You spent a fortune applying to film festivals. I know because that's what I do with my films. They had a number of rejections – and wow – they sting. Dozens of film festivals have rejected me with my various projects. Now you've finally been admitted to a film festival. Congratulations! You drop your last piece of change and book travel and accommodation for a festival screening. And then the reality of COV ID-19 hits. And your trip is canceled and your festival is online. Once the festival has started, how do you maximize your online film festival experience?
Here's what I noticed from filmmakers who attended Raindance to make their showing and participation a standout event. My question is: how can you adapt and apply these techniques in an online festival setting?
Make the most of your online film festival
1. Make personal connections
Make no exception – the number one reason you go to a film festival is to make connections. These take place on different levels. To access each level, you need different skills. An online film festival experience gives you the opportunity to expand the geographic footprint of the people you meet. You no longer have to be on the way to the festival screening. You can now join from anywhere as long as you have enough WiFi.
- Your screening audience – Getting live feedback from a cinema room full of strangers is an experience you can't buy. Whether they are laughing in the right place or laughing at all, these are lessons you will carry for the rest of your career. Applause at the end of the screening is of course also a big added bonus. Online is different. But you still have the benefit of live questions and answers – at least with Raindance.
- Fellow filmmakers – Learning from your fellow filmmakers is a surefire way to gain valuable knowledge. You won't be teaching these tips at any film school.
- Participation in film professionals – The film industry is a people's industry. Building relationships with industry professionals is much easier at a film festival. Don't ignore this precious opportunity.
2. Promote your movie and yourself
Learning the art of self-promotion is an important skill. Start the buzz.
- Personal profile cards – Consider a personal profile card as a micro poster about you. Be consistent and use the same image on your different social media profiles.
- Lobby cards – Ideally, the size of a postcard or letter with a brief summary and your contact details. These should be available in different sizes for the different social media platforms
- Your movie's campaign image – The most important element of your advertisement is an eye-catching visual image. Getting this right can be a series of trials and errors.
- Use social media – This has become the essential skill that filmmakers need to know. Learn how to develop and run a memorable social media campaign – both for your movie and for yourself.
- Movie trailer – Many people use a 2-minute trailer to decide whether or not to see your film. Try to convey the emotions of your movie. You should also create duplicate e15 versions of your trailer for use on social media. For Twitter and Facebook these should be square. So that the Instagram 9:16 ratio fits on their screens.
3. Get press for your movie
The art of getting the press is another essential filmmaker that no film school in the world will teach you. Press is the elixir of life that drives your film to the audience. Without an audience, your film ends up in a cemetery full of corpses from other films that have been strangled by a lack of advertising.
- Create press kit – A proper press kit contains all the stories and production notes of your film. Successful press kits create their own unique story of the film, almost the written equivalent of a good film trailer. Take a look at the press kit we created for the film ALICE – and note the different visual elements that were also created for different social media.
- Get press – A press representative or publicist is another essential member of the team. Remember, it is your job to spread your story, not create it. You still have to create the story of your movie.
- To lead an interview – Have you ever been interviewed? Film festivals love to interview filmmakers. The interview is one of the most important ways you can start the “buzz” for your film. It's a really good idea to make a list of questions and include them in your press kit so that journalists can get an idea of what topics to ask.
4. Identify your goals
Do you remember why you wanted to make a movie in the first place?
- Create a business plan – This simple document should contain the “why” you want to make a movie out of. It contains information about your key team members as well as financial information. Make sure to carefully consider your sales strategy – unless you don't care if investors ever get repaid.
- Pitching successful – The ability to verbalize the story of your film briefly and clearly is another essential skill. Practice on your friends so that at a film festival you can quickly and confidently answer the question: "What is your film about?"
5. Make the deal
Isn't it great if a dealer comes up to you after your screening and offers to take you out to dinner? Of course, you politely decline because you know they are trying to get you out of the building, away from their competitors who are all trying to negotiate for your film.
I find it easy to keep talking about how filmmakers participate in film festivals. What have I missed? Do me a huge favor and put your thoughts and comments in the box below. And see you at this year's 28th Raindance Film Festival!
Have fun filmmaking.