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The Best Short Film Festivals

A film festival strategy is as important as properly managing your wins and loses to make the most out of them.

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by Vicent Llopis in Short Films

Quite frequently, I’m asked this question: Which are the best Short Film Festivals to promote a movie? My answer is always the same. It depends.

Sorry if you were expecting a plain and simple response with “the top 10 Short Film Festivals you can’t miss”. You can certainly find tons of lists with important festivals, Oscar-qualifying events, and major award ceremonies to mingle with tier-1 producers, but those might or might not be part of your best festival strategy.

SETTING YOUR GOALS FOR FILM FESTIVALS

I’m a big proponent of defining objectives prior to anything else, even before you start brainstorming about your next idea for a short film. But once your movie is in the can and you’re ready to go “full-festival mode”, it’s certainly a good time to evaluate your goals for Short Film Festivals.

If I’m an experienced filmmaker, I want to make sure I cover the big events. I also know most major festivals require a premiere, which means I won’t be able to participate in them once I get accepted in one of them. My goal will be to map a calendar of all potential submissions, and the proper order to qualify for them.

For mid-level filmmakers, there’s a second tier of festivals that might guarantee better results. That doesn’t mean you can’t -or shouldn’t- submit to one or two of the big ones (even a simple submission is a great PR opportunity to share with your followers), but plan ahead and determine which ones can offer you the most based on what you’re intending to accomplish.

Amateur filmmakers, or those who are just starting in the movie business, should look at competitions from a different lens. Local and regional festivals -especially those you can attend in person- will provide the most insights about the short film industry. Politics around awards play also a huge rol, but the only way to generate awareness around this is to simply see it for yourself.

KEEP AN EYE ON SUBMISSION FEES

Planning your Short Film Festival strategy ahead will help you establish costs and determine your budget. Early bird fees will save you a few extra bucks, but even when a submission fee is only $20, you need to ask yourself a key question: what is this festival going to do for my career?

Adding tons of low-profile awards -or even some mid-level ones- might not contribute at all to your final goal, unless you’re simply trying to expand your contact list by attending those ceremonies with a stack of business cards in your pocket.

NARROW DOWN YOUR LIST OF FESTIVALS

Once your goals are set and your budget is confirmed, it’s all about mapping the calendar and ensuring you don’t miss important submission deadlines. You might have an overall objective for all festivals, or independent reasons or goals for each one, so from his moment on you’ll need to make sure you’re on track to get as close to them as possible.

THE IMPORTANCE OF WINNING

Winning is extremely important, and that’s why I want you to make sure you always win. Your concept of what winning means might be radically different from mine, though.

As I see it, winning is successfully achieving your goal. But your goal doesn’t necessarily imply -or even need- receiving an award. Getting noticed by a popular producer, being approached by an investor, meeting an awesome DP for your next project… all these are objectives that aren’t intrinsically tied to being awarded.

Another aspect of success is portraying yourself or your movie under a favorable light, at the right moment.

For example, let’s say for a second you find out you made it to the Official Selection in a renowned festival. A couple of days go by and you finally learn you didn’t win. If you’ve been holding the news of the Official Selection up until now, you’ve missed your window of opportunity. You lost. However, if you shared your initial news about your selection, you already got tons of attention. So no matter of the outcome, you already got yourself a small win.

THE BEST SHORT FILM FESTIVALS ARE THE ONES YOU MAKE THE MOST OF

In essence, it’s up to you which festivals are the best, based on your specific goals, and how you’ll be leveraging them.

Whatever your decision might be, just make sure you have a plan in place, and there’s a reason for each submission. And remember, an award doesn’t always equal a win, but a win always equals success. So ensure you’re always a winner… even when you’re not awarded.

FREE GUIDE: INDIE FILM MARKETING 101

WHAT EVERY INDIE FILMMAKER SHOULD KNOW BEFORE LAUNCHING A FILM!

Download Now