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Animation Festivals: Feature
DEVELOPING YOUR STRATEGY
It is such an exciting possibility to travel around the world screening your film, but it can become overwhelming scrolling through film festivals without focus, not really sure where to start. It can be both time consuming and expensive searching through and applying for festivals, so we recommend having a strategy and offer several ideas to make this task easier.
Make a list of suitable/relevant festivals
Begin with listing out your dream festivals, if this is totally new to you, we recommend checking out our list of recommended festivals or researching directors you admire or animations that have similar themes or styles to your own and note where they’ve had festival success. Consider if these are festivals you’d like to travel to or have an industry focus that you’ll benefit from.
Consider festival requirements
Now that you have a list of festivals, start to read into them before you begin entering your film. Think about whether your film is a good fit for that festival, read about their philosophy, look at past editions and what kinds of films they have featured in the past.
Consider then which festivals need a premiere – there are a few types of premiere, so check if your film would be ruled out as it has been screened somewhere else previously. You can also decline to accept an invitation to screen if another festival of greater importance requires a premiere, so don’t let that prevent you from entering.
Finally consider your budget. What would you like to achieve with your festival run, is it exposure, laurels, traveling abroad etc. Each one will have a different ethos when approaching which festivals to apply to with the budget you’ve put aside. If you’re interested in screening at a specific festival and you feel it fits with their criteria programming philosophy, then it’s worth it to pay the submission fee. Don’t be afraid to contact the festival and politely request a fee waiver or a discounted or student rate. Festivals understand that it can be costly for filmmakers, that being said, it is also costly for festival directors so do not be offended if they decline.
Now that you have a list of dream festivals you’d like to enter, submit to those first. Be patient and see how those festivals respond, then start submitting to them in batches until you’ve worked your way through the list. You will find that once selected to one or more festivals, other festivals will reach out – either with waiver codes or simply asking for a screener – so don’t apply to everything all at once as you may be spending more than you need to.
SUBMITTING YOUR FILM
Keep a record
As you begin submitting to film festivals, get organised. Make sure to create a spreadsheet that tracks the festivals you have submitted to and how much you could be spending. It’s so easy to lose track of where you’ve sent your film and where you still intend to submit.
Suggested spreadsheet with the following columns: festival name, festival date, submission due date, if you’ve submitted, if you’ve paid the fee, how much was the fee, how you submitted, if you’ve been accepted and the festival event date.
There are also different ways to submit to festivals; you need to find and check the submission protocol on the festival website. Some will have their own submission platform, but most will use sites such as FilmFreeway. These sites typically require a small processing fee, so keep this in mind when budgeting as those fees can really accumulate. We also recommend if using a site such as Filmfreeway to check out the ‘Gold Members’ subscription as though it is £10.99 you may save money if you are submitting to several festivals in a month. It’s good to work that out beforehand.
Prepare a Press Kit
Lastly, it will save you a great amount of time and effort if you put together a press kit as most festivals ask for the same things whilst submitting. So you need to have a downloadable folder on a site such as Dropbox, Google Drive or on your computer ready to upload. We recommend you prepare the following:
3 hi-res stills of your film
Subtitles (if applicable)
Film Synopsis – This should include one short synopsis (under 25 words) and one longer synopsis (50-100 words) if applicable
List of Previous Festivals/Screenings/Awards
List of crew
Trailer: Vimeo link/Dropbox link/Google drive
Film screener: Vimeo link/Dropbox link/Google drive
1 hi-res Director Photo
Director Bio – a short paragraph about yourself (100-150 words)
When your film is selected, you’ll receive an email from the festival with details of how to proceed. Each festival has a preference for screening format, but most require a High-quality digital file, such as ProRes 422 HQ or a DCP.
The cost of DCP tends to be calculated based on the film’s duration in minutes, so if the film is on the short side, you can let a festival know you only have a proRes and they may be happy to use it or convert themselves.
