Melanie Coombs, Producer 'Mary and Max', and 2004 Oscar winner for Best Short Animation 'Harvie Krumpet'.
Vodka drinking film festivals in Vladivostock, the glamorous French Riviera of Cannes, Rocky mountain highs in Aspen, Flickerfest's starry summer nights to name but a few. Each day another film festival starts somewhere in the world. With so much choice how do you choose the best festivals for your film and the best way to get your film into them.
Your festival journey starts here!
The first step for every filmmaker is to develop a strong festival strategy that will maximise promotion for your film. Without festivals it would be difficult for audiences to view your film, give it exposure and promotion, and bring it to the attention of distributors /buyers and other film festival directors.
Before submitting your film to festivals most filmmakers premiere their film at a cast & crew screening. A cast and crew screening is not considered to be a public screening and so this does not discriminate against you when entering festivals that may require premieres.
Each territory around the world has a range of festivals all with various selection processes, premiere requirements/exclusivity and submission deadlines.
It's a jungle out there and it can be confusing, time consuming, expensive and exhausting without a good schedule to see you through the deadlines and the deliberations of knowing what's the best place to showcase your film.
Stamina and good research is key and before you enter your film into any film festival map out a plan for at least the first 12 months of wish list festivals, both in Australia and overseas to make sure that you don't miss out on any chances of festival success.
A-list festivals often require a premiere: ie (the premiere of a film outside of its country of production) so make sure you know the rules and regulations of all festivals you want to enter to avoid disappointment. Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and many others are highly competitive. These festivals expect you to not screen your film at other screenings until their premiere has happened if you break this rule the festival may pull your film from its programme.
It's a good idea to start at home in Australia and premiere at a major festival such as Flickerfest, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney or St Kilda in order to get good feedback on your work and local publicity that will attract attention to your film.
Australian festivals also have regulations too, Flickerfest expects that your film will not have been screened in Sydney within 6 months of the festival dates, whilst Melbourne International Film Festival expects a Victorian premiere.
Films selected in competition for key festivals with an international competition such as Aspen, Flickerfest, Clermont-Ferrand, World Wide Short Film Festival Toronto etc also provide a key research tool for other festivals to seek out films for their own competitive screenings.
Often if your film is selected into an A-list competition, then other festivals will inundate you with invitations to enter their festival and so the circuit of your short film will begin.
Remember this is not only a great way to get your film launched onto the world stage but also a great way of saving money!
Entry fees for festivals plus the cost of sending your film all around the world is not cheap. If your film is invited to a festival often the entry fee will be waived and the festival may even pay the freight!
It is standard festival etiquette for most festivals to pay the return freight of your film or for it to go onto another festival. If successful, your film may travel the world this way, clocking up many frequent flyer points as it wings its way from festival to festival around the world!
You could say with the abundance of film festivals in the world that there is a film festival for everyone so don't become disheartened if you are rejected by your wish A-list festivals as this is all part of the game. Cast you net wider and seek out specialised festivals that may love your film.
Flickerfest has provided a list of key short film festivals below that offer good recognition, a high standard of competition, significant prizes and kudos to get your film on the road to success. This list will be updated regularly.
FLiCKERFEST FESTIVALS LIST - Australian and International (45k pdf)
Narrow down your film according to its genre and subject matter and a whole other world of niche festivals awaits you.
It may really help you to think about the intended audience for your film i.e. a short film that explores the environmental aspects of uranium mining may not suit mainstream festivals but may attract a wide audience at environmental festivals worldwide.
There are festivals out there that deal with every genre including:
Themes can also be the driving force of festival programmes, with short films on dogs through to Elvis and films on environmental themes, all filling the festival screens; sometimes the wackier the theme the better!
If you are gay, disabled, a woman, indigenous or from a particular ethnic background there are also specific festivals that cater to a focus on your work.
So now you have your strategy mapped out, but what does you film need to make it festival friendly across the globe.
All festivals require good promotional stills to market their programmes to the media. If you want your film to stand out you will produce at least three good colour images from your film in hi-resolution that can be sent out to media. These stills should be able to be delivered electronically as well as on disc. Think eye-catching and striking, as the competition is stiff for which film will be featured out of the hundreds selected for the festival.
See Press and Publicity for more detailed information on this and other marketing items such as postcards, posters etc.
You should include 2 versions of each still, a high-resolution 300pdi version, the other a low-resolution 72dpi version for web use, as a much smaller file.
