Issue 130 – Festival Tactics

| September 1, 2009

festivaltactics

When’s the right time to plan your festival strategy? Before you’ve even begun your film. Palm Springs Shortfest film curator and festival strategist Kathleen McInnis shares the secret to festival success.

Upon the (very) successful celebration of the Galway Film Fleadh’s 21st Anniversary, I was asked to write a forward-looking essay on film festival strategies for independent filmmakers. It is particularly fitting that as one cinematic institution reaches ‘adulthood,’ we reach out to filmmakers and ask them to do the same thing – be adults about the destiny of their work and their careers.

It is an unusual paradigm to propose to those creative talents who are unused to – and often untrained for – self-determination regarding their work. Filmmakers will often tell you the greatest challenge was in getting the film done. Exhausted by the end of production, many filmmakers can barely summon the strength to finish editing and mixing sound before collapsing with well-founded joy about ‘finishing’ the film.

But they are hardly finished.

In this, our brave new filmic world, a filmmaker is not ‘finished’ until the current project has fulfilled its destiny. This now can mean anything from theatrical release (a cynical ‘ha’ should be inserted here), to broadcast, to VOD, to pay-per-view, to mobile download, to internet distribution (using that word quite broadly), to DVD, or to niche marketing to ‘known or any and all unknown universes’ – which is my favourite contract phrase currently making the rounds.

What once was the job of distributors and agents and managers and producers is now oftentimes the domain of the filmmaker. Gone are the days of easy negative pickups and three-picture deals. Gone also are those brilliant arthouse cinema circuits, a screening at which could springboard a film’s life and a filmmaker’s career. What remains for the filmmaker, then, is to ply his wares and increase his profile on the global film festival circuit.

There are currently, by generally accepted estimates, 3,000 film festivals worldwide. Of these, only a few dozen have the kind of profile and prestige to offer filmmakers 100 percent bang for their buck. Another few can offer their filmmakers a decent, if not complete, percentage of return. The rest? Well, the rest can do little more than offer films a way to be seen by audiences around the world in a theatre, as they were intended. No small change, that. But with submission fees, postage and deliverables costing an average of $75 (approximately €53) per application, applying to just one percent of the world’s festivals could easily translate to enough money to add more shooting days to your schedule, real catering to your menu, or even a day’s work from a top-level actor.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 130.

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  1. […] Festival Tactics When’s the right time to plan your festival strategy? Before you’ve even begun your film. Palm Springs Shortfest film curator and festival strategist Kathleen McInnis shares the secret to festival success. Read more here […]