I’ve been at a fair share of film festivals in my life and I’ve submitted to many more than I’ve been accepted to. With that said I have seen many less than honorable film festival organizers throughout the process.
Now not all film festivals are run by grifters and con men but you need to be aware of the signs that a film festival you are submitting to may just be in existence to remove you from your hard-earned cash and not to celebrate amazing independent film and filmmakers.
I put together a few warning signs you should look out for when submitting to film festivals. Stay safe out there everyone!
Alex Ferrari 0:00
So guys, today I'm going to do a special episode I really wanted to kind of talk a little bit about this. And it's something I didn't talk about before, but I just kind of came up to me and you know, I wanted to talk about scams in film festivals. You know, I've been in over 600 Film Festivals with all my projects over the years. And believe it or not, there are some unscrupulous people out there who are willing to separate you, the filmmaker, from your money. It's I know it's hard to believe I know it's in today's world. I really I can't believe it myself. But I wanted to throw down a few tips for spotting a scam Film Festival. Now, I'm going to do a little disclaimer here. I'm going to say most film festivals out there are legit. Most of them are not unscrupulous most of them do a great job and they want to celebrate film. And they want to celebrate filmmakers. And they want to get the magic of cinema out there for the public. But there are a few people who are out there to just make a buck. So first and foremost. So tip number one, high entry fees for short films. If more normally short films are going to range anywhere depends on the festival. I mean, it could be as low as 10 bucks or five bucks. I've even seen or free, all the way up to 50 bucks for some of the bigger festivals. So anywhere, honestly that the magic numbers are 20 to 50 bucks. Generally speaking, for short films, for feature films, it's going to be anywhere from 35 bucks to 75 bucks for features at a film festival. Now, if anything is higher than 75 bucks, unless you're doing late submission to Sundance or something along those lines. Stay away. It's a scam. And I'm going to give you a perfect example. There was a New York Film Festival years ago I'm not even sure of the probably not around after them scamming so many people but they contacted me because they had seen that I'd want a whole bunch of festivals. So that's step number one when a festival contacts you not a good generally not a great idea, again, unless it's a legitimate Film Festival. But these guys emailed me and said, Hey, we'd love you to submit to our pro tour thing in New York and blah, blah, blah. I'm like, Oh, this is great. It's big. It's New York. Okay, great. And how much is it like $150 I'm like, what, like that seems extremely high, like, oh, but you're guaranteed a screening at our festival. So that basically is just they're just paying for screening room if there's actually a screening room at all. So years late, I didn't do that one years later, I found out that those guys were scamming people left and right. And you know, they weren't even playing some some of the festivals, or some of the films weren't even being played. They were just taking the money and running. So please be careful with that. So high entry fees or short film is one. Another sign is that the festival has no sponsorships. Even the smallest Film Festival, those smallest local Film Festival are going to have some local companies some local sponsors are going to help with getting the word out on the on the festival, helping with prizes, something like that. So generally, if you don't see sponsors, who are supporting the local that Film Festival, generally means that they're not legit because even the smallest guys are going to have some sort of festival so the other Another tip is festivals who like to play the game of names as they say, a lot of times a film festival will name will name itself something very similar to a legitimate established Film Festival. So if it's, let's say it's the any town International Film Festival, well, this other set fest the scam festival will call themselves anytime Film Festival, any town Film Festival or any town Short Film Festival or something like that. But kind of like they'll try to use as many of the exact same words as humanly possible to kind of put it all together. So to kind of give the illusion that they are that person. So when you're looking quickly and you're submitting. Oh, that's any town festival. I've heard of them. Let me Submit. So be very careful with that. Another thing they like to do is add a big cities name in the title. So Hollywood, London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, those big, fat those big cities, they try to attach themselves to the digit that legitimacy of those cities in the prestige of those cities to make themselves look bigger. So be aware, always dig a little deeper to make sure that the festivals in these big cities have real history have a real, they've been around for a while or they're they have real credibility or real prestige before you start submitting because just because it says London Film Festival, which sounds great, you know, it looks odd like oh, I won the London International Film Festival, I won the London Short Film Festival, just because it says London or Hollywood or New York or LA or any big city, Paris or anything like that. Be very, very aware of that. Another thing you guys got to look out for is bad online word of mouth. So a lot of it filmmakers I've noticed that if they get screwed or scammed, they go out of their way to make sure that everybody knows about it. So all you have to do is type in this this thing called Google to type in the name of the festival and then use the word scam or complaints. And you'll be amazed at what comes up if you start seeing a lot of complaints and issues with the festival just run away their bad news guys, and I would stay away as far as you can from them. If filmmakers are going out of their way to write bad reviews, I'm not talking about one or two reviews. But if you see multiple reviews on multiple different sites, especially sites that review film festivals are in this world, stay away, just stay away from them and make sure that they are not just changing their name quickly to kind of move along and see if they can scam you other ways. You know a lot of Listen guys, a lot of times festivals will will just try to get you to submit that's where they're making their money submission fee submission fee submission fees. Generally speaking, most