For DCPs, look online for a DCP conversion location near you. Some festivals have a special program in cooperation with a DCP service that provides a discounted DCP conversion rate if you do it through them, so it’s worth asking if you don’t already have one.
We also recommend asking if they pay a screening fee. It may not be possible, but it never hurts to ask.
Benefits of attending festivals
We really do recommend attending film festivals. Not only does it give you a chance to be inspired by talks, watch some beautiful animation but also meet wonderful people.
If your film is being screened at a festival, you’ll get the excitement of seeing it on a big screen as well as being able to engage with an audience who will have watched it for the first time. You will be getting your name out there, and become a face that people recognise. You will be able to chat with other directors as well as producers, animators, and studio bosses. You will be surprised what job opportunities can come from attending festivals as well as friendships that could help you in the longer term.
Consider though which festivals you’d like to invest your time and money in. If you’re looking to work with a particular studio, see if it’s an event that they often attend. If you know a group of people going that can make it even more fun. There are festivals that provide lodging for people who’ve been selected but travel is rarely included. We recommend you check out the British Arts Council Travel Grants in case your festival is on the list.
Releasing your films online & checking festival policy
We think it’s great to release your films online, not only to give those who haven’t seen it a chance too, but also so that you can make the most out of the films exposure and promote the work you do.
Over 70% of film festivals accept films that have appeared online but be thoughtful about when you release it and how you release it. Often directors allow their films to run the festival circuit (about two years) until they release their film online. So make sure to double check to see the festival’s policy on releasing films.
Prepare and schedule your online release
It is important when thinking about releasing your film online to plan ahead and know that to do it successfully you’ll need to approach it like a mini project. Begin collecting together WIPs, original artwork and clips of your film for socials. People are interested in how animations are made, so having a little more detail in the caption can really engage your audience. If possible, also consider ways to engage your audience using stories or behind the scenes footage if it exists. If you don’t want to post that kind of content on your timeline think about how to utilise your stories and even open up to a Q&A. We also suggest creating a trailer to release prior to the release of your film, as you want to build excitement and anticipation for it coming out.
When you’re ready to release your film online, make sure to submit it to short film websites at least a month beforehand. This gives it the potential to have an online premiere that will direct a lot of eyes to it.
After the release, we suggest releasing weekly the clips and images that you collected previously. Hopefully giving your film a new life beyond the festival circuit, where people can share and engage with you over it.
DON’T BE DISCOURAGED
It can be the case that you send your film to your top three festivals, and it gets rejected, and you could become discouraged, and you could stop sending it out, or even stop making films altogether. Please don’t do that!! There is only one sure way of never getting exposure and that’s to stop altogether.
Your film will find a home!!! Even if you do get rejected don’t take it personally. There are many technical reasons why your film has not been accepted. Your film may be brilliant but hard to programme with others, it may be too short or too long or not quite ready. Either way, the most important thing is to not give up.
Each film you work on you’ll learn something that will make you a better filmmaker. Many filmmakers, and we can probably say all filmmakers, have been rejected at one time or another from a festival. But they keep making new work and eventually, they get in. So do prepare yourself to submit to film festivals and get your name out there. We already can’t wait to watch your film!!
CELEBRATE EACH STEP
Our last and perhaps most important recommendation is to celebrate each step in this process. Making a film is hard enough, but then taking on the extra job of submitting to festivals can be exhausting, but it’s worth it.
We believe celebrating each of these steps not only helps you keep going, but also gives you a moment to recognise that each step is useful. You are creating resources for yourself that can be used in several different ways, even if it’s just becoming more aware of the festivals that are out there and what they’re looking for or collecting together the promotional materials for socials, it’s all useful.
It’s important to celebrate every win, every achievement because these moments can pass by unnoticed and the process can be made to feel long and hard. There is a need to inject joy into the experience and appreciate the amount of work and effort you’re putting in and that it is helping you to move forward. So please celebrate along the way, you deserve it !!
For further reading on film festivals check out the British Council's Short Film Toolkit.
Animation Festivals: Feature
Animation Festivals: Text
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