Ah, film festivals. Getting into one is always gives a good sense of validation to a filmmaker — and the best are a delight to attend as both filmmaker and audience member.
But what if your film doesn’t make it in?
I’ve known Jon Gann for most of this century and I know all the work he’s done in creating, improving, and advising film festivals. So when I saw he wrote a pair of articles about why films don’t get selected for film festivals (part one is here and part two is here), I thought they’d be solid.
Spoiler alert: they are. If you’re a filmmaker wondering about a spate of rejections from festivals, you’d do well to give both a read.
As with so many things in life, some of the factors are completely outside of a filmmaker’s control… and sometimes it’s good to remind oneself about that, so you can focus on the things you can control: like the picture and sound quality. Or, you know, the writing and the casting.
In some cases, I know it’s difficult to impossible to address some of the issues after a certain amount of effort is put into a film… and that films sometimes aren’t released so much as they ‘escape.’ But then I’d suggest every filmmaker set a deadline for themselves of when to let that escaped film go and turn their attention to their next film. I mean, you’re not a studio that can spend oodles of time trying to see if they can get this or that feature to be profitable.
As a film festival judge, I can tell you I’ve seen many submitted films that don’t lack skill, but are essentially “drafts.” Often, the films clearly don’t live up to their filmmakers’ ambitions. There’s no way those films will take the festival slot from a more polished piece. And as a filmmaker, it’s often better to go out and shoot new material than keep on polishing. As Jon explains above, even your best work can be rejected, so might as well keep on working and getting better. You make more films that way (especially if you’re practicing with shorts). And before you know it, you have a body of work. And yeah, that does mean more chances for more of your films to be rejected. But it also means more films that can be accepted.
And that feels good.