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Making a Great Promotional Film Trailer


red line

By Elizabeth English

  • Do you want to have a really good 2-3-minute trailer to send to producers, studios, and/or film festival competitions, for your website & in social media ?
  • Haven’t quite finished post on your film yet, but want to promote it now and/or solicit funding for your film?

Great trailers are in a special class of their own; little polished gems that showcase your film, and make people want to see more! But film trailers can be more difficult to make really well than the entire film, itself.  It can be more time-consuming, judicious editing must be a main concern, you have to tell the main story, theme & concept quickly, harder scene decisions need to be made, and you need to sell your film in less than three minutes.

Can you tell the main story, introduce the lead characters, show the main conflict, and give the viewer a visual, memorable impression OF THE STORY & CHARACTERS in three minutes? And, remember, you need to hook the viewer in the first few seconds! You probably don’t even have a full 3 minutes to do the job, unless the first 30-60 seconds are fantastic.

You need to know how to turn your great story into a great 2-3-minute (or less) trailer. There is and always has been only one real secret to success in the entertainment industry. Tell a great story. Period. And you need to figure out how to tell that fabulous story in only two to three minutes or less! READ MORE HERE!






LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION ! or Adventures in Judging Film Entries in a Film Festival Ways to Better Your Chances of Winning

By Elizabeth English

Founder & Executive Director
Moondance International Film Festival

  1. Send in your entry as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the last day of the entry deadline.
  2. Send your film in the format required by the festival. If they ask for a preview DVD in NTSC format, don’t send a PAL format.
  3. DO NOT ATTACH A PAPER LABEL DIRECTLY TO THE FACE OF THE DVD! Paper labels very often cause the DVD to stop, stick, and/or pixillate.
  4. Have the title and other info printed onto the DVD, or handwrite it with a marker pen. Remember, some festivals (not Moondance!) will just toss your DVD, unwatched, if it stops, sticks, and/or pixilates, and not even bother to let you know there was a problem.
  5. Have a DVD or Blu-ray copy of your film ready to send if the festival wants to screen it in one of those formats. Don’t make the festival wait while you try to get back your lone screener from another festival!
  6. When you are asked to send your film in another format for screening at the festival, remember to enclose an SASE (or money for US postage) or your FedEx number, if you want the screener returned to you.
  7. For mailing: Package your screener safely, and send it, and with your WAB tracking number on the DVD or the box (or entry form, release form, & entry fee, if not via WAB) in one envelope or box, if using WAB’s submission service.
  8. Do not use those padded envelopes filled with grey shredded kapok, as it can damage DVD. It also makes a big mess when opened. Use correct postage.
  9. Do not send the submission as registered mail. This often requires the person at the festival who gets the notice of registered mail to go to the post office & stand in line to sign for it. Usually, the mail carrier will not leave the package if no-one is available to sign for it, and it may be sent back to you.
  10. US post offices have a good option: Delivery Confirmation notice. It’s a lot less expensive than registered mail & you can track the package online, to see when it was delivered, and even get a print-out that it was delivered properly, for your records. If you want a confirmation that your submission was received, please send (with your submission package) an attached post card with US postage (if entering a US competition). Write on the postcard: your name and address in the mail-to area, and on the back or in the message area, write: (name of festival) has received the film (title of your entry) on this date_________. Or request email confirmation. Do not send an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) with your submission for return of your preview video or DVD, if the festival or competition announces that they will not return preview submissions. You’ll be wasting the postage.
  11. If you are sending your film to the US from another country, note on the customs declaration that the film has no (or $1) commercial value, or is a commercial sample, so the film festival is not charged a customs fee, in which case, the festival will probably refuse to accept your entry at all, and it will be discarded by the post office or returned to you.
  12. Please remember to write the WAB tracking number on the DVD and the box, not just on the mailing envelope, , if using WAB’s submission service.
  13. Entry fees: Attach the check or money-order with a paper-clip (don’t staple it in) to the front of the official entry form, if you have not paid via WAB. If it’s for a US festival or competition, make sure the funds are in US dollars.
  14. Don’t just toss the entry fee into the bottom of the envelope. When sending a money-order, write your name on it, so we know who it’s from. When sending a check from someone else or a production company, write your name and the title of the submission on it, for the same reason.
  15. If you change your address, phone number or e-mail address, please let the festival know this right away, so they can contact you if your film is selected for screening. Send e-mail addresses for all others who may want to be notified of the film’s status in the contest.
  16. If required for previews, send several publicity stills via e-mail, or a CD Rom with titled stills of your film in the submission package. If not required for previews, don’t send publicity materials.
  17. If your film is selected for screening, the festival will want to use a still for their print program and media promo. Use the best quality photos you have.
  18. Labeling your film: Please label the jewel-box or sleeve the DVD or film comes in, as well as printing the info on the DVD. The festival needs the following information on all film labels: Title of film, name of filmmaker, format, running time of film & genre (narrative feature or short, documentary, animation, etc.).
  19. Plan your film production budget to include film festival entry fees as the main method of marketing your film and your work.
  20. Don’t ask the film festival to waive or reduce the entry fee for you. If the festival has a scholarship program available, it will be announced, and you can apply for it. Most film festivals are made possible by the entry fees collected.
  21. Do not call, write or email the film festival to see if they’ve watched your film and if they liked it. Do not ask for comments or critiques unless the festival has announced they will give them.
  22. If you want a written or oral critique on your film and the festival offers it, and charges a fee for that, add that amount to your entry fee.
  23. If your film should be a finalist or winner, or is selected for screening at the film festival, plan to attend the screening and participate in the festival by watching others’ films, too, as a courtesy to both the film festival that is promoting your film and to the other filmmakers.
  24. If your film is not in English (for a US festival), do not have it dubbed into English. Use English subtitles, instead. Most festivals will not screen a dubbed film.
  25. HAVE A GREAT, EYE-CATCHING TITLE FOR YOUR FILM! The title should be memorable and unique, whether it’s a narrative fiction feature, a short, a documentary or animation. Have a great opening scene and first 5 or 10 minutes.
  26. Don’t start your film with these two all-too-common openings: Shot of a bedroom, guy or woman in bed asleep, alarm clock rings, hand reaches out to shut off alarm, clock falls to floor, anonymous feet pad to the bathroom. OR: camera pans across a mantle or table or wall filled with family photos, showing viewer who the story is about. Been done a million times. Be creative! Do something unique!
  27. Make sure your film has a story. Even if it’s a documentary, it must have a story to follow and keep the viewer’s interest. Select a really good screenplay or story that will be of interest to festival directors AND the potential festival audience who will pay for tickets!
  28. Have a fantastic, memorable, original film score.
  29. If you are the director, be sure to utilize good cinematography, lighting, sound, costumes, hair, makeup, locations, music, sets and props.
  30. Make sure the film’s lighting and sound is the same value throughout each scene. Production values count as much as the story, editing and acting.
  31. Block out blue light, so your film’s colors are natural.
  32. DIRECT your actors. The actors shouldn’t be perceived as reading their lines and hitting their marks. They should not even be acting, but should BE the character, thinking and feeling and reacting, as the character.
  33. For documentary films, try to avoid all those “talking heads”. Use voice-over visuals to tell your story as much as possible.
  34. Edit so that the film segues seamlessly and always flows forward. Edit out all but the gem of the story. Film credits shouldn’t be longer than the film! Please keep them short and sweet, and moving quickly. Consider adding the credits to the end of the film, rather than at the opening. Make them interesting, visually, and with music.If your film should be a finalist or winner, or is selected for screening at the film festival, plan
  35. Make your film as short as possible. Consider ruthlessly cutting that 60-minute documentary to 30 minutes! Make sure your entire submission package is festival- friendly!


