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Why You Shouldn’t Care About Getting Rejected From Film Festivals (and Some Tips on How to Get Accepted)

Film theory

Noam Kroll is an award winning Los Angeles based filmmaker and founder of the boutique post-production company Creative Rebellion. In his latest guest post for Indiewire, he writes about why getting accepted into a film festival is no longer essential for getting your independent film out into the world. Check out Kroll’s blog here, and Creative Rebellion here.


One of the worst feelings for filmmakers is the disappointment that surrounds the opening of a dreaded rejection letter from a film festival. Many of us feel that festivals are the key to our success and growth as filmmakers so naturally, when we don’t get accepted, it can be a tough pill to swallow. This year, I was fortunate enough to have been brought on board as the short film programmer for an excellent festival in Los Angeles (DFFLA), and sending out my share of rejection notices really put things in perspective for me. Below I’ll share my two cents on why getting rejected from a festival often has nothing to do with the quality of your work, and what you can do to improve your chances.

I’ve directed many short films and have been lucky enough to have them screen at a number of festivals where, occasionally, they have even won awards. But I’ve also had many of those same films rejected from other film festivals as well, and I can certainly relate to the disappointment of not getting in. That said, it really wasn’t until this year when I started working as a festival programmer that I truly understood the submission process including the massive amount of films that come in, and the extremely hard decisions that need to be made in order to take hundreds (or thousands) of films and cherry pick a few dozen of them to fill out various programming blocks.

Most filmmakers incorrectly assume that if their film was rejected, it was a direct result of their film itself not being strong enough. This could not be further from the truth. Yes, there are certainly films that get rejected because the production value is low, the script isn’t great, the acting is poor, etc. But generally these types of films are from filmmakers that are just starting out and haven’t yet honed their craft. They simply need more time to develop before their films are at the level that they will be accepted to film festivals. You may very well be at the point where the quality and substance of your films is quite strong and you’ve spent enough time developing your craft to know that your work is festival-worthy, which is why it is so frustrating when you don’t get in.

Sundance Film FestivalFestivals of all shapes and sizes receive a massive amount of submissions, and there are only a handful of slots open – meaning a very low percentage of films are accepted to any given festival. Many festivals can only take as little as 1% – 2% of the submitted films, which makes the decision making process extremely difficult. Also, most film festivals aim to have a well rounded program that consists of films of various genres, styles, and formats. This means that your odds of getting can be even further reduced (depending on the other submissions that come in), since your film likely only applies to one or two categories and those categories may have an abundance of submissions that year. For instance, if you submit your short horror film to a festival that only has 6 slots available in their horror program, your odds of getting into that particular festival are pretty slim. This is especially relevant if the festival happens to get loads of horror submissions that year. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone from submitting to festivals, as I truly believe that great films do rise to the top and get accepted. But there are many great films that don’t get accepted for various reasons. Your film might simply be too long to fit into a program, or it has already premiered (and the festival is looking for a world premiere status), or maybe another film already selected covers a similar theme or subject matter.

Festivals will always send out a rejection letter telling you that “there were so many great films this year” and that “hard decisions had to be made.” Having now programmed for a festival, I know just how true these statements are. There were some incredibly powerful and moving films that I screened for this year’s festival that couldn’t make the cut for various reasons – none of which had anything to do with the overall quality of the work. So at the end of the day, applying to festivals really comes down to a numbers game. If you submit to enough relevant festivals, you will start to get in. Even award-winning films don’t get into most festivals that they apply to, so don’t be discouraged or take it personally if the majority of festivals reject your work – it’s just how it goes. But remember that all it takes is one great festival to give you an acceptance letter and it will make the journey worth it.

There are many ways to improve your odds of getting into a festival, but probably the most important thing that you can do involves targeting your submissions. If you have an experimental genre film, go after genre festivals, or if you have a documentary, submit it to as many documentary-centric festivals as possible. Following this simple principle will mean your film has a much better shot of getting in, as there will be many more categories open for your film to potentially be programmed in. Also, make sure that if you are submitting through withoutabox (which most festivals will require), your film’s profile is engaging and complete, as it makes it much easier for festival programmers to organize and identify your film. Not to mention it’s a chance for you to write something original and really grab the committees attention right from the get go.

tribeca 2014Something else that you can do (once your film has already screened at a few festivals) is attempt to have other festivals curate your film. In other words, rather than submitting blindly through withoutabox, e-mail festival programmers directly and let them know your film is having a successful festival run. Most film festivals are looking for at least a handful of popular films that they can curate, so once you’ve been accepted to at least a few festivals you can really use this to your advantage.

