Top 5 Film Festival SCAMS Filmmakers Need to Be Aware Of!
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 you 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!
Right click here to download the MP3 (Transcription of the episode below)
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Film Festival Hacks: How to Submit Like a Pro (Click here for 20% OFF the Course)
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
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- SkillShare – IFH Discount
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Transcription – Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode #98.
Welcome to the Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode Number 62.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”, Pablo Picasso.
Broadcasting from the back alley in Hollywood. It’s the Indie Film Hustle Podcast where we show you how to survive and thrive as an indie filmmaker in the jungles of the film business and here’s your host Alex Ferrari.
Welcome my Indie film hustlers to another episode of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast. I am your humble host Alex Ferrari. Don’t forget to head over to freefilmbook.com That’s freefilmbook.com to download your free film audio book from Audible. And today’s show is sponsored by Film Festival Hacks, how to submit your film like a pro and you can download that at filmfestivalhacks.com . 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 want to talk about scams in film festivals you know I’ve been in over six hundred film festivals with all of 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 want 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 and it depends on the festival I mean it could be as low as ten bucks or five bucks. I’ve even seen are free. All the way up to fifty bucks for some of the bigger festivals so anywhere. Honestly that the magic numbers are twenty to fifty bucks generally speaking for short films. For feature films it’s going to be anywhere from thirty five bucks to seventy five bucks for features at a film festival. Now if anything is higher than seventy five bucks. Unless you’re doing a late submission to Sundance or something along those lines. Stay away. It’s a scam. I’m going to give you a perfect example there was a New York Film Festival out years ago. For that’s first step number one first of all 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 love you to submit to our thing in New York and blah blah blah. Oh this is great it’s big, it’s New York. OK great. And how much is it like a one hundred fifty dollars. I was 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 later I didn’t do that one years later found out that those guys were scamming people left and right and you know they weren’t even playing some of the festivals. 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 for short films is one.
Another sign is that the festival has no sponsorships. Even the smallest Film Festival the smallest local film festival are going to have some local company, some local sponsors are going to help with getting the word out on the festival helping with prizes, something like that. So it generally if you don’t see sponsors who are supporting the local that festival generally means that they’re not legit. Because even the smallest guys are going to have some sort of Festival. So the another tip is Festivals who like to play the game of names as they say. A lot of times a film festival will name itself something very similar to a legitimate established film festival. So if it’s let’s say it’s the Anytown International Film Festival. Well this other step that’s the scam festival call themselves Anytime Film Festival, Anytown Film Festival or Anytown 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 Anytown 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. Those big cities they try to attach themselves to the legitimatacy 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. Are there. They have real credibility, a real prestigious before you start submitting because just because it says London Film Festival which sounds great. You know it looks 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 going to look out for is bad online word of mouth. So a lot of, if filmmakers have 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 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. They’re 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 just try to get you to submit. That’s where they’re making the money submission fees submission fees 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 Sundance they get I don’t know twenty thousand 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 are not 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. More legitimate ways so just be careful when you know you look at these festivals it just come
out and they just want to pound you and pound you when they’re marketing you know with this perfect example. Another thing is will award so when you have a festival that has just a ridiculous excess amount of awards like best hair and best you know best sound in a horror movie and best sound in a drama and best kiss and all this kind of craziness all of a sudden. That’s all that is bait for filmmakers because they’re going to go or 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 festivals to have excess amount of awards because they just don’t mean anything and they won’t help you at all.
So if there was one hundred films and all of a sudden there’s a hundred awards. Well guess what that means everybody is a winner and it doesn’t really matter. So be very very careful about that. As 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 a theater. Now to rent, so they’re asking you to rent the theater to play your movie at their film festival. That’s completely in 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 films. 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 are 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. 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 your movie in a theater or in a screening of and 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 festivals out there and just like oh yeah we’re going to do private screenings and nobody from the public can come see it only only your friends or only people that you know do this or this. You have to run away because there are 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 your already spent one hundred fifty bucks because now you’ve already made that mistake and to get into this festival and they’re going to go OK you’ve won best picture but guess what you’re going to spend another one hundred fifty 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 can’t go to these Film Festival. So I’m really hoping that this information’s 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 scam Film Festival.
So always what I want. Big suggestion I would say. Review the awards given out at major festivals you know. So what ever those awards are, those are the kind of awards you’re looking for in these other film festivals that might not be as known to you. So if they’re giving out the similar awards to the top ten or fifteen 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 of everything I just told you. Run away. That’s all. 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 six free tips on how to get into Film Festivals for free or cheap. All you gotta do is go to filmfestivaltips.com that’s filmfestivaltips.com and you can download my PDF that gives you the six, the six tips on how I got into the majority of the six hundred 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 you take that course you will know everything you need to know about how to create a strategy. 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 really take advantage of what Film Festivals have to offer to you. So, you could always just go to filmfestivalhacks.com for that. So guys thanks again for listening as always. Don’t forget to head over to filmmakingpodcast.com 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. Thanks for listening to the Indie Film Hustle Podcast at indiefilmhustle.com that’s I N D I E F I L M H U S T L E .com