Attending Film Festivals As A Filmmaker – Part 1
During this series of articles, Attending Film Festivals, I’m going to be talking about my festival experiences from all the various angles, because I am one of the few, and dear I say lucky ones, that have attended festivals in almost every facet; as a reviewer, filmmaker, distributor, and of course a fan.
In today’s article, we’ll be dealing with what attending film festivals as a filmmaker is like, and the lessons learnt here can help filmmakers who are attending either because their film is screening, or in competition. So sit back, enjoy, and hopefully learn a thing or two.
Find Your Bearings Before You Lose Your Marbles
My very first bit of advice to any filmmaker attending a film festival is to get your bearings of the layout, as some of the bigger ones can be spread throughout a large city. This also helps when booking accommodation, looking for good places to eat and drink, and most importantly, making sure you have the time to make it to any of your films screenings from your home base.
For example, when attending the Cannes Film Festival in May 2013, we were invited to a screening that we had been led to believe was just outside the city, and a walkable distance. If they had of known the area better, and we had done a little of our own research, we wouldn’t have spent over an hour walking before finally grabbing a taxi which took us a further 10 minutes down the road. We made it literally as the film started, but this could have been avoided knowing the layout of the festival better.
It’s also a good idea to learn a bit more about the city the festival is in, so that if you do get invited to after screening drinks, or any other type of event that might be held outside the festivals programme, you’ll be better equipped for getting there, or even knowing if it’s practical to accept the invitation.
Look, Ma, I Made It
Having your film accepted to a festival is a huge buzz, and if you ever lose that buzz, then it might be time to revaluate things, because if that doesn’t excite you anymore, you might be in it for the wrong reasons. Being accepted is one thing though, but attending and seeing your film on the big screen with an audience is even more of a thrill!
If it is your world premiere, don’t feel ashamed to make a big deal of it, so dress up in a black suit and tie or formal gown, invite all cast, crew, friends, and family along who can make it, and why not even order a limo for the big event. You may not have this experience often in your career, so when you do, live a little!
If it’s not your world premiere, or even the premiere for that country, still enjoy the moment, and soak up everything you can. Because remember, whenever your film is screening, and you’re there representing it, you are on show as much as your film is. If you have an eye to the future with your career as a whole, what you do during these screenings could make or break those plans.
Ask Me No Questions, And I’ll Tell You No Lies
If you’re lucky enough to have a Q&A after your films screening, than you had better be prepared for it. I don’t mean you need to have answers already written down, but you should at least have as many facts about your film memorized as possible. Seeing a filmmaker stumble of their answers, showing that they know almost as little as the audience does, is not a good look.
Expect to get the straightforward types of questions, with people asking about the budget, where you filmed it, issues with cast and crew, and especially questions about the storyline. You’ll find there are some people in the crowd who want to make the Q&A about themselves, and will try and stump you with a curly question about the characters, their motivations, and the major themes of the story, so make sure you’ve at least put some thought into these types of things.
All up, enjoy yourself, as a Q&A can actually be a really fun thing, especially when you get asked great questions that shows the audience, or at least that one person, really was taking notice of what was happening on the screen. It’s also good practice in talking about your film, as with any festival, or film promotion in general, you’ll be doing a lot of that.
So, What Did You Think Of My Film
When showing your film at festivals, you’ll end up meeting just as many other filmmakers as you will audience members who are just there to see films. Just like yourself, who is most likely interested in knowing what people think about your film, expect the exact same thing from fellow filmmakers, which is something to think of, so as to help mitigate any possible awkward situations.
On that note, try and see as many other films as you can from other filmmakers, because at the end of the day it’s a film festival, and you might be able to check out some great cinema. It will also create goodwill, which will be paid back to you from other filmmakers when your film screens.
If you did attend a screening, and then are asked by the filmmaker what you think of the film, I can only say that being honest is the best thing, but in a constructive and gentle way, if necessary. If you lie, most times people can see through it, so talk about what you loved, mention moments you think worked well, and if you feel some advice about how something could be improved would help, say it. But this is a double-edged sword, so expect the exact same thing about your film when you ask this question.
I’d Like To Thank The Academy
If your film happens to also be screening in competition, then that brings a whole other level of both excitement and nerves into the mix. Sometimes you know well before hand that you’ll be in competition or not, but sometimes it may not be so clear, as some festivals will screen all films with no awards at all, while others will have only the main section eligible for them, but there are times when you get nominated for awards you didn’t even know the festival had.
If there is an awards night, and even if you’re not nominated for anything, I always advise heading along for the fun, as if they do it right it can be a great atmosphere, and maybe even another excuse to crack out that suit or dress you wore at your premiere. If you are up for an award though, than make sure you’re there, because once again, it’s not just your film on show.
If you do win, try and set those nerves aside, and thank your cast, crew, investors, your family and friends, and most of all, thank the festival itself. Other than that, try and keep it short, because nothing makes people go from being excited for you, to annoyed, than a long rambling acceptance speech. Also, as soon as you can, jump onto your social media platforms and tell the world what you won, so that everyone who couldn’t be there with you, can join in on the excitement!
So there you go, a quick guide to attending film festivals as a filmmaker, and I hope I’ve imparted some knowledge and tips that you’ll find handy the next time you’re attending. Good luck, happy watching, happy talking, happy wheeling and dealing, and never forget, watching a lot of films and having endless meetings is as much a physical challenge as it is a mental one, so prepare for it.
Check out Part 2 next week where I’ll deal with looking for sales agents, distributors, and how to utilise festivals with getting future projects off the ground.