IFH 046: Film Festival Hacks: Secrets on How to Get Your Film Accepted

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Getting into a film festival is getting tougher and tougher every day. Indie filmmakers can end up spending thousands and thousands of dollars submitting to every film festival around, and there are a ton. At last count, there were over 3000 film festivals around the world. That’s a lot of submission fees.

When I was doing my rounds with my films I learned a few things. A few tricks that I put into a FREE eBook: “Six Tips to Get into Film Festivals for cheap or FREE.”

This eBook was such a success that the Indie Film Hustle Tribe kept reaching out to me to create some sort of “master class” on film festivals. Well, I heard the call and teamed up with arguably one of the leading voices in film festivals Chris Holland from FilmFestivalsSecrets.com.

We got together and create a one of a kind resource for any filmmaker even thinking of submitting to a film festival. We call it Film Festival Hacks!

In this episode, I give you a SNEAK PEEK at Film Festival Hacks and let you listen to a FREE lecture from the course. So get ready to take notes and have a taste of Film Festival Hacks.

Oh, before I forget Chris Holland is also giving you another FREE sample of the course on his podcast so when you are done listening to this head over there for more FREE content.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
As many of you guys already know, a lot of I've been in a lot of film festivals over the course of my career about almost closing in on 600 Film Festivals with all my, my projects I've produced and directed myself. So I have a very unique perspective on film festivals and how to get into film festivals. And you know the techniques behind that and the psychology behind film festivals, what they can do for you what they can help you with and so on now, my buddy over at Film Festival secrets calm Chris Holland, we decided to get together and create the ultimate resource for all filmmakers in regards to film festivals. And we're calling it Film Festival hacks. As you can see, that is a pattern with a lot of the courses and material that I've been putting out lately. But it is a hack. Me and Chris got together and design this course because we saw a need in the marketplace, there is no course available anywhere online or offline. Really breaking down the the weight and really it takes to get into film festivals, how to use Film Festival festivals properly, how to leverage film festivals properly not to spend tons and tons and tons of money. It's a mystery to most filmmakers it was to me when I started. And the brilliance of this course that we put together is that we have both sides of the badge. As Chris says, Chris is on the other side, Chris, for you guys who don't know, has been in the behind the scenes at film festivals for the better part of over a decade. And he's been just on the front lines of film festivals helping filmmakers get their films into film festivals. And when the opportunity came about for us to work together, we thought it would be very interesting to get both sides of the badge, one behind the scenes of what it takes to actually put a film festival together, what film festivals are looking for, how their processes are behind the scenes, and then also the perspective of a filmmaker who has gone through this process so many times and seeing what film festivals have actually done for the filmmaker for films, how we were able to leverage them, how I was able to make money off of them. And then who would who to spend money on as far as submissions, to who not to shoot, we all go to Sundance, should we all not go to Sundance, all these kind of questions. So we decided to put this amazing course together. And it's over four and a half hours, of course that we've put together. And honestly, you know, if you're a filmmaker who wants to get into film festivals, this resource is invaluable. I wish I would have had it. When I was first starting out. It is so chock full of stuff and so well organized and put together if I do say so myself, Chris and I really worked hard on this. And I wanted to give you guys a free preview of one of the lectures. Now this lecture covers how to market your film, to film festivals, which is something that filmmakers Don't think about. Because film festivals are a client, they're a customer, they're there's somebody who wants your product, your product is your film. So if you don't market your product your film properly, the chances of you getting into film festivals are nil to none, and you're just gonna waste money and so on. So this whole lecture we talked about that and it's about 10 minutes long so really gives you an idea of kind of the in depth stuff that we're going to go over in the course itself. So take a listen. And when you come back, I'm going to give you a URL to get a super discount off the course. So get a pen and paper together or an iPad and start taking some notes because there's going to be a lot of knowledge bombs dropped in this sneak preview of Film Festival hacks.

So everyone always talks about marketing your film and marketing how to get it out to the public and get it out to the audiences and how to be able to sell your movie but the one thing that they don't talk about is that if you're trying to go down the festival circuit you have to market to film festivals. film festivals are your customers, so you have to figure out what that customer wants. So you can sell them that product, which is your film. And that's so so important when going down the festival circuit. And that's why so many people waste so much money, and so much time waiting. You know, like if you're doing a slasher film, and you expect to get into Sundance for competition, that's probably not going to happen, because I don't remember a slasher film going through Sundance, and it's in competition and the last 20 years. So that's probably not the best thing. But you're killing yourself to try to get to that deadline to submit to Sundance, which I do, every every season, I get bombarded with films and my post company, all we're running to get out to to Sundance and I look at the movie, I'm like, there's like, you really don't have a chance. But with that said, I did that with one movie. And it won two awards, a Sundance, but it wasn't a slasher film. But anyway, so Chris, what are your thoughts on that?