You will also require a press kit with a one-line synopsis, one-paragraph synopsis, crew list and biographies of the director and producer at least and film details which will include date of completion/release, format, length, genre etc.
A listing of any reviews, awards or prizes at other festivals and screenings is also very attractive and useful.
For full information on press kits see our Press and Publicity page.
Once upon a time many festivals required a 35mm print for screening but in the age of digital this has rapidly changed. Most festivals will now screen shorts on Digital Betacam (digibeta) Pal / SP Betacam Pal, as well as 35mm. Poor old 16mm film is rarely screened now as the analogue sound technology renders it far inferior to digital sound. As short films are generally low-budget it is often difficult for short filmmakers to provide a print, but a digital or SP Betacam tape is an industry standard amongst competitive festivals. Remember for US and Japanese festivals you will require NTSC so it's a good idea to produce this as well as multi-format DVDs at the time of mastering.
Its also very important to mark clearly what ratio you would like your film screened in - i.e. 4:3, 16:9 anamorphic and have this labelled well on both the cover of the tape and the tape itself to avoid projectionist error. The same goes for film prints. Remember at a short film festival yours is one of often hundreds of works being projected.
DVD remains unreliable, particularly if self-burnt and un-authored. The formats vary so widely from DVD player to player that this can be an unprofessional way of presenting your work.
Never send a DVD without checking it first in a few different playing systems to make sure it works as there is nothing more embarrassing than screening glitches in front of a whole room of people. As festival directors are inundated with entries, we also don't have time to contact people if the preview DVD you have sent to enter your film is faulty and you will miss out on your opportunity - no matter how great your film may be.
Check and make sure the sound levels are standard on all digital formats and that you've played your DVD on a good PA system, not just your TV or computer. At a short film festival a projectionist will be juggling many different short films all mastered to a different standard. Often there is no time to check all material before it is screened. It is not the responsibility of the projectionist to make sure your work can be heard if you have supplied an inferior master.
Rights and Clearances
In order to exhibit your film at a film festival it is important that you have sought the necessary rights and clearances for the material including actors, music and script. Most entry forms ask you to sign a waiver saying that you have cleared these rights and if you have not you could be liable for breaching copyright. See Rights and Clearances.
It is extremely important to check the fine print of all entry forms to make sure that you're not giving away rights that you don't have permission for, or that may jeopardise your chances of being accepted for other festivals. Some festivals also request to have rights in winning films to either screen online or broadcast so you should also pay special attention to the rules of entry to make sure that you are not signing away rights that you have committed elsewhere or that haven't cleared.
Increasingly film festivals are requesting films to go on tour or to be part of DVD packages. These are additional rights outside of traditional festival screenings and filmmakers should not be expected to give away these rights automatically.
You have the right to decline or negotiate on these opportunities should you not wish to overexpose your film or if it doesn't fit into your festival strategy. Most festivals that want to tour your film may offer a small royalty in acknowledgement of your agreeing to be part of this activity.
It's a good idea to enter all A-list festivals first and retain your online/broadcast/DVD rights until your film has premiered in all territories. Most on-line streaming does not pay any returns to the filmmakers and can over-expose your film in the market place.
For most short filmmakers the pinnacle of their career would be to be nominated for an Academy Award in the live action or animation short film categories. To be eligible for nomination, the film should not have been broadcast on TV, in-flight or on-line. Filmmakers do not commonly know this and it can be very disappointing if you have won an award at an Academy® Accredited festival such as Flickerfest but you miss out due to ineligibility. For a full list of rules and Academy accredited short film festivals go to: www.oscars.org
Short Film Markets
Many short film Festivals now have markets attached. This can be another great way to bring your film to the attention of short film buyers and festival directors without your film being selected for official competition. Short film markets have videotheques or viewing facilities where industry professionals (distributors, exhibitors, TV buyers etc) can watch your film.
One of the major short film markets is Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival in France. They receive over 6000 entries per year all of which are published in an extensive market catalogue and available to view both at the festival in a videotheque and afterwards on-line by accredited professionals. If you register as a delegate at the festival you can also access contacts and set up meetings with festival directors and buyers regarding your film.
Others festivals with short film markets include: Cannes (Short Film Corner), Edinburgh, Cinema Jove in Valencia, Worldwide Short Film Festival Toronto and Palm Springs.
See our Shorts for Sale - Marketing and Distribution pages.
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