Definition September 2023 - Web


Definition: What advice would you give someone who’s submitting to a film festival? Cara Cusumano (festival director & VP of programming, Tribeca Festival): Plan for a festival run the same way you would for every other aspect of producing your film. You should have a strategy, timeline and budget. Peter Hall (film & TV festival programmer, SXSW): Look into the festival’s history. Learn what they’ve played in recent years, what their programme tends to look like, and be honest about whether or not you feel your film would fit alongside what they’ve played in the past. Try to find festivals that seem like the closest fit communications manager, Cambridge Film Festival): A film that aligns with our festival’s ethos of promoting independent films and ensuring representation – with 50% of our screenings from female or non-binary directors – stands a good chance. CC: Think about what you are getting out of each festival you play and how you are maximising those opportunities. Don’t submit just to submit, or to collect as many laurels as possible, but think about how your festival run will help you and your film. for your film and start there. Owen Baker (marketing & OB: It may sound obvious, but ensure your film is finished before submitting. Reviewers base their judgement on the submitted version, not an implied future version. A late, but complete entry stands a far better chance than an incomplete, early submission. Def: What do festival programmers look for in a submission? PH: There’s no singular element that programmers look for – there’s not a skeleton key your film needs in order to get in – but generally speaking, a clear,

distinct filmmaking voice goes a long way. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a movie with a multi-million-dollar budget, or one that costs less than a used car; if there’s not a unified voice, if there’s not a clear perspective powering the filmmaking, it’s unlikely to stand out. OB: At the Cambridge Film Festival, our reviewers and programming panel are keen on a combination of technical proficiency, innovative storytelling, compelling performances and visual creativity. Films that resonate with the Cambridge audience always stand out. CC: I love to be surprised – in any way. When you watch hundreds of films, you see a lot of the same stories, themes and techniques. When I see something I’ve genuinely never seen before, you have my attention. Sometimes that’s a performance, humour, or a visual style. It’s not one thing we look for, more that the originality itself is exciting. Def: Are there any potential pitfalls applicants should avoid? OB: One that’s commonly overlooked is not thoroughly reading and following the submission guidelines. Many filmmakers, excited at the prospect of

festival inclusion, hastily submit their film without sufficient preparation. This can lead to potential disqualification, as the guidelines serve a critical purpose in facilitating the selection process. PH: Don’t submit to a festival you have no chance of getting into because you don’t meet the criteria. OB: Remember, even a masterpiece can be misplaced if it doesn't suit the festival's theme or objective. Submitting a brilliant action film to a documentary- focused festival won't serve you well. PH: Keep in mind the realities of festival scheduling. Have you made a short film that’s 37 minutes long, but submitted it to a festival that only programmes two different shorts blocks? Or a slow burn character study that’s three hours long? The longer a film is, the better it has to be, otherwise you’re running up against programmers who could fit multiple projects into your slot. You don‘t need to make a project as short as possible to increase chances, but you should keep runtime in mind. CC: Mind your deadlines! Def: How should filmmakers choose which festivals to apply to? OB: The choice of festival for submission should be an informed one. Each festival has a unique focus – be it independent

CELEBRATION OF FILM The Halftime world premiere at Tribeca Festival 2022 (above), Cambridge Family Film Festival (top right) and South by Southwest (right)



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