legitimate film festivals don't make a tremendous amount of money from submission fees. So because they're not getting as many submissions, so like someone like slam Sundance, they get, I don't know, 20,000 submissions or something like that, well, the money they make from the submissions pretty much just pays the staff just to look through it. So normal festivals aren't making all their money from submission fees, as a general statement, they're going to be making it from sponsors, they're going to be making it from other areas selling t shirts and things like that at the festival are legitimate ways. So just be careful when when you look at these festivals it just come out and they just want to pound you and pound you and when they're marketing. You know what this is a perfect example. Another thing is will award so when you have a festival that has just ridiculous excess amount of award, so like best hair and best, you know, best sound in a horror movie and best sound in a in a drama and best kiss and all this kind of craziness. All of a sudden, that's all that is is bait for filmmakers because they're going to go Oh, I have, I'm going to get an award or something like that. And they're just baiting filmmakers to submit submit Submit. So be very, very careful about festival to have excess amount of awards because they just don't mean anything in they won't, they won't help you at all. So if there was 100 100 films, and all of a sudden there's 100 Awards, well guess what that means everybody's a winner, and it doesn't really matter. So be very, very careful about that. Another thing that I've seen, which is kind of just mind numbing, and it gets me so angry, is when festivals charge you for extra screenings. It Believe it or not, they will sit there and they will say if you want another screening of your feature or your film, you're going to have to pay to rent the theater. Now they're to rent so they're asking you to rent the theater to play your movie at their film festival. That's completely and utterly wrong. Please run away if anyone ever says anything like that. Another thing you should always look out for is who's judging these Film Fest? These film festivals who are judging the film's see what see see if there's any basic information on their website and who's judging it like the names of the people the credentials? What is the judging process? When is the judging process going to take place? And how it all works? If you don't see anything in regards to the judging process, again, stay away legitimate festivals completely transparent about how they're judged who's judging them, and so on. Another thing is, are there any public screenings of the films in the film festival so as a film festival, you should have a public screening. It's simple, right? A public screening for your film. So that means that a whole bunch of people from the public will come in and watch a movie in a theater or in a screening event in a screening venue of some sort. And that's a public screening if there are no public screenings whatsoever also run away. So if the festival is out there and just like oh yeah, we're just gonna do private screenings and nobody from the public can come see it only only our friends or only people that you know, do this, this or this. You have to run away because they're also another scam. Another thing that drives me nuts is once you've won one of these many awards at this festival, they'll try to charge you for the award. So let's say you've already spent 150 bucks because now you've already made that mistake, and to get into this festival and they're gonna go Okay, you won Best Picture. But guess what, you're gonna have to spend 150 bucks for this cool shiny new trophy. Wrong, no legitimate festival charges you for awards. So again, run away Do not do, do not you go to these film festivals so I'm really hoping that this information is helping you guys out I want you to be safe. And it's tough enough being an independent filmmaker out there without being robbed left and right by by scam Film Festival so I'm always what I wouldn't big suggestion I would say is review the awards given out at major festivals you know. So whatever those awards are, those are the kind of awards you're looking for in in these other film festivals that might not be as known to you. So if they're if they're giving out the similar awards to the top 10 or 15 Award, film festivals around the world, then by all means, submit, but make sure to do your research guys. And again, all festivals run on different rules. So some of them will do a couple of one or two of these things maybe. But look for patterns if there's a lot of boxes are being checked off with everything I just told you run away, that's all but but again, some festivals will charge a little bit more if they're more prestigious. Some festivals have you know a big city name in it, you might have not heard about them. But just do your research, look for patterns in what they're doing to see if this really is going to work out for you or not. So nothing I've said here is gospel. But these are just some tips that I've seen over the course of my career and wanted you guys to stay safe. That's all so I hope this was helpful to you guys. I really do. And if you want to get I have a six free tips on how to get into film festivals for free or cheap. All you got to do is go to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm and you can download my PDF that gives you the six the six tips on how I got into the majority of those 600 Film Festivals for cheap or free. And of course, if you guys want to go more deep into the film festival world, you can always get our course me and Chris Hollins from Film Festival secrets course Film Festival hacks, it is the festival Film Festival course. After that after you take that course you will know everything you need to know about how to create a strategy what to what to avoid what not to avoid what kind of technical specifications you need. The processes inside and out you will know everything about Film Festival submissions, and how to how to really take advantage of what film festivals have to offer you so you could always just go to film festival hacks comm for that. So guys, thanks again for listening. As always, don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast COMM And leave us a honest hopefully a good review of the show. It really helps us out a lot gets the word out on indie film, hustle, the podcast and all we're doing to try to help filmmakers survive and thrive in the film business. So, as always guys, keep the hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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