Chris Holland 5:55
Well, I think that's that's very well said that, you know, you're in this ecosystem of business, and everybody's looking to make, you know, not necessarily money, but they're looking to make something out of the experience. For festivals, they have an audience to serve, they want to put butts in seats. So they're going to pick films that speaks to their audience. They also have, you know, a desire to build prestige and credibility for themselves. And you know, to do that, sometimes they have to defy those audience expectations, and program, something that maybe the audience isn't going to be into, without, you know, and they also have sponsors to satisfy the sponsors really want to see full theaters. So all of these things sort of mixed together into the festivals list of things that they want from a film. And you need to know that your film is a good fit for that festival. If you ever hope to get the film in. A lot of filmmakers resist the idea of simply going to their niche. They got a horror film, and they think, oh, our horror phone is so special. It transcends the horror genre, right? No, probably.

Alex Ferrari 7:10
It transcends horror films.

Chris Holland 7:13
Well, and and, you know, every year or so there is a film that transcends the genre that, you know, that's well,

Alex Ferrari 7:21
that's the lottery ticket, though, isn't it? That's kind of like, that's the exception, not the rule. And that's whatever. Everyone's always sold a lottery ticket, but no one and everyone knows they always shown the winner of the lottery, but they don't see the millions and millions of people who didn't win the lottery. That's that's marketing. That's Hollywood is a general statement.

Chris Holland 7:39
That's precisely correct. The biggest example from the last decade or so that I can think of, is Brokeback Mountain. You know, Brokeback Mountain was a, you know, an LGBTQ film that happened to transcend that genre and crossover into the mainstream. So for a good you know, a few years after that film came out, there were a lot of films that otherwise would have gone straight to the LGBTQ festival circuit that were submitting to regular old film festivals because they thought they could do the same thing.

Alex Ferrari 8:17
But But with that, but with that film, also, you had Ang Lee's the director, you had Heath Ledger, you had Jake Gyllenhaal. So it was it was an independent, but it wasn't an independent.

Chris Holland 8:28
That's that's exactly correct. But people took the wrong lesson from it. The lesson we took was, oh, audiences now you know, we'll watch you know, a film that's primarily about the gay experience. And you know, maybe my phone can do that, too. So a lot of time and energy and money got wasted for people, you know, sort of pursuing that dream. The same thing happens with you know, any niche you can think of, whether it's science, fiction, horror, whether it's Asian, whatever, I think, if you want to be successful, particularly starting out, you need to look at what you've got, and make sure that you've got you know, in in startup parlance, you have product market fit, and try to break out of that market. You know, don't put all your eggs in that make sure that you, you know, can go back to your base, and that you've got them as your safety school or whatever, you know, before your entire festival run is ruined.

Alex Ferrari 9:28
I was watching a documentary The other day about clerks, which is a very famous Sundance, you know, winner and or I don't even know if it won or not, but it got picked up by Harvey then that Harvey Weinstein in that in that year, and then the year right after, there was like, 4500, clerk ripoffs being sent because like, Oh, well, I could do that. I'm like, Yeah, but that that was a magical time. And that specific thing. Yeah. One thing that I think a lot of people don't really get with film festivals is that it's a business. They have, they're in the business of putting assets in seats, because the more assets are in seats, they can get more sponsorships, they can make more money, and they can get more prestige and all that stuff. So one thing I noticed within my festival runs with my films is I had a movie called broken that had no stars. And it was an action movie. We ran 20 minutes. And then I had a movie right after Well, a few years later, that had Robert Forster and had Richard Tyson, who is a face that people would recognize who was in Kindergarten Cop and three o'clock high and to a certain generational, he's he's people who they know it's been a lot of movies. And I had one of the bond girls in it. And that movie I submitted and all of a sudden doors opened wider because of the star power. And I realized at that point, I was like, Oh, my god, they're not above star power. Of course. They're not above it at all. I remember going to Sundance and sitting down on a short film block that they put together. And I saw this horrendous short, horrendous with it was a bat It was a guy dressed up as Batman, and a guy dressed up as Robin on a date, and how Batman kept hoarding in on Robin. He's like, Hey, I'm Batman, you know, you want to go in and do all that stuff. If it wasn't for the stars, who were Sam, Sam, Sam Rockwell, and Oh God, the Justin lien, the guy was the apple commercials. Justin Long, thank you. Those were the two stars in it. And I'm sitting there thinking I'm like, Well, if it wasn't for those two guys in it, this would have never in a million years been programmed at Sundance. But there you go. So never underestimate the power. Even on a short film of stars, the more star power you have, the better chances you have of getting, getting asses in seats in that story that we talked about in a previous lecture about that Oscar winner, guess what, they had a hell of a good festival run, because they had an Oscar winner in that was their big selling point. And they had other Oscar nominees in that movie as well. So never underestimate. What are your thoughts about that and your experiences with stars? And you know, that kind of stuff?

