The top 5 things to help your film at festivals & the top 5 things to avoid

Written by Paul Bruce


A little while ago, Lee at Shore Scripts asked us to pass out the Skinny on what makes festival programmers get to like your films and what kind of things it’s best to avoid, so we put our heads together and by common consensus, we can positively recommend the list here, but there’s no doubt that numero uno on the top 5 things to do is:

1) Check Your File/disc/drive! Seriously, the number of films we get missing bits of the film, is beyond counting, so the golden rule here is, if it hasn’t been checked then it probably won’t play!

2) Make sure your film is as good as it can be. Nothing beats having a really great short. Don’t rush post-production because of deadlines, remember you can always submit it again next year! It’s always worth spending as much time on your film as you can, it’ll pay off when you do finally send it somewhere.

3) Follow the Guidelines as closely as possible- usually there’s a good reason for some seemingly arcane instruction, so if you aren’t sure then it’s always best to ask – just drop the festival an email and they’ll clear up any queries for you.

4) Make sure you have some back-up promo material for your film, stills, posters etc, different sizes and resolutions, or an EPK if you can. We can really use those if you get selected.

5) Select your festival carefully, think about where you’d like your film to play and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each festival on your list.

And on the other hand, for Pete’s sake, don’t….

  • Skimp on the sound mix! There’s nothing (much) more annoying than a good film ruined by a dodgy sound mix and too much DIY Foleying, so steady on there, you foley tigers and ask yourself if you really need that dripping sfx in every dungeon scene?
  • Forget to check your subtitling if it’s not in English and make sure the credits, titles and captioning are all correct!
  • Rely on your production values, make sure you have something to say and the film will take the viewer on a journey. Lots of films can look pretty good these days so don’t assume a big production will solve all your problems.
  • Send through lots of press material and images before your film has been selected for exhibition (though as per above, it’s great if you have a variety of this if and when your film is selected!
  • Get discouraged if your film doesn’t make the final cut. It really doesn’t mean you’ve made a bad film. Very often the final decision on programming is made on very fine margins

Hope this is useful and good luck!