10 Film Festival Faux Pas:
So you want to get into a film festival? You REALLY want
to get into a film festival? Here are some tips from the pros on
the other side.
1. Do not spend more time on the titles, credits and packaging than
you did on the actual film.
2. Listen to your friends and casting director when they say, “Trust
me guey, he’s/she’s not that cute.” Even if he/she
is your boyfriend/girlfriend.
3. Despite these post-modernist, desensitized times, snuff films
still have no place in a film festival.
4. Before you even start your film, make sure you have something
referred to in the business as ‘The Script’.
5. We don’t need to know who the gaffer, best boy or the guy
who cleans the honey wagon is before the film even starts. Listing
excessive credits before your film begins is a telltale sign of
6. In rare cases, longer is not necessarily better. Never cut the
length of your film to a film festival’s requirements. Cut
your film to your own film’s requirements. And then find the
festival that fits your film.
7. A film should be like a woman’s skirt: Long enough to cover
the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.
8. If you’re looking for a new theme in Experimental, “rebirth”
is NOT it.
9. Write clearly and legibly on your submission—someone might
want to find you, invite you to a festival or give you a prize.
10. Do not try to pass off obscure film montages or famous elaborate
blocking shots as your own—we will recognize it and we will
call you on it.
Some Props and Convenient Plot Devices You Should Avoid:
Clinical tests prove that about 80% of the films submitted into
any given festival make at least one of the following mistakes.
Don’t become another statistic!
1. Wistfully holding a picture of your ex-girlfriend, ex-wife or
dearly departed loved one.
2. Conveniently eliminating a character by running over them with
Ending your fantasy sequence with, “It was all just a dream!”
is immediate grounds for disqualification.
4. Ending your film with, “So it was the twin!” is also
5. Knives & Guns: Don’t use them, unless you really know
how to use them.
6. Never use control track breaks as a plot device.
7. The edgy steadicam shot is done like Dogma. Like the wipe cut.
8. Breaking the fourth wall because the story had nowhere to go
except to run off the screen.
9. Do not film your clock ticking. This is not only overdone, but
pointless as well. You mean the real time shot is real time? Thanks.
10. Any over use of any After Effect or Final Cut filter that you
think makes your movie just ¡pop!
How to Get into a Film Festival and What to do While You’re
The parties, the buffet line, the open bar—a film festival
can be a good time. But don’t forget why you came here in
the first place!
In this day and age of cheap media, there is no reason not to have
a small media kit. A simple folder with film description and contact
information, a few publicity and production stills, and a creative
touch that references your film.
2. If you make this at a film school, you should learn how to take
your final cut and export it to a format viewable on the web. With
a small one-page website that has an .mov file of your short, you
instantly have a global publicity outlet. This exercise alone will
give you some hirable skills when you graduate or quit Starbucks.
3. Take the time to type out, or even design, the label for the
VHS cassette or DVD. It should have your name, the film’s
name, length, and a contact email. I hear emails are free these
4. When at a festival, shameless-self-promotion is the name of the
game. You might be surprised what kind of buzz 100 well-made handbills
can make. And business cards—don’t forget to pimp the
5. If you get into a festival, make every possible effort to be
there, no matter where it is. You never know when that three-picture
deal is being inked, and you need to be there when it is.