Film Festival Survival Guide

by Elizabeth English

Filmmakers, writers, composers, and actors: Did you submit a project to the festival? Did you win at this festival? Are you a finalist or semi-finalist? Was your film selected for screening? Or not? Are you a literary or talent agent? Or a film producer or distributor? Definitely plan to attend the event! Film festivals are where you have a unique opportunity to productively network with colleagues, audiences, and professionals in the global entertainment industry, as well as to promote your talents & offer opportunities. You can participate in vital workshops and seminars, interact with important keynote speakers, promote your film, company and skills at the Q&A for your film. There is opportunity to meet with celebrities, do photo ops, connect with agents & distributors, and have valuable, private one-on-one consultations with the attending pros. Not to mention watching indie films from around the world that you may not have any other chance to see.

  • Attend film festivals, whether they’re small & local, more important name film festivals, or international ones. Watch as many of the films as you can. Interact with the film audiences to learn what they liked & didn’t like about a film. Meet the filmmakers, writers & composers. Network with agents, producers, acquisition execs, distributors, audiences, attending celebrities, keynote speakers, workshop presenters, and festival directors. Attend workshops & seminars if offered at the film festival. Participate at the filmmaker Q&As. Go to the networking parties, after-parties, awards ceremony & reception, as well as any special events. Subscribe to the film festivals’ blogs or newsletters, for announcements, updates, & news.
  • Have visually interesting & unique business cards made up & bring them with you to pass around to as many festival attendees as you can. More importantly, collect as many business cards from event attendees as you possibly can.
  • Be friendly and easy-going with everyone. Make a special effort to circulate around at events. Be available to chat or meet for lunch, coffee or drinks. People will remember you, and they will want to know you are easy to get along with, easy to work with, and are interested in their work, too. Offering to volunteer during the event is a good way to be involved …learn what makes a film festival work & get a chance to meet more people.

FILMMAKERS: Bring some DVDs of your best film to pass around, in case you are asked by someone to view it. If your film is that festival’s winner or a selected film, include that info on the DVD cover. Print up some colorful, visually-attractive flyers with your film’s info, what day, time & theater it can be seen at the festival & include your website URL & contact info.

Try to arrive at the festival a day or so early, so you can place your flyers around the town, to encourage people to come and see your film. Promote your screening on your website, to your mailing list and on social media. Try to get an interview about your film on the festival’s local radio, TV stations or in newspapers. Promote your festival screening to your local media, too!

Print up a small poster of the film, in case the festival wants to post it on a wall. If your film has been selected for screening, introduce yourself to the film festival director, the events coordinator & the film screenings programmer/coordinator. Be available & prepared for your Q&A session & photo-ops, after your screening.

WRITERS: Print out & bring one or two hard-copies of your best screenplay, stage-play, teleplay, audio play or short stories, to give to an agent, producer, director or acquisitions exec, if asked. Be sure you’ve thoroughly edited it, checked it several times for typos, and that it is in proper and current industry format. Remember, you are submitting a reader’s script, not a production or director’s script! Print out copies of a list of all your best titles & loglines to give to anyone interested. Have available a one-page synopsis for each of them, to hand out, if asked. Include your contact info on these. Most of those people will prefer a digital .pdf copy sent to their email, but if someone wants to read it during the event, you’ll have it.

COMPOSERS: Bring some CDs of your best music tracks to pass around. If your film score is a festival winner or finalist, consider bringing a few DVDs of that film, too. Print up some colorful, visually-attractive flyers with your music’s info & with your website URL & contact info.

ACTORS: Have some black & white, as well as color headshots made up. Your name, contact info (or your agent’s name, agency & contact info), your DOB & age, height, weight, hair & eye color and ethnicity should be printed on the back of your headshots. Bring them with you to pass around, while networking, especially when attending casting agents & film directors. Print out a list of your talents & credits in film, television, theater, radio & voice-over work you’ve done recently – to hand out with your headshots. Your business cards should have a small headshot photo of you on it, too.

  • Remember, deciding on a story, writing the script, composing the music, or producing & directing the film is only the first steps to selling your work and your ultimate success. You must get out there & seriously work for it! And spend some time & money to promote yourself & your talents.

 A film festival is the best place to make that happen!

Theater Marquee - wide