The good news is that while it’s exciting getting accepted into a film festival, festivals are no longer the only route to success for independent films. Today, being selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick is considered to be as prestigious or exciting as getting into a major film festival, and many careers have taken off after distributing work online. That said, festivals are still very much a part of the equation, and should always be considered when formulating your film’s marketing strategy. If you can have a successful festival run, it will only fuel all of your other efforts (including an online push), and it will help immensely in getting it on the radar of more traditionally oriented industry professionals (like agents, managers and distributors), who will likely place a premium on those festival laurels.

Get out there and make the absolute best film that you can make. When it’s just right, submit it to as many targeted festivals as you can (knowing that you will only get into a few, no matter how great your film is), and then leverage your success to appeal to more festivals as the year goes on.

Source: www.indiewire.com

Attention, Filmmakers: 9 Tips for Maximizing Your Film’s Success on the Festival Circuit

Attention, Filmmakers: 9 Tips for Maximizing Your Film’s Success on the Festival Circuit

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As the director of The Portland Film Festival, I was recently invited to speak on a panel with other festival organizers called, “Maximizing Your Film’s Success on the Festival Circuit.”

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8 Tips to Make the Most of Film Festival Submissions

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This post was previously published on Seed&Spark’s blog and appears here with their permission.

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Here Are 10 Things Filmmakers Want Festivals to Do

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The torrential feedback to last week’s article 10 Things Every Film Festival Wants Filmmakers to Know warrants a response from filmmakers. As festivalsknow, filmmakers are the true heart and sole of a film festival. During my tenor with festivals, I have spoken to, or consulted with, hundreds of filmmakers. In the spirit of helping festivals understand filmmakers and with homage to Law & Order, these are their (and my) stories. 

