Updated: May 7, 2021
We love a good film festival. And when you are diving into your next project, we think you should too.
When we wrapped our first project “Capital Advice” in 2015, the first thought that popped into my mind was, what do we do with it? What do we do with a 23 minute pilot now that it’s done? We have no network contacts, no agency representation and we are new on the scene. How the hell are we going to get eyes on our work and take it further?
The answer was hitting the road and touring the festival circuit.
As independent creators, we were already taking a lot of matters into our hands. We were not greenlit by a network to move forward, we didn’t have a pitch meeting with a famous showrunner and we certainly didn’t have a studio budget to work with. We had ourselves and our mouths to get the word out about our show and that was it.
The goal when we submitted to film festivals wasn’t
necessarily to get into every one. Sure, we wanted to get into as many as possible (I will take any excuse to travel) , but not every festival is a fit for your project, and that is okay! The goal was to get our work seen by as many people as possible and connect with people that were doing the same things we were doing since we were just getting started and knew we needed a little push in the right direction. We wanted to meet creators from all over, learn their tricks, get feedback on our work and who knows, maybe collaborate down the line! You never know who you are going to meet at these things; we had a two time Oscar winning director catch our pilot by chance in South Florida. Talk about timing.
When we began submitting, we combed FilmFreeway for hours reading reviews, researching previous lineups and attendees and figured out what category our project could be submitted for. Based on those specs, we submitted. By focusing our attention to these details, we were able to really find an audience for our show, see what they responded to, and figure out how to move forward with our project in the best way possible.
Before I go any further I must stress; there are more film festivals out there in addition to Tribeca, Sundance, SXSW, Toronto etc. Those festivals are fabulous, offer a ton of press and are an incredible opportunity as we all know. But they aren't the only ones. There are also a LOT of other festivals that are located in smaller markets that can offer a lot to you as an indie creator, you just have to look for them. I’ll be sure to do a follow up that highlights are favorites and why they are so great, especially when you are first getting out there!
Once we hit the road, the networking began. We attended nearly every festival “Capital Advice” got into and our roster spanned multiple states. We got to attend hours of panels with buyers, showrunners, producers & managers. We got to see our show play a sold out screening and get an amazing response from audiences on multiple occasions. We got direct feedback from Emmy nominated writers and producers that helped us figure out what our show needed and what worked. We were nominated and won awards for our performances on screen and work behind the scenes which was a huge morale boost. We got to meet so many talented independent creators and learn their best practices (we still keep in touch with a lot of them even five years later!) and get inspired as they talk about what’s next for them.
Most importantly, our work was seen and validated by hundreds of people which is an incredible feeling and truly the most rewarding of all. There is nothing like a total stranger walking up to you and saying “I really loved your work and would love to see more.” Whether they meant it or were just being polite, it’s a boost. Something like that stays with you and keeps you going.
The film festival circuit allows you to get your show on the big screen in front of an audience of people you don’t know, which is an eye opener. After what's likely been the same set of eyes combing your work for months, it's good to have a fresh set looking at it and take in what you've created. It serves as an unbiased metric and provides a great opportunity to gain valuable feedback. Touring also allows you to become familiar with different markets and take in other work that could very well inspire your next big idea. It allows you to bring your cast and creative team to an event that could afford them the opportunity to shake hands with someone that could give them their next break or a compliment that keeps them energized and motivated. It’s a period of time where you are surrounded by a bunch of people doing exactly what you love to do and celebrating their work. How can you not feel jazzed after spending time in an environment like that?
We encourage all of you that need your projects to be seen to take it on the road, they deserve to be out there! Play as many festivals as you can, big or small, and check in with yourself after you screen for the last time on the circuit. I can guarantee you’ll feel pretty damn good.