Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Business of Film Festivals

So many film festivals, so little time.

Since 2004, there have been over 650 film festivals in the US alone. That's almost 2 festivals per day. Many of these festivals charge average entry fees of anywhere from $25-$50. Some are lower (or even free), some are higher (Telluride charges $95 and selects only 20 feature films).

We recently submitted The Sacred to two festivals, Toronto International Film Festival and Toronto After Dark Film Festival. With submission fees and shipping costs it ended up costing us about $300 to do this. I dont know about you, but we've spent all our money just finishing the movie!

Toronto International was a long shot and we got the rejection letter from them at a nice price of $75. Toronto After Dark with our entry fee of $70 was the surprise. They only selected 17 features and 28 short films and got well over 700 submissions. So I started doing the math, let's see 700 x $55 average entry fee = $38,500.

I remember when we entered into Sundance 2009 (another long shot) and I got the rejection letter from Geoffrey Gillmore. He had said that they had to whittle down to 200 films from the 9,000 submitted. Yes 9,000!

So, of course I did the math and took the average from short films and feature entry fees and came up with this simple equation: $50 x 9,000 = $450,000

Almost a half of million dollars off the backs of independent filmmakers.

Where does all this money go? Hmmmmm.....since I have had the pleasure of volunteering for the Sundance Film Festival, I know it doesn't go to paying many people that actually work the festival. It could go towards paying the full timers or housing the volunteers.

When I worked the Sundance festival I was put on the staff that handled all the "official" Sundance parties. I was at a different party every night and they had free booze and great catered food and name bands and famous DJs. That memory comes back to me as I wonder where my entry fee went to in Sundance, Toronto, and After Dark.

And I wonder, how many "volunteers" played about 5 minutes of each film before tossing it aside. I know for a fact that a reputable film festival once had a not so reputable person in charge of it and his idea of selection was viewing only the first few minutes of a handful of films and pawning the rest off to his friends to make the selection. Thankfully that person has since been removed.

A number of unscrupulous individuals have also jumped on the film festival wagon and are putting up fraudulent film festivals. They can scam a filmmaker from the entry fee to the additional services like marketing materials. It's all a scam and beware of anyone who invites you to their festival and then wants you to pay. If you ever get an invitation it should always be free of charge.

Please learn from our mistakes, be wise, do research on the festival, see how many years its been in business, how many films are selected versus how many get submitted, and enter early to save money. On Withoutabox you can look up festivals that are specifically under $15 or free to enter. You can also sign up for discounts too. With over 2 film festivals happening per day there are many choices and many smaller festivals to suit your genre.

If you have to try the big dogs (Toronto, Sundance, Cannes, Berlin) know that it is like putting your money on only one number on the roulette wheel in Vegas.

Actually Vegas may have better odds.


Post a Comment