Written by John Montana.
Film Festivals are a crazy and wonderful experience. If you are lucky enough to get asked to participate in one. Your film can be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of film lovers, and it can be a kick-start to your filmmaking career. However, the road is literally littered with thousands of filmmakers failed hopes and dreams of their film being seen or accepted. Or even one that goes on to make millions of dollars. So the road is not to be taken lightly or carelessly. But if you choose wisely and stay in the market that your film is right for, then you should be able to get into several festivals. Following is a list of the most prestigious film festivals in the U.S. Needless to say, if you can get into any of these, then you will be on cloud nine for a very long time!!!
Sundance Film Festival
This festival takes place in Park City, Utah in middle to late January. It is probably the MOST prestigious festival in the U.S., as it is the largest festival here, and is regarded as one of the world’s best film festivals. It is the premier showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers. Sundance Film Festival comprises competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, and a group of noncompetitive showcase sections, including the Sundance Online Film Festival. In my opinion, unless you have some star actors in your film, it will be incredibly difficult to get in, and is probably a waste of time and especially money to submit your film here.
Tribeca Film Festival
Originally created in response to the September 11, 2001 tragedies, and now considered to be one of the top international film festivals as important as the Cannes and Sundance film festivals, Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival attracts more than 400,000 film enthusiasts who take part in over 1,000 special film screenings. Again…this is a very difficult festival to get into, and unless you have some special reason to get in, save your money for a smaller festival that is more in line with your subject matter.
Ashland Independent Film Festival
The only festival in the Northwest – and one of only 20 in the USA – selected to receive a prestigious grant from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Ashland Independent Film Festival attracts filmmakers, actors, and documentary subjects to Ashland to showcase their work. This festival, a success of over a decade, takes place on the five screens of the intimate art-deco Varsity Theatre with special events at the Historic Ashland Armory. I love this festival as I think it caters to more beginning filmmakers. I have been accepted here yet, but I submit my films here every chance I get.
Seattle International Film Festival
This festival is the largest and most-highly-attended event in the U.S. This is a 25-day extravaganza and has been a gigantic success for over 40 years and attracts more than 150,000 film goers each year. It features more than 500 films form over 80 different countries, as well as bringing in 100’s of actors, directors and industry professionals. This is one of my favorite film festivals, and I try to make it whenever I can…if only to meet and mingle with important filmmakers. Because in this business, it’s really all about who you know and meeting new people is ALWAYS good.
Atlanta Film Festival
This is a very good festival to get into as it is one of 24 film festivals that are Academy Award® qualifying. This means that if your film wins here, then it is automatically qualified to be nominated for an Oscar. Think about that for a second!!! You can bypass the entire nominating rigamaroll by winning here. For this very reason, it is one of the festivals that I always submit to. But remember again, that this is why it is very difficult to get accepted here as well.
Los Angeles Film Festival
This is indeed a world-class film festival, as it showcases the finest films of filmmakers all over the globe. It showcases over 200 feature films as well as many more shorts and documentaries from more than 30 countries. And here is another reason to submit your film to this film festival. IT’S IN LOS ANGELES!!! Arguably L.A. produces more than 80% of the worlds content. Why wouldn’t you try to your film seen here? By as many people as you can? I always submit my films here, and I have been accepted here with my last film. It was a very cool experience.
New York Film Festival
Often labelled “the grand-daddy” of USA film festivals, the New York Film Festival (NYFF) is organized by film critics and features many of the major films also featured in Cannes and Venice and others of the world’s top level film events. Usually offering over 30 film features, the selection at the New York Film Festival also showcases titles that have not played the rounds at the world’s top level film events.
Chicago International Film Festival
What can I say about Chicago? It is my home town and it is a thrill and an honor to try to get into this film festival. Getting recognized in your home town is a wonderful thing.
In conclusion, getting your film into a festival can be an important step in your filmmaking career. But it can also be a very eye-opening and painful experience…especially when you keep getting those rejection notices. But perseverance is and has always been the key to every success in life. I wish you all the best.
About The Author:
John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to teach anyone how to be a video maker. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 27 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.