Film Festival Strategies: What Every Filmmaker Needs to Know

Posted on December 18, 2015
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At a time of year when visions of sugar plums are dancing through the heads of many, filmmakers are making their festival wish lists and checking them twice. In anticipation, we recently held a webinar featuring Independent Lens Executive Producer Lois Vossen and the directors of the acclaimed documentary, Peace Officer, Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson. During this live conversation via our social platform OVEE, the panelists shared their thoughts and tips on how best to strategize and navigate the film festival circuit. 

Here are a few of the takeaways that emerged:

Premiere Strategically

Top film festivals stake their reputations on premieres and will not screen your film if it’s already played at another major festival. Plan accordingly as you schedule your post production homestretch. Top U.S. festivals include: Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, True/False, Full Frame, AFI, Camden, and the Los Angeles Film Festival. For international premieres: Toronto Hot Docs, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), and Sheffield.

Schmooze...You Can’t Lose

Film festival programmers and sales agents are always looking for great content. Attending festivals is the best way to meet these folks and build relationships...but don’t be afraid to cold call someone who might be a strong champion for your film. In following up, don’t be a pest, but be persistent if a contact has expressed genuine interest. Lastly, play nice: the documentary community is small, so don’t burn any bridges if someone says no to you. There may come a time when they could say yes.

(How to) Meet the Press

Public relations (PR) professionals can be key to getting your film on the radar of press. They’re also much better equipped to time press opportunities to support festival premieres, a theatrical release, or a broadcast when you’re in the middle of finishing your film. Once you know who your early fans are, create a list of everyone you meet who loves your film, then make sure to leverage those relationships to reach press and other influencers.For additional tips on how a festival strategy can support your film, watch the webinar recording, below. And if you’re interested in more filmmaker-focused webinars, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info! 


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