Handy Tips for Film Festival Submitters

This post was inspired by an ordeal with Zero Film Festival, for which my film Bob was selected but later withdrawn by myself due to the festival’s gross incompetence. They didn’t contact me after my selection, and I was only able to get hold of them a month later – less than two weeks before the event was stated as taking place – after pursuing a number of avenues and wasting a great deal of time and effort; at one point even coming close to calling the police suspecting I could’ve been conned. When I finally received a reply from the organiser – after tracking down his personal email by contacting a venue where the festival previously took place – it was childish and aggressive, berating me for suggesting there was anything wrong with the festival’s conduct and belittling my experience. It turned out the festival wasn’t even taking place on the date they’d given and they hadn’t even organised a venue. Their excuse for not informing filmmakers? They were busy with other things and don’t have the staff. More an admission of their inability than an excuse, although it wasn’t presented that way. Also, I was criticised for contacting one of the listed organisers and asking for help. It turned out they hadn’t worked for the festival for seven years – the fact this info hadn’t been updated providing more evidence of inefficiency – but they were happy to contact the current organiser and ask him to get in touch. For some reason, he found my actions inappropriate; perhaps because they drew attention to his organisation’s ineptitude. I asked him for a refund and was told one would be provided if I sent my PayPal details. I sent my email address, explaining that’s all you need, but heard nothing and received no refund. Needless to say, they pass none of the criteria listed here for spotting a good festival.

1. Use FilmFreeway, not Withoutabox. It’s far easier to setup, upload and navigate, the festivals are generally far cheaper (Withoutabox take a big cut), and Withoutabox are useless if you have an issue with a festival – they take ages to get back and basically tell you it’s not their responsibility and to deal with it yourself. You would’ve thought they’d just be able to contact the festival in question, right? Nope.

2. Check the festival’s contact info works before submitting! Call, email: make sure they’re quick to reply, polite and attentive. You don’t want to submit to a festival then find out they’re impossible to contact (believe me!).

3. Check the festival’s reviews! Do they have good ratings and reviews? Have they even turned the review option on? If they haven’t, they’ve likely done this for a reason. Note, Withoutabox don’t have a review option; another reason to be wary of them.

4. When did the festival last take place? If a festival has been regularly taking place for a number of years, they’re likely a winner. If they’re taking place erratically every few years, they’re likely disorganised or failing to generate submitters due to their incompetence.

5. Look for further evidence that the festival is professionally run. A regularly updated website, a Facebook page with plenty of activity (again, make sure these are easy to contact), and videos of their most recent event – search for past ones too, but if that’s all they have, there could be a reason.

6. Lastly, think carefully and make sure the festival is appropriate for your film. Does your film fit the festival’s criteria/objective/rules/terms? Is it within your price range? A lot of festivals might pass the £20 mark, but you can find plenty for under a tenner if you search hard enough! If a festival seems overly expensive, check to see if the regular deadline has passed. Many festivals have early bird deadlines that are far cheaper. So plan ahead and get your film in early!

Killer Cells

Here’s a trailer I was employed to produce for Avant Cymru’s theatrical production, Killer Cells. Killer Cells is a play about recurrent miscarriage. It manages to capture the pain and trauma of these tragedies with palpable authenticity – the script being based on real life experience – but it is in no way depressive or negative, ultimately being a story of optimism and resilience. It illustrates the importance of strong friendships and relationships, at times with a lightness and humour, yet this never distracts from the serious subject matter, and crucially, it doesn’t neglect to show things from the man’s perspective; depicting the male experience with equal validity. Killer Cells tackles a taboo subject, rarely discussed in public, with both bravery and sensitivity, creating something uniquely entertaining, informative and moving. I highly recommend you try and catch the play next time it tours, and together we can help #BreakTheSilence.

Lands of Our Fathers

Lands of Our Fathers is a documentary about the immigrant ancestry of the people of the Rhondda Valley. It was produced by Avant Cymru, and filmed and edited by myself, representing my company Outré Media. It was screened as part of Age Cymru‘s Gwyl Gwanwyn Festival.

Best of the Rest

After setting myself the task of writing a number of scripts specifically catered to Cardiff Mini Film Festival’s criteria, I wrote seven in total; three of which weren’t selected to be filmed. One of which was Toast, which can be found here. Another was The Artists, a comedy inspired by Vic and Bob, and Wham! that acts as a commentary on the life of the independent artist (earning just enough through their work to carry on producing further work). And finally, Marching Orders, another comedy, that shows how a positive attitude can affect those around you, and a negative one can do just the same. I felt these last two scripts’ dependence on music made them less preferable to the ones I finally selected as it gave them more of a music video quality.

Toast

Toast is a script I wrote as a possible contender to be filmed for Cardiff Mini Film Festival. It ended up being rejected in favour of other scripts as its plot was more complex and it would require a more elaborate production: the festival favours simplicity. It’s a comedy about how lack of communication and pent up feelings lead to antagonism. It’s, in a way, a reboot (well, they are in fashion) of an earlier film, The Housemate from Hell. There is much I still admire about that film. In particular, its themes of suppressed anxiety (that weren’t intentional, but I’ve since recognised), and as my ability has developed greatly in the four years since its conception, I felt I could write a more focused and efficient script in a similar vain.