There seem to be plenty of articles and blogs out there ripping apart film festivals. A quick Google search under film festivals waste of money turns up these screeching search results:
The Great Film Festival Swindle
Why I Will Never Pay a Film Festival Submission Fee Again
and my personal favorite -
An IW Investigation: The Dark Underbelly of the Film Festival Circuit ...
Swindles, dark underbellies...it's enough to make the most idealistic filmmaker into a suspicious and bitter cynic.
We've been where you are dear filmmaker. Sitting in front of a film festival website, ready to click a PayPal button to throw our most recent cinematic hat into the ring and wondering if it is worth paying the submission fee. First I'll tell you what motivates our decisions when submitting to film festivals then I'll go into the 2017 DITR Fest to see if it is worth it for you to enter.
When we complete an official DITR movie - whether it is a short or a feature - there is a meeting to determine its "festival viability". This simply means we take a good hard look at it and decide if it's good enough - does it look and sound professional, are all of the performances effective, was the story and plotting realized. If we all say yes, we go to step 2.
Step 2 is to show it to select colleagues...the ones who are honest and thoughtful enough to give us coherent feedback. They are a mix of industry people and true movie lovers...the types of folk who love to go to film festivals. If they all are in the (at least mostly) positive column, we go to step 3.
Step 3 is one that I think too few indie filmmakers take and that is to get reviewed by indie film review websites. This is a very underrated method of getting true objective feedback for a very reasonable fee (often cheaper than a typical film festival submission). Some sites that provide this very needed service which we have used are:
We will usually submit to at least two or three of these sites. They all have a very reasonable fee for the writing, feedback and publicity they provide for your movie. A couple of these sites don't even charge for their services (but please donate money to them anyway for their time and work)!
Of course, we at Diamond in the Rough Films also provide this service as well.
If the feedback we get from these sites is just middle of the road/average, then we will most likely only enter some very local film festivals with entry fees under $30 or so. If we get in, we will happily attend in person and be available for press/q&a sessions there. If the reviews are good, we will expand the "net" to film festivals within the state of California - ones we can still drive to so we can easily attend in person.
And attending in person is the key to film festivals in our opinion. First off they are fun - getting to see unusual films in an excited atmosphere is cool. Plus, every film festival we have ever attended has treated us with total courtesy and respect. You will also meet other filmmakers and talking with them and connecting is always valuable. We have had so much fun at film festivals that it inspired us to start our own to try and help other filmmakers. So how do we try and do that and why should someone enter their film into the 2017 Diamond in the Rough Film Festival?
I'm not going to use this space to "sell" you on our film festival (or film festivals in general). I will however lay out what matters to us as filmmakers and how we try and pass that on to the entrants and patrons.
First, we do our very best to make sure the projection is crisp, the sound is clear and it starts on time. How your film looks and sounds on the big screen is a priority for us.
Second, Diamond in the Rough Films wants to meet you, talk with you and tell everyone that they need to see your film. If we programmed it, we firmly believe in it and enthusiastically so.
Third, we are just not in this for the money. Film festivals are not an easy way to make money. At all. We do not have thousands of submissions paying huge entry fees (current number of submissions - 101). Any money we have left over after the immediate expenses goes right into press, marketing and prizes/gifts for the filmmakers. In fact, if any film festival makes any sort of "real" money I'd be skeptical of it.
Fourth, we are working every day to see that as much press attends each screening as possible. We want your film to be written about and shouted from the rooftops.
Finally, we are passionate about getting your film onto the radar of distributors who can provide you with an opportunity to compensate you for your hard work. You took a big financial risk (not to mention the time put in) to make a movie. We want you to make it back and then some because it played at our festival.
It really all comes down to those things. We love films and filmmakers and want to showcase as many films as we can afford to. We love providing a unique event for our community. We want to give indie filmmakers encouragement and support to keep making films as much as possible.
But only you really know if it is worth it to enter your film in a film festival. My e-mail door is always wide open for feedback, suggestions, comments and concerns. Are there crooked festivals trying to get your money? Sure. Are some festivals just in it for the fame/glory/money? Almost certainly.
Can a film festival provide you with a powerful perspective and experience? Absolutely.