Chris Holland 12:12
Well, two things. I think your Batman and Robin movie of the probably wouldn't have gotten into Sundance without name actors would have done fairly well otherwise correct. Pop Culture parodies are? So of course, you know, a lot of that presupposes that you're thinking about festivals and higher films gonna do at festivals when you're producing your film. And that is not the case. I mean, I would wager that's probably not the case for most of the people who are watching this now, right? Right there people, you know, people don't think about festivals until after they're in it. But for your next film, you know, if festivals are a big part of what you want out of the experience, then maybe you should think about, you know, the subject matter and the people you can get in it. And what sort of already popular things that you know, it's the indie filmmakers version of franchising, right? Right, Hollywood is going to make the sequel to whatever popular thing or comic book or whatever, as long as they can, because they know there's a guaranteed audience for him. And the same thing applies to parodies and pop culture, references, and name actors and all that kind of stuff. There's a built in audience. So some percentage of festivals are pretty much automatically going to take it. That's part of product market fit, knowing that and being able to capitalize on that is part of product market fit. Is it artistically, you know, pristine? No, absolutely not. And if you're in it to make the art, you need to make some peace with the idea that your art is going to appeal to fewer people than the Batman parody. That's just how it is.

Alex Ferrari 13:48
You know, absolutely, no, absolutely. And I think a lot of people have this problem with artists and directors and filmmakers have this general problem of not thinking of their movie, like a product. And at the end of the day, it's a product, you're trying to sell it. Now if you're trying to make a movie, just to express yourself as an artist, and you don't really care and yourself finance, and you don't care about making money, then there's definitely places for those kind of movies. But generally speaking, filmmakers want to make money with their movie so they can continue to make movies. So if you start thinking about your movie as a product, and then selling that product, or marketing that product to film festivals, then you will go farther as a filmmaker, I think, then if you just think of it as art for the art sake, because that's where I've seen so many filmmakers are like I'm an artist, I'm like, great, but if you're not a business person, or don't understand the marketing aspect of things, or understand how this business because it's called show business and the word business is longer than the word show for a reason. Without it, you can't move forward as a filmmaker, you have to understand that that thing and then how festivals are part of that plan with selling your Product

Chris Holland 15:00
Yep, they're your reseller festivals are reselling your movie to the end audience and the reseller has goals to, and you know, your film needs to help them move those goals forward. Generally speaking, it's really hard to make pure art and be a commercial success. So you need to figure out which side of the line you want to be on and, and how to accomplish that.

Alex Ferrari 15:25
So on our next lecture, we're going to talk about researching these festivals researching how you should attack the festivals as far as how you should submit, who should submit to, what festivals are the right fit for you, like what Chris was talking about a little bit about product, and someone who wants that kind of product, and so on. So that's what we'll talk about in the next lecture. And I'll talk to you guys in the next one. I hope you guys got a lot out of that little free preview of Film Festival hacks. You know, I you know, a lot of you guys who've been to the site know that I give away a free six secrets to how to get into film festivals for cheap or free. And it's something that's really dear to my heart, because I know a lot of filmmakers really don't have an any idea of actually what to do with festivals, and what kind of strategies to put together? What should I spend money on? What should I spend money on, you know that I spent over $1,000 on my first short film on submission fees, to a certain point, I just decided, you know what, I'm not going to do it anymore. And then I started applying a lot of the techniques in those six secrets to get in for free. So as promised, if you guys want to get a huge discount, we're going to be selling it for $97 for the course. But if you guys go to film festival hacks.com that's film, festival hacks, calm, you'll get it for 25 bucks. So basically, for the price of a film festival submission fee, you get an insane amount of knowledge. So we're gonna have it for 25 bucks for a fee for probably about two weeks or so after the airing of this podcast. So definitely go and running grab those as soon as humanly possible. So that is Film Festival hacks.com. And as another bonus, because I'm just handing out bonuses left and right today, Chris has also decided to give you guys a free sneak peek of the course on his podcast, as well. So he's going to be giving you a whole other lecture for free on his podcast. And you can find that at Film Festival secrets.com forward slash podcast, that's Film Festival secrets.com forward slash podcast, or you can click on the link that I leave in the show notes. Now a lot of you guys have reached out to to me over the months that indie film hustle has been around and asked me how can I support indie film hustle? How can I help you keep doing what you're doing. And the way I've decided to do that is by creating value a lot of value for you, as opposed to just asking you to support us and give us money or anything like that I want to give you something in return more so than all the free content that I give you. In putting these kinds of courses together, I have a whole bunch of courses coming out. We have some big announcements coming up in the next few weeks, and being able to give you even more access more great value to help you guys on your journey as filmmakers. So by buying this, these courses that we've been putting out Film Festival hacks, filmmaking, hacks and Twitter hacks that really helps indie film hustle out a lot helps me out a lot to keep doing this because guys, you know, I run this entire thing by myself, this entire Empire, the entire indie film, hustle website and everything, the podcast I do everything myself. So it's really hard to keep doing this all so I do need some help. I do need some support to keep all this going as much as humanly possible because it is a lot of work guys, trust me, this is an immense amount of work, especially with the big things that I'm going to be coming up with in 2016. It's even going to get bigger and deeper and harder for me to keep going. But I want to keep this up for you guys. I want to keep giving you all this good quality content. So by helping me out and buying these courses, it really helps support indie film hustle. So thank you guys, as always, and please don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us an honest review of the show. It really helps us get the word out on indie film, hustle and all the good work that we're trying to do for independent filmmakers. So thanks again guys. Keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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