Film Festivals Can Be
Very Kind to Independent Filmmakers
If you are one of those people who went to film school and
still cannot understand why they did not teach you how to get a job in the film
industry, then I suggest that you stop complaining, gather up all the creative,
hard working film production people you know, make yourself an independent film
and enter it in some film festivals. If you win an award at a prominent film
festival your life may change very dramatically for the better. Even a small
award at a small film festival will more than likely set you on the path to
having a career in the film industry.
Most people attend film schools with big dreams
of working in the Hollywood film industry and
possibly even making a name for themselves. They have visions of red carpet
interviews, Academy Awards acceptance speeches and stars on the Hollywood Walk
of Fame. However, most of them will never see those dreams come to fruition and
they will face endless frustration and disappointment instead.
After graduating from film school most people are expected
to break into a business that is considered to be one of the most difficult in
the world to find employment, unless you have connections, of course. For the
ones without connections, it can be very frustrating. Unfortunately for them,
the Hollywood film industry is run by a tight
knit community that practices nepotism and rarely opens the door to newcomers.
If you want to break into Hollywood but your last name is not Barrymore,
Begley, Cyrus or Sheen and the only connection you have is a cousin who manages
your local movie theater, then your best chance of success is to make an
independent film and enter it in film festivals. If you place in the top three
of any category you enter you will usually be asked to send a film print of your
movie so it can be screened to audiences that attend these events.
Film festival audiences are a combination of film critics,
media reporters, film distribution representatives, film fans, celebrities and
local residents. These are the people that can create a buzz about a movie after
they see it. When a buzz is created about a movie at a film festival it usually
starts in the theater lobbies and then works its way out into the media where it
can take on a life of its own. If this happens to any independent film it is
destined to succeed, and the independent filmmaker who made the film
springboards into a career in the film industry. Just ask Robert Rodriguez or
Quentin Tarantino about the value of film festivals and they will tell you.
Winning a top award at any film contest is a
good thing for anyone who makes movies. With an award comes publicity, and
publicity is the life blood for filmmakers and their careers.
Film distribution companies send people to film
festivals to purchase products and they always follow the publicity to find
their products. Many of the purchases they make are small movies made by people
with very small budgets. An independent filmmaker can make a good profit from
one of these distribution deals and make themselves bankable at the same time.
If they can sell their movie to a distribution company, there is a good chance
that they will be able to make more films with bigger budgets using money from
investors, instead of their own hard earned money.
It is very important that you choose the right
film festivals to enter your movie if you want to increase your chances of
winning an award. Of course it would be nice to win a major award at an event
like the Cannes Film Festival, The Toronto International Film Festival or the
Sundance Film Festival. But you have to be realistic and set your sites on a
contest that is friendly to small independent filmmakers and their independent
films. Worldfest Houston International Film Festival and the Austin Film
Festival are two examples of the type of film festivals that are friendly to
this type of people who work with small budgets and big ideas. There are
hundreds more contests out there and they come in all shapes and sizes.
The Cannes Film Festival, The Toronto
International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival are the biggest and
most publicized movie contests in the world. Unfortunately, they are also the
most difficult ones for small independent films to be accepted into because of
the high standards and politics that they employ.
Most of the films that win awards and get screened at the
Big Three film festivals are made by independent film production divisions of
the Big Six film studios like Warner Bros and Disney. By definition they are
still considered to be independent films if no more than 50 percent of the
funding comes from a major studio. But that fifty percent is usually millions of
dollars, and this puts the production value in a whole different league than the
movies that are made by small time independent filmmakers with miniscule
budgets. Also, most of these big budget festival films have big Hollywood stars attached to them which makes them
irresistible to the contest judges and management.
The Big Three film festivals have been invaded by the Big
Six film production studios with big budget movies masquerading as independent
films. This makes it very hard for a film that was shot with a digital camera on
a shoestring budget to compete at
Sundance. These kinds of films have a much better chance of winning an award at
a film festival like Worldfest Houston or the Austin Film Festival because they
are more interested in showcasing film talent than they are catering to the Hollywood film industry. Choose your film festivals wisely
and you will increase your chances of winning an award and securing a
Michael P. Connelly
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