Applying to film festivals
Lately we’ve been applying to film festivals with our latest film, Smoke and Mirrors. It strikes me that there are two inherent issues in the submission process that cause a great deal of frustration.
The first issue is out of the festival’s control, and falls squarely on an online service called Without a Box. One of their missions is to make the process of submitting a film to a festival simple for the filmmaker and the festival. In this modern era of iPhones and NetFilx, I don’t think I’ve come across a user interface as bad as theirs. It doesn’t seem to follow any standard practices in user interface design, and it provides very little feedback. All of which adds up to an extremely frustrating experience.
The second issue lies with the festivals. When you submit your film it goes into a black hole until months later when you get an accepted or declined notification. With a declined notification there’s no explanation. A decline is tough to hear, but also a fantastic growth opportunity. Unfortunately that opportunity is completely wasted without any feedback to learn from. By the way, it seems there is a terrific opportunity for Without a Box to help the festivals address this and make a little money. All they need to do is capture the screeners notes and charge filmmakers for access to them.
It doesn’t appear that either of these issues is stopping filmmakers from submitting to festivals. There are more film festivals than ever, and the number of submissions increases every year. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a reason I haven’t given up either. At the moment festivals are still the best way to build credibility as a filmmaker. The way films are distributed is rapidly changing, and with that comes new opportunities for filmmakers to establish themselves. Who knows how it will take shape. I can only hope the experience will be much improved.