A Filmmaker’s Response to Film Festivals
Film festivals are a mixed bag when it comes the effectiveness of exposure for a film. On one hand, getting your film shown at a film festival instantly gains you a laurel, you know, one of those leafy little graphics wrapped around the film festival name. You’re proud to show it off on any postcard, movie poster and disc jacket you have done up for your film. Having more than one laurel (in other words, getting into more than one film festival) is like winning more than one gold medal, you just wear them all!
However, on the other hand, depending on the size of the festival, you’re a small fish in a huge ocean when it comes to having a decent size audience actually see your film. I personally have been at film festivals where the audience was packed, slam full. But on the other hand I’ve been in theaters where there was myself and about five others. And I can pretty much assume at least one of the five was the director and the rest was the director’s family.
Large or small, the best thing that can happen for you having your film at a film festival is to maximize the opportunities to learn, observe and network. Learn from other filmmakers and other professionals in the industry from their experience. Observe other films and talk to the filmmakers. Get an insight as to how they made their film and what their experience was like. And network with others, you never know who you will meet and how they may have an impact on your current and/or future projects.
I had the pleasure of accompanying Scott to see ‘Becoming Fools’ at the Omaha Film Festival. We made the 12 hour trek to the great city of Omaha just recently. The film was to show on the last day of the festival so we had three days prior to see what other films were showing and get a gauge of what other selections were made. We saw both narrative and documentary films. I will have to say I was pleased to see that not only films are still being made with little to no budgets but that the quality of the films are getting better, even on such tight financial constraints. Some narrative films hosted talent by working actors, some even in popular tv shows and other films you may have seen. I think it’s safe to assume that many actors and actresses are doing these independent films for the love of what they do and their love for the story. I’m encouraged by this as we look forward to future productions.
Omaha Film Festival is only in it’s either year so it’s not as large as others but having been there two years prior for the showing of ‘Reparando’ I will say it has grown. That said, the film we saw seem to have an average audience size of 50-75 people. Some of the documentaries we saw had less. But even the short films group seem to draw the most, I would guess to maybe 100-150.
We woke up on the day of the showing for ‘Becoming Fools’ to about 6 inches of snow and more was coming! The film was showing at noon and by the time we arrived at the theater a few more inches had fell and the wind was kicking up gail force winds. Needless to say we were told some groups of people we were expecting were not going to be able to make it. I for sure thought that it would only be Scott and I, Amelia and their boys, Darlene and our friend Major in the theater. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that not only our local friends and family showed up in support but people as far away as Minneapolis drove through the crazy snow storm just to see the film! All total we had 50 people, not bad!
I won’t say it was a total waste of time and effort. In fact, probably the opposite. We made a few more friends, got great feedback about the film and even planted a seed about where we are going from here to the festival producers. As I stated earlier, the best thing to do as a filmmaker at film festivals is to maximize your opportunities to learn, observe and network. I think we did just that!