So finally it’s a wrap ! The feeling of having completed your short film is something that can’t be described with just an adjective. Having spent sleepless nights working on your script, then finalizing your cast & crew, getting the production done, hours of post-production work in front of that monitor.. Quite a lot goes into it. But the real test begins now when your product is ready and you have to enter the market. There are thousands of film festivals worldwide and most of them would include your film. Yes you heard it right. But that doesn’t qualify your film as good or if you are rejected, it doesn’t mean your film is just plain bad.
Let us discuss what it really takes to get your film selected at a film festival:
- The subject of your film
First of all, it is necessary to make a list of festivals you are targeting for your film. No matter how good your film is, it is not going to get selected in all the festivals you target for the simple reason that every festival is judged by a group of people so it comes down to their own point of view. So, the subject of your film, the genre, the story- it all matters. For eg., Mumbai International Queer Film Festival (South Asia’s biggest LGBTQ film festival) accepts film that are related to LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) lives and stories. So if your film is a horror short, may be this is not a right platform for your film; instead you can target Screamfest or International Horror Film Festival.
- Keep a check on the duration
Before sending your film to any festival, make sure to go through the ‘Rules & Regulation’ section of that festival and make sure to keep a check on your runtime. The best way is to tell your story in minimum duration. I always feel that anything between 7-10 minutes is ‘ideal’ for storytelling. If it gets too long, always remember that it should be something worth the time. You occupy a space of 3 films of 5 minutes each by making a 15 minute long film, just think that. So basically your one film is going to take away the duration of three films. Make sure it is worth it.
- Work on the strength of your actors
There are festivals and competitions like India Film Project (IFP) where you get 48-50 hours to make your film so you have to be really strong-headed for the same. Making a film in such a short span requires you to be really street-smart and practical at the same time. You really have no time for silly experiments. My suggestion is that work on your strengths and your actor’s strength. In case, if you just have one good actor, try and write a story around him because he is not going to goof up in any frame. Consider using 2-3 mediocre actors and then time running out during shoot, with you screaming around, rushing with things and ending up with an average product. Nah!!
- Don’t under-estimate the importance of Sound
I recently attended a festival where there was this film which had great visuals and colors. But the only thing that went against it was the quality of sound. At places the dialogues were just not audible. At some places, the background score dominated the conversation, etc. I remember the film couldn’t even qualify for top 10 when it had the best visuals amongst all. Just close your eyes and listen to your film, after editing.
- Select festivals carefully
There is no point in sending your film to each and every festival. The bigger ones attract you but I suggest go in for the smaller ones, the ones which are new, the ones which are still gaining popularity. Why? There are better chances for your film to win. To begin with, try and enter free festivals and always try to go through the films, that were selected the previous year. This way you get a better idea of what you should do and what you should avoid.
- Make an account on Film Freeway
We made an account on Film Freeway, which is 100% free for filmmakers, writers, photographers and submitters. Also, it is quite safe and secure as your work is only accessible to festivals that you submit to and can never be downloaded or shared without your permission. Other than owning your own rights, you also receive real-time submission status updates directly from the festivals you’ve entered.
So just make your next film and go through these tips and finally come out with your ideas. Do not get disappointed if your film doesn’t get selected. It is just other people’s point-of-view. They aren’t the final authority. Just keep on making and sending your films.