Attention all writers, filmmakers, composers, indie film audiences, colleagues, and friends of Moondance, internationally: In honor of freedom of speech and a strong belief in dynamic artistic expression, the Moondance International Film Festival continues to entertain, educate, reach out, nurture, inspire, award, recognize, promote equality and non-violent conflict resolution, and to encourage talented, creative voices around the world to freely express positive and productive projects in any medium. We actively promote and support non-violent conflict resolution and seek viable alternatives to solving conflicts.



~~ Je suis Charlie! Nous sommes Charlie! ~~


“The greater the obstacle, the more glory we have in overcoming it.” ~ Molière

J2-ZINK 2 PEOPLE + STARMetal sculpture by Charlotte Zink of Zink Metal Art



Photo by Clark Little

Let’s make a big splash in 2015!










For those of you who celebrate it,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Moondance is grateful to all Moondancers for your ongoing support,

your participation in the annual competitions & attendance at the film festivals! […]


Colorado aspen trees, Photo by vitya_maly

Colorado aspen trees, Photo by vitya_maly

The shimmering leaves of the quaking aspen, the quintessential Colorado tree, turn to glowing shades of yellow and gold this time of year, here in the Rocky Mountains. The Native American myth told about the reason the leaves shake as they do in the wind is that the god Manito asked all trees to bow down before him, to show respect, but the aspen tree refused to do so, saying it was more beautiful than any of the other trees, and so Manito declared that whenever he blew through the forest on the slightest breeze, the aspen would forever quake in fear. […]



By Elizabeth English

Writers should always try to avoid using the simple verb, “walk”, whenever possible! Why have your character just walk into a room, or across the road? It tells the reader almost nothing about the character’s current mood, personality, intent, feelings, or how he or she presents him- or herself, or how anyone might perceive or react to seeing the character. Here’s a chance to show the reader & the ultimate film-viewer more about the character, and to set up a sense of who this person is, and what to expect!

A character opens the door and walks in a room. Boring! Common! What if that character crawled in the window, instead? Or boogied in, maybe even stark naked? Or slinked in dressed in a bad-clown costume? A person in cowboy boots walks differently from a person in ballet slippers, or spike heels, or flip-flops, or is barefoot. Children, teenagers, men & women and seniors all move differently, too! Use everything you’ve got to tell the whole story!

A super-confident person may saunter or swagger or stroll across a room; a person with a lack of purpose may amblemoseyshuffle or shamble in; a shy person may hesitantly tip-toe in; an angry person may march or clomp across the room; a person with ill-intent may sneakstalk or stomp along the street, a sad or discouraged character may shuffle past, an older or wounded person may hobble, totter, limp or stumble, and so on. Use your options, and get out that Thesaurus to help characterize the actions and reactions in your story!  

• Amble
• Clomp
• Hike
• Hobble
• Limp
• Lurch
• March
• Mosey
• Pace
• Parade
• Plod
• Prance
• Promenade
• Pussyfoot
• Ramble
• Sashay
• Saunter
• Schlep
• Scoot
• Shamble
• Shuffle
• Sidle
• Sneak
• Stagger
• Stalk
• Step
• Stomp
• Straggle
• Stroll
• Strut
• Stumble
• Swagger
• Tip-toe
• Traipse
• Tramp
• Travel
• Trek
• Tromp
• Trot
• Trudge
• Wander
• Wend

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