up shots. There are certain realities in film that the average movie watcher will not understand. You can’t cross the line. For the experienced eye, they will make sure the angles used between one actor and the next are complimentary. When a director crosses the line, the audience will have a momentary reaction of “huh, something was wrong” because our brain is confused when what the image should be, is offset by an incorrect angle.
Use a professional to light and do the sound for your project. If you are doing it on your own, make sure the lights don’t leave harsh angles, or dark spots. Your sound should be clear and free of atmosphere noise. The microphone on a camera is not sufficient. You will need to use body packs on your actors or a boom microphone. ADR (audio digital recording) may have to be done after the fact to get the crisp quality you want. A film may look fantastic, but if the sound is bad, it will make your whole project feel cheap.
By using people experienced in their fields, hiring actors who are able to break down material, and operating with a clear plan, you will find a the movie making process isn’t nearly as stressful as it needs to be. Submit to festivals that are searching for material matching yours and make sure you fulfill their requirements so you aren’t throwing your money away. Most of all, have fun, the movie making experience is a true adventure.