Trust the Process
We’ll leave you with some parting words on the attitude and fortitude you’ll need to keep your head up as you work on finding your film its most fitting festivals and ideal audience:
“Festival programmers are in a fairly small network. Most of us know each other and we talk, so don’t be a jerk. We like working with friendly people, just like you do.” —Programmer
“Not getting picked doesn’t mean your movie isn’t good; it just might not be a good fit for the festival. We have a limited number of slots and know what our audiences expect for the price of a pass to a weekend of movies, which is different than a one-off moviegoing experience. We are respectful when we reject a film. If you respond with anger, we will remember that and possibly mention that to colleagues at other festivals. That doesn’t improve your chances of acceptance going forward.” — Programmer
“The system isn’t stacked against you. Make a good film and it will get into the festival that’s right for it.” — Festival Director
“Don’t worry about genre, taboos, trends, or tropes. Whether your film is commercial, experimental, or anywhere in between, stay true to your idea and make the best film you can make with no excuses. Regardless of your genre or tone, a well-made film will almost always be appreciated and will increase your chances of being watched and programmed.” — Selection Committee Member
Although the goal of festival submissions is almost always to screen and distribute your movie, don’t forget that this process is one of trial and error, research and development. As a programmer we polled wisely advises, “Don’t be turned off by this report. There’s a festival for every film and a film for every festival. Submit to the ones whose vision you agree with and want to support, whether you’re accepted or not.”
All illustrations by Angela Huang.