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2014, Russia, 35' fiction film producer Mikhail Romanovskiy
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2014, Russia, 20' documentary producer Kirsten Gaynet
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2014, Russia, 16:07' fiction film producer Yury Sukhodolskiy
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2014, Russia, 42:52' documentary producer Olga Arlauskas
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2015, Russia, 90:02' fiction film producer Arseniy Gonchukov
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2015, Russia, 11:25' fiction film producer Efgraph Sorokin
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2015, Russia, 24:16' fiction film producer Dmitry Golubov
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2015, Russia, 24:42' fiction film producer Nikita Ordynskiy
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2015, Russia, 16:22' fiction film producer Anna Kott
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2015, Russia, 88:43’' fiction film producer Alexandr Kott
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2015, Russia, France, 51:28' documentary producer Egor Klimovich
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2015, Russia, 61:03' documentary producer Mariya Linder,Yakov Zakhvatkin
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2015, Russia, 12:22' documentary producer Ilya Zheltyakov
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2015, Russia, 09:00' fiction film producer Kirill Kosolapov
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2015, Russia, 25:02' documentary producer Kirill Burdov
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2015, Russia, 05:05' a one take fiction film producer Kristina Rabotenko
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2015, Russia, 09:59' documentary film producer Yuriy Kalyuzhniy
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2015, Russia, 14:30' fiction film producer Maxim Dashkin
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2015, Russia, Romania, 60:03’' documentary producer Sergey Kutsevalov
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2015, Singapore, Russia, 09:26' fiction film producer Maxim Dashkin
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2015, USA, 53:03' documentary producer Helga Landauer
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2015, Russia, 65:08 ' documentary producer Konstantin Smirnov
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2015, Belarus, 14:59' fiction film producer Mitry Semenov-Aleynikov
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2015, Italy, 17:37' fiction film producer Alina Gurinova
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2016, Russia, 16:01' fiction film producer Ekaterina Stashevskaya
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2016, Russia, 23:27' fiction film producer Andrey Egorov
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2016, Russia, 10:26' fiction film producer Yuriy Kalyuzhniy
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2016, Russia, 90' documentary producer Olga Arlauskas,Svetlana Gorlo
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2016, Russia, 23:40' fiction film producer Nina Vedmitskaya
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2016, Russia, 16:28 ' fiction film producer Elena Piskareva
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2016, Russia, 91:09' fiction film producer Vladimir Rudak
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2016, Russia, 15:58' fiction film producer Andrey Bulatov
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2016, Russia, 30:00' documentary producer Yuliya Kiselyova
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2016, Russia, 22:02' fiction film producer Alena Alenkina
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2016, Russia, 29:59' fiction film producer Yuliya Dmitriyeva
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2016, Russia, 26:59' fiction film producer Petr Levchenko
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2016, Russia, 15:22' documentary producer Karina Vilenkina
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2016, Russia, 93:06' documentary producer Natalia Gugueva
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2016, Russia, 29:47' fiction film producer Anna Simakova
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2016, Russia, 13:55’' fiction film producer Pavel Inin
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2016, Russia, 13:09' fiction film producer Evgeniya Duplyakina
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2016, Russia, 26:00' fiction film producer Veniamin Tronin
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2016, Russia, 22:29' documentary producer Nikita Tikhonov-Rau,Olga Arlauskas
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2016, Russia, 03:27 ' fiction film producer Vladimir Tsarenko
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2016, Russia, Greece, 99:39' documentary producer Mark Visioner
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2016, Russia, 24:20' fiction film producer Alexandra Sokolovskaya
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2016, Russia, 29:55' fiction film producer Tatiana Ra
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2016, Russia, 04:59' fashion fiction film producer Jana Nedzvetkaya
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2016, Russia, 28:00' fiction film producer Denis Lafanov
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2016, Italy, 13:09' fiction film producer Domenico Modafferi
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2016, Italy, UK, 29:08' documentary producer Gloria Aura Bortolini
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2016, Georgia, 08:00' fiction film producer Khukhua Tornike
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2016, Italy, 23:45' fiction film producer Adelmo Togliani
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2016, Russia, 109’' documentary producer Daniil Bondar
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2016, Russia, 21:03' fiction film producer Olga Shtol
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2016, Russia, Hungary, Belarus, 70:51' fiction film producer Lika Alekseeva
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2016, Russia, 10:30' fiction film producer Alexander Saltykov,Darya Homyakova
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2016, Russia, 13:14' fiction film producer Sasha Yastrebova
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2016, Russia, Spain, 50:07' documentary producer Algis Arlauskas
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2016, Russia, 96:58' fiction film producer Sergey Solovyov
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2016, Russia, 09:00' fiction film producer Julia Saponova
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2016, Russia, 22:36’' fiction film producer Konstantin Abaev
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2016, Russia, 14:15' fiction film producer Anastasiya Marsakova
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2016, Belarus, 23:22' fiction film producer Alexander Vysokovskiy
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2016, Russia, 29:59' fiction film producer Nika Barabash,Andreas Costandakes
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2016, Russia, 91:14' fiction film producer Kseniya Baskakova
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2016, Russia, 27:46’' animation producer Anna Danilova,Gala Yunevskaya
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2016, Russia, Moldova, Lithuania, 26:59' fiction film producer Evgeniy Maryan
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2016, Russia, 26:59' fiction film producer Evgeniy Puzyrevskiy
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2016, Abkhazia, Russia, 9:50' fiction film producer Tatiana Astapova
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2016, Russia, UK, 27:20' fiction film producer Alexander Mercury
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2016, Russia, 07:33' fiction film producer Daniil Demidov
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2016, Russia, 08:14' fiction film producer Pavel Ivanov
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2016, Russia, 22:24' fiction film producer Kirill Vasiliev
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2016, Russia, 21:14' fiction film producer Max Kubrinskiy
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2016, Russia, 59:45' documentary producer Maxim Kobzev
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2016, Belarus, 12:18' fiction film producer Artyom Lobach
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2016, Russia, 11:55' fiction film producer Arseniy Gonchukov
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2016, Russia, 14:41' fiction film producer Yuri Alessin
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2016, Belarus, 28:31' fiction film producer Victor Krasovskiy
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2016, Russia, 08:03' fiction film producer Olga Dibtseva
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2016, Russia, 83:00’' fiction film producer Boris Gouts
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2016, Russia, 13:36' documentary producer Zlata Oronova
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2016, Italy, 14:25' fiction film producer Antonin Bobo
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2017, Kazakhstan, 23:00' fiction film producer Aigul Axambiyeva
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2017, Russia, 30:58' fiction film producer Kseniya Tischenko
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2017, Russia, 24:22' fiction film producer Lolita Naranovich
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2017, Russia, 17:06' fiction film producer Denis Kudryavtsev
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2017, Russia, 85:28' documentary producer Yulia Kiseleva
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2017, Russia, 17:21' fiction film producer Vakhtang Khubutia
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2017, Russia, 09:30' fiction film producer Alexey Puchkovskiy
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2017, Russia, 79:38' fiction film producer Oleg Ageychev
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2017, Russia, 08:36' fiction film producer Victor Derebenko
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2017, Russia, France, Syria, 44:10' documentary producer Evdokiya Moskvina
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2017, Russia, 27' fiction film producer Sidorov-Frantsuzov
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2017, Russia, 25' fiction film producer Svetlana Sukhanova
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2017, Russia, India, 21:18' documentary producer Maria Khristoforova
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2017, Russia, 98:43' fiction film producer Vitaliy Manyukov
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2017, Russia, 28:00' fiction film producer Nikolay Kotyash
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2017, Italy, 08:46' fiction film producer Anna Yanovskaya
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