Getting your Film in Festivals

Posted on July 25th, 2014 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

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Toronto is a world-renowned host of filmmaking and film festivals, supporting numerous productions and events each year. Besides the film production programs throughout the GTA, there are over 50 cinematic competitions and showcases, representing almost every cultural community and artistic genre. There’s the Inside Out Film Festival, which celebrates queer cinema; Toronto After Dark, which appeals to Cult, Sci-fi, and Horror enthusiasts; and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival – just to name a few. And of course, arguably one of the city’s most well-known events – the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Students attending film school in Toronto have a virtually endless array of options when it comes to enjoying cinema in the city, all year round. But what if you’re trying to enter your own original project into a showcase?

Whether you’ve set your sights on Toronto, or beyond – here are few tips for getting your film onto the big screen:

Determine Where Your Film Fits

Applying to festivals takes energy, time, and in many cases money. If would be ill-advised to randomly submit your film to each and every festival you can track down online. Although you’ve studied at one of the best film schools in Canada, consider there are thousands of other filmmakers flooding festivals with projects each year. So, be strategic and take the time to compile a list of showcases and competitions that host content similar to yours. Examine themes, genres, where films are typically sourced from, whether or not the festival encourages unknowns – the factors that determine whether your project would be a good fit, and have a fair chance of being accepted.

Read The Fine Print

Reviewing instructions sounds like a no-brainer, but each festival has its own particular requirements when it comes to the submission process, and failing to follow them to the letter may result in a swift rejection. Some cost more than others, and while one festival may require you to fill out a simple application, another may ask for more details – like a film synopsis, resume, brief bio, press kit, etc. Don’t make assumptions about what you need to send in. Another key point to remember is that every festival has its own submission deadlines. Set up a calendar to keep track of these dates, so you don’t miss the boat (or waste time applying past the due-date).

Consider How You Send Your Copy

Video sharing sites like Withoutabox and Vimeo have made sending your film into festivals easier than ever – and certainly cheaper than registered mail. However, if you’re interested in raising your chances of acceptance, going old-school may be better. It’s important to consider the quality of that crucial first screening by festival decision makers. How high is the quality of your electronic submission? Do you mind that it will no doubt be viewed on a laptop or tablet? DVD or Blu Ray submissions are much more likely to get screened on a nice, flat screen TV – and although format alone may not be a deciding factor, there is something to be said for optimizing presentation. Ensuring festival screeners have the best experience possible while watching your film is just one more way of helping your entry stand out, and make it to the next round.

What tips do you have for getting films into festivals?

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