RONA’S REEL TAKE: Tips for a Successful Film Festival Experience, Part 4

Rona Edwards is a film and television producer, having produced eleven films, some of which have won awards at film festivals, with many more in development. She was Vice President of Creative Affairs for Emmy-winner John Larroquette (Night Court), Academy Award-winner Michael Phillips (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) and Emmy-winner Fern Field (Monk), before she was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of producing. A contributing writer to Produced By, she wrote the critically acclaimed books, I Liked It, Didn’t Love It: Screenplay Development from the Inside Out and The Complete Filmmaker’s Guide to Film Festivals (Your All Access Pass to Launching your Film on the Festival Circuit) with former studio exec, Monika Skerbelis. Together, they are the founders of ES Entertainment and ESE Film Workshops Online, providing online film courses without leaving your home. Twitter: @ronaedwards @ESEFilm

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In Part Three Film Festivals: The Cannes Do, Tell U Right Approach, we learned what it takes to prep yourself when you’re accepted into a film festival, how to take advantage of the publicity opportunities, and how to use your contacts via the net and social media to expand your audience base. But now, in the last of this four-part series on film festivals, the big day (or week) has arrived. You are showcasing your work and exposing it in front of a festival audience.

ACT THREE – Attending The Festival:

Well, it’s time! Time to attend the festival. This is the fun part – a culmination of all the hard work you’ve put into your film as well as the preparation for screening it. Time to put it all together now!

Festivals present wonderful networking opportunities and sometimes have educational components to them, offering filmmakers and festivalgoers activities that might include panels, master classes, and intimate conversations with esteemed filmmakers. There are after parties, opening night parties, and wrap parties where filmmakers can hob knob with celebrities, other filmmakers with films in the festivals as well as the local townspeople. Some festival venues are spread out all over the city, while others keep their events contained to a certain area. Either way, there’s a weekend or week(s) of food, fun and film (the three Fs).

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Take advantage of all the networking opportunities;
  2. Bring extra DVDs or USB flash drives that include your press kit to handout to potential buyers, agents, producers, industry execs, etc.;
  3. If you attend a panel discussion, meet the panelist(s) afterwards and give him/her/them a DVD copy of your film (if it feels right to do so) and/or your business card;
  4. Attach your postcard to your lanyard so it’s visible to help promote your film;
  5. Make sure you have your business cards with you at all times;
  6. Find a good place to hang your poster so it’s seen in a key area where traffic mills about;
  7. Take time to skim through the festival program, marking the films and events you want to attend as well as the people you want to meet;
  8. See what films are on opposite yours and then try and promote your film in order to make sure you have an audience;
  9. Above all – Have fun! This is the time to enjoy your rewards.

Script EXTRA: An Introvert’s Guide to Film Festival Networking

If you’re driving to the festival, it’s easier to just throw things in your car, but if you’re flying out of town, with luggage restrictions and such, you might consider shipping your materials ahead of time to your hotel to hold for you until you get there. You will want to make sure you have plenty of postcards on hand to display at the screening and at various venues throughout the festival as well as coffee bars and storefront windows in the town itself. You can stick a label on your postcards with the screening time, date, and location to help promote the film. By doing this, you can save unused postcards (unlabeled) for future festivals. Everyone you meet at the festival should be handed a postcard so they remember your film and when it’s screening. It’s truly your calling card.

You may want to hand out promotional items, though these can be costly. But if you can think of a clever way to advertise your film using products to brand it, then go for it. If your budget allows you to have some fun items like squeeze balls, pens, matches, cups, paddles, yo-yo’s, chapstick, water bottles, caps, flash drives, chargers, t-shirts, chocolate bars, mints (food is always good!), bookmarks, pins or other cool items; use them to promote your film. This “swag,” as it is known, is something people love receiving and it helps to publicize your film in an ongoing way. When people see others walking from one venue to another with some cool piece of swag, they want it too, and will question those who have it as to where they got it! That’s what you want: people talking about your film in any way possible (even if it’s the swag they are most excited about) – that’s why they are called promotional items. It makes you and your film memorable long after the event is over.

Script EXTRA: Review of Breckenridge Film Festival

Don’t forget to attach your postcard to your lanyard (that string or chain that holds your festival badge) as this will help people see that you are there promoting a film and are one of the filmmakers at the festival. Also, bring extra DVDs or flash drives with you so when you meet an industry pro, you can make sure that if they can’t catch your film at the festival for whatever reasons, they can take it with them and watch it when they get home. Just make sure your contact info is all over the flash drive, DVD or whatever device you deem to use. If you don’t want to invest in DVDs, then maybe have a special card printed with a private Vimeo link to give them so they can watch it online at their leisure. Or get their business card and tell them you will email them with the private password-protected Vimeo link after the festival.

Collect business cards from everyone you meet and exchange yours with theirs. So, when the festival is over and you get home, you’ll add them to your ever-growing database of addresses and contact info. And you might possibly try to set up meetings about future projects with some of those people. Another tip is to have a few other projects you are working on or have in development so when an industry pro asks, “what else have you got?” You will have something to pitch them or better yet – whet their appetite with a logline and tell them you want to come into their office to elaborate on some of your other projects after the festival.

Script EXTRA: Get great logline tips to help your project stand out.

The most important thing for you to do at the festival is to have fun and network with everyone. At first, you’re nervous; you want to make sure your film looks and sounds good, that it plays well to the audience, but don’t let that cloud the experience of being at the festival, supporting other filmmakers as they are supporting you. Forging new relationships is also an important part of your festival journey. With films running all day long, panels and events sprinkled throughout the run and after parties galore, festivals throw people together for a very intense few days or a week(s). You get to know the festival attendees very quickly, standing in line, sitting next to them, and at the social gatherings. There’s ample opportunity to know these like-minded individuals, some of whom will become true friends for life, others might become colleagues and collaborators. So relax, you’ve done all the work for now, hand out your postcards, advertise your film, but above all just have a good time and celebrate film – yours and everyone else’s.

Well, that concludes this 4-parter. I hope you’ve come away learning a few new things and reinforcing some of what you already know. Be sure and check out our website ESEntertainment.net or find our books and workshops at the WritersStore.com. I look forward to seeing you on the festival circuit and wish you a tremendous festival adventure.

2017 Copyright Rona Edwards – No reprinting without permission from author.

If you need tips for developing your screenplay, take Rona and Monika’s upcoming online class,
Screenplay Development from the Inside Out (starts March 22nd)

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