If you’ve got a big budget movie with stars and studio backing, film festivals are probably a waste of your time. But if you’re a small indie film struggling to get noticed, film festivals can be the ticket to getting the attention and validation you need.
When we made The Good Book, we were in totally new territory. Our previous movies had been typical faith-based films. We’d not had any problem getting distribution for them. But now we had a one-hour silent film. More than one distributor responded with, “I don’t know what to do with this.”
We knew we needed affirmation of the movie’s worth. So we sent it to film festivals, lots of them. And it worked. Film festivals appreciated the uniqueness, its creativity, its unusual approach to sharing the gospel. It didn’t hurt that it was only an hour so they could program more shorts with it. We got plenty of rejections. But we also got lots of acceptances. And wins! With a bunch of “Official Selections” and a dozen or so awards, distributors started contacting us. It was a lot easier to sell a movie that had already proven itself.
In addition to attracting distributors, film festivals add excitement to your following and provide content for you to share on social media. First, you share that you got selected. Then you share about the festival itself. If you go to the festival, you take pictures and post about your experience. You share the reaction from the crowd and what a great time you had. You can shoot a quick Facebook live as everyone leaves the screening and raves about your movie. If you win an award, you share that (with pictures of course!). Then if you tag the festival in each of your posts they can share them as well. Which means that each festival you get into can provide multiple social media posts that are each likely to be shared by others who are excited about your movie.
One of my favorite aspects of film festivals is that they are a great way to reward those who worked so hard on your movies. Actors and crew members can be quite insecure, wondering if they did a good job, often assuming they fell short. A win, or even a nomination can be a great encouragement to them. If you had talented actors, submit to film festivals that give actor awards. Beautiful music or cinematography? Be on the lookout for festivals that recognize those. Especially look for festivals that announce nominees or finalists rather than just winners. That way even if you don’t win, you still stand a chance of being nominated and have that nomination accolade.
Film festivals are created to encourage and support filmmakers. Enjoy this fun way to promote your movie. You can check out our list of film festival accolades at our Summer of ’67 website.
Learn more about film festivals with How to Make the Most of Film Festivals.