Film Festival Strategies: What Every Filmmaker Needs to Know

Posted on December 18, 2015
Blog free 1024x683

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! 


Topics

From our blog

  1. Diverse Stories From The Field

    August 30, 2018

    Starting a new project can be daunting for even the most veteran of filmmakers. From research and development to acquiring archival footage, where does one begin? The answers may lie in ITVS’s Diversity Development Fund, which provides you seed funding for all of the above and more.Hear from our filmmakers on how the Diversity Development Fund was

  2. Filmmaker, Festival Director, and Academic Gita Saedi Kiely Joins the ITVS Board of Directors

    August 1, 2018

    Elected in July, Gita Saedi Kiely has joined the ITVS Board of Directors. She is an accomplished leader who brings to the Board extensive experience in the documentary world.From 2012 to 2016, Saedi Kiely served as the Executive and Festival Director at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, in Missoula, MT, the premier non-fiction film destination in the

  3. Approaches from Insiders and Outsiders

    July 11, 2018

    Illuminating the human condition: it’s a theme that pervades some of the most effective documentaries. Getting there has multiple paths and as a filmmaker, you have baggage you bring. For The Judge, filmmaker Erika Cohn was a complete outsider in her story and had to build trust with strangers. Bing Liu, on the other hand, mined his own community