Saturday, May 30, 2009

Speaking of festivals, a bit of advice for filmmakers....

The previous blog was about what filmmakers should consider when selecting festivals and competitions to enter. But, coincidentally, a friend just emailed me telling me her film was in a festival, she was leaving for it today and what advice could I give her.

Well, I was all a-flutter. It was so last minute. Luckily, I had some hints/tips stashed away from missives past and was able to simply pass it on to her. Then it occurred to me to pass it on here, as well - especially as a companion piece to the previous blog.

Some of what is below has become too late in the game for for her to address. But hopefully not for you....

FESTIVAL HINTS AND TIPS (for filmmakers in the fest)

Prior to attending any festival as a filmmaker, there are three key things to do:

1. Research the festival. Where the hell are you going, anyway? What reputation does the festival have? Who goes to it? What do other filmmakers say about it? What does it offer in terms of professional goals? What does it offer in terms events and activities? Is it someplace really cool? Hopefully, the festival offers at least one thing that is worth the trip, otherwise why would you go? And why would you have applied in the first place?

2. Set realistic goals for yourself. Once you know what the fest is about, you can begin setting realistic goals for yourself based on that information. For instance, it is pointless to set a goal of meeting 10 agents and managers at a festival that does not attract any industry. But you may simply set a goal of promoting your screenings, or seeing 1 movie a day, or meeting 5 filmmakers, or meeting wealthy patrons of the festival, or building buzz for your DVD release, or getting shit-faced every night or simply enjoying the city.

3. Be prepared. Once you've set realistic goals for yourself, then prepare for them. Ask yourself what you need to do to accomplish them. That may mean getting in shape if you plan to do a lot of running around - or just plain running. That may mean printing posters, postcards and business cards, or making DVDs of your film or RSVPing to all the official and non-official festival parties (or investigating where and when they even are). It can mean all sorts of things as you think through the accomplishment of your goals. Jump on those things and make sure you have nothing to kick yourself about once you are at the festival.

All that said, once you are at a festival, the chips will fall where they may. But here's a bunch of general guidelines to follow to make sure the festival is the best experience you can possibly have.

• Drink lots of water. And rest when your body needs it.

• Be Active - Take part in everything offered to you.

• Read and respond to all of the stuff you get from the festival staff.

• Meet and engage with the fest programmers, who can give you the inside scoop on all the great things about the fest and the surrounding city. They'll also handle problems quickly with a personal connection.

• Always be gracious and appreciative when dealing with festival staff - even when you need to complain about something. Killing them with kindness works great with stressed out festival staff.

• That said, don't be afraid to complain about stuff. The squeaky wheel does get the oil. Things to look out for - Is there proper printed info about your screening/film in the festival's materials? Are they doing their best to attract an audience? Are you getting the best projection quality the festival is capable of? Are you getting clear and comprehensive information about the fest and all its activities? Is the fest delivering to you everything that it promised you?

• Meet other filmmakers - with whom to build a community of support and with whom you can exchange info, resources, connections, bong hits, etc., etc.. They are your extended family and future collaborators.

• Wherever you go, DON'T BE AFRAID TO TALK. But, please, don't sell. Chat. Be invested/interested in who you chat with. That simple approach can lead you in all kinds of exciting directions.

• Listen. Pay attention to conversations. Some are great to jump into and can lead to wonderful connections. Some have great information which can lead you to get more details. Some just have great dirt.

• Don't waste time handing out postcards/flyers to random people. Put up posters, if you absolutely need to, but if you hand out postcards/flyers to passing strangers, they just end up in the trash. Keep postcards with you in case you engage somebody, then give it to them. In that case, the card has real meaning for them.

• If you are going with your crew/homies/family/friends, spread them out. Don't just hide away with them. Have them help you meet people. Make them your publicity/promotional force.

• Stay fluid - A lot of things happen on the fly or out of the blue. Some of those things are great. Allow yourself room to flow with them.

• Watch films. Watch great movies and be creatively inspired by them. Watch bad films and consider thoughtfully what made them what they are and are not.

• Be yourself!! Whatever you do, don't be desperate! People will naturally be drawn to you if you're relaxed and having fun.

• Go to lots of parties. Get free drinks. Eat free food. Maybe "hook up". In general, just relax and have a great time.

• If the festival simply sucks ass, go explore the surrounding city/area. Even if a festival is in the armpit of the world, there's usually somewhere nice within a short drive. Go out and see it. Turn your bad festival experience into a good life experience.


  1. Great advice overall ! , especially ''get shit faced every night'', when it's free booze of course.

  2. All of this is great advice. I would also add this: Get in touch with the film fest's public relations staff and supply them with everything they need to get the word out on your film (screeners, posters, EPKs, production notes, etc.).

    However, don't pester them. Keep in mind they have a lot of films and filmmakers to take care of, so choose your moments with them and don't try to monopolize their time and energy.

    John Wildman

  3. Great Post. I linked to it at!

  4. Love this, Jacques! Especially the random handing out of postcards info. Here's one more tidbit that has really helped me. If possible, try to schedule a quick (five minute) sound and picture check in the screening venue. That way, you'll be emotionally and aesthetically prepared with how your film will look and sound when the audience watches later.

  5. Hey, if you want to make a break into filmmaking urstreams is running a film festival specifically to find new talent. Check out if you want to enter your video into our competition.