Sandra Lipski

Born in Berlin and raised in Mallorca, Spain, Sandra Lipski is the founder and director of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, located in Palma de Mallorca, Spain and founder of The Festival Key, a
consulting agency that creates film festival strategies for filmmakers and consults film festivals to innovate and grow. Sandra splits her time between Mallorca and Los Angeles. In this article, she gives some honest advice about festival strategy.—M.M.

When Does the Film Festival Journey Begin?

It commences when you pen your film script, envisioning the film festivals where it will be showcased. Forming a clear vision of where you anticipate your film screening, the type of audience you aim to reach, and the language, country, and genre environment it fits into, all set the energy for your film’s creation.

This idea may sound fanciful, but it holds true. Of course visualizing your film at the Cannes Film Festival doesn’t ensure a spot in its esteemed lineup. But several smaller festivals occur in Cannes around the same
time as the main event, and merely being in the mix and networking with your peers and industry professionals can help you establish a new network, a larger audience, and future projects.

Also Read: How to Handle Rejection From a Film Festival

Curating an early film festival wish list imbues you with the confidence and drive to craft the best possible film. The key to success lies in being flexible and making adjustments when necessary. I wholeheartedly champion intuition as an initial catalyst for ideas on how your festival journey could shape up, complemented by a robust strategy that takes into account crucial aspects such as genre, duration, language, nationality, and aesthetic.

Each of these elements can guide you in determining if a film festival is an appropriate platform for your film.

Film festivals love a local-hero filmmaker, so don’t overlook nearby festivals. And selecting
festivals by genre is quite straightforward — for example, comedies should be sent to comedy festivals, or festivals with specific comedy sections. But also consider your film’s aesthetic and story. Slamdance, for instance, prefers films with a distinct independent feel, while Sundance favors polished films with
a dash of celebrity.

At Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, we love films that tell multicultural stories — we have International Feature Film, Debut Feature Film, and Made in Baleares Feature film categories. Raindance, meanwhile, is partial to European up-and-coming directors, and also pays attention to festivals that spotlight guest countries.

American Cinematographer editor-in-chief Stephen Pizzello, producer Nurhan Sekerci-Porst, and Sandra Lipski in a panel discussion at the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival. Photo by Johanna Gunnberg.

Once you’ve considered your submission budget and compiled a festival list for your film, it’s time to engage in communication. Although I don’t endorse asking film festivals for waivers, as it can seem disrespectful to the hard work of festival programmers, I do encourage filmmakers to send a succinct introductory email to each festival on their list.

This email should inquire about a possible discount code, include a brief description of the film — showcasing why it would be a good fit for the festival’s program — and mention any personal connections, such as being an alum, previous attendance at the festival, or being born in the festival city, for example.

Next, Gear Up to Submit

This is a pivotal step in the process, because first impressions count. Review all your materials and your overall branding on your submission page. Yes, branding. You might think, “But I’m a filmmaker, not a marketer.” Well, it’s time to learn. So hire a film festival coach, and get all your ducks in a row before even thinking about hitting that submission button.

As a programmer, immediate turn-offs include unfinished films, poorly curated submission profiles, synopses with grammar mistakes, low-resolution screenshots and or incoherent poster designs that don’t communicate the film’s story. At The Festival Key, we’re film festival professionals dedicated to helping
filmmakers present themselves and their films in the best possible way. We meticulously review all aspects of the film, materials, texts, social media accounts, content, and more to give you the peace of mind to make the best first impression.

Communication is an ongoing process. At Evolution Mallorca, we like to receive another short email with your film title and tracking number in the subject line. Express your excitement about having submitted, and assure us of your attendance at the festival to celebrate your film if it gets selected.

Use Social Media Wisely to Promote Your Film and the Film Festival

Of course, by this point you should already have created a social media platform for your film. My advice is to choose one platform you’re comfortable with, and that you will consistently update. Follow each festival you’ve submitted to, like their last ten posts, and comment on at least three. Then post about your submission, tag the festival, and express your excitement for the potential opportunity to screen with them.

These actions draw our attention to your film, and we will be more inclined to watch it, early on. It also demonstrates your commitment to being active on social media, something that we will appreciate when it
comes to promoting the festival and your film’s screening. All these little things add up and put your film in the limelight just a bit more, and that little bit could be the difference it needs to break through.

Sandra Lipski on What to Do When You Get Into a Festival

Congratulations, your film has been selected! This is an exciting time, but it’s also when the real work begins. After the initial celebration, it’s time to step into your roles as a promoter, publicist, and event organizer. As you prepare for your film’s premiere, keep in mind that your goal is not just to screen your
film, but to create a memorable experience for your audience. At EMIFF we like to build a relationship with the filmmakers, keep open lines of communication, and make sure you understand how you can contribute to the festival’s success — and therefore the success of your film.

Think about how to promote your film at the festival. At EMIFF, for example, we appreciate when you create a buzz by leveraging social media. Share the festival’s posts, create a countdown to your film’s screening,
and engage with your audience. You can also consider hosting a Q&A session after the screening, or even organizing a small gathering or party. This can help create a community around your film, making your screening more memorable and engaging.

While the film is the star of the show, don’t forget about the logistics of attending the festival. Plan your travel and accommodation well in advance, and make sure you arrive in plenty of time for your film’s screening. You never know who you might meet or what opportunities might come your way during the festival, so it’s important to be present and prepared.

The next edition of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival will be held October 30 – November 5.

Main image: Sandra Lipski. Photo by Johanna Gunnberg.