A brilliant festival guide, created by and originally published by Jeanette Bonds of GLAS ANIMATION
Animation Festival List and Guide
GLAS Animation‘s Guide to Film Festivals intends to provide you with a comprehensive introduction to film festivals. Below you’ll find a suggested list of film festivals to submit to as well as an introduction to basic festival strategy.
SUBMIT TO SEVERAL FESTIVALS
It is important to submit to several festivals and not limit yourself to what appears on ‘Top Ten’ lists. This is not to say you should submit to every single festival. First Focus on what are commonly referred to as first and second tier festivals. In addition to first tier festivals second tier festivals provide great exposure and have much to offer. In general, festival patrons often include other festival directors, press, students of animation, as well as filmmakers and members of the community. All of these people who see your film, if they like it, will advocate your film, share, and promote your work. The more exposure you have, the better.
That being said, make sure your film is a good fit for a festival before you spend excess time or money on the submission process. Research the festivals you are submitting to. Read about their philosophy. Look at past editions. See what films have featured at the festival in the past.
Some festivals, primarily live-action festivals, require a premiere status. This means that their festival must be the first festival to have a public screening of the film. However, there are many types of premieres that are eligible. Some require a world premiere, continental premiere, country premiere, and some require none. Always check to see the festival policy for premieres on their website before submitting.
If you do decide to submit to festivals with premiere requirements, don’t let that prevent you from entering other festivals. You can always decline to accept an invitation to screen if another festival of greater importance requires a premiere.
When planning your festival submissions, be organized. Create a spreadsheet with columns for the festival name, festival date, submission due date, if you’ve submitted, if you’ve payed the fee, how much was the fee, how you submitted, and if you’ve been accepted. These can be columns or color coded to your liking. But it is important that you stay absolutely organized. It is easy to remember ten festivals, but once you get beyond a certain stage you’ll forget whether you submitted or whether you intended on submitting.
HOW TO SUBMIT
Festivals have different methods for submissions. You can always find the submission protocol on the festival website. Many festivals will have their own submission platform, but most will require the use of an external site such as FilmFreeway or Reelport. These sites typically require small processing fees for your submission, so keep this in mind when budgeting your as those small processing fees can really add up.
WHEN TO SUBMIT
Most film festivals require that your film be made within the last one to two years. It’s important not to wait too long before considering submitting your film. After you finish your film, you’ll find yourself frantically submitting to festivals. Remember that festivals occur during different times of the year. It’s easy to lose steam after your first quarter of submissions. Don’t forget to submit to other festivals that occur later on in the year. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar for when that time comes.
MAKE A PRESS KIT
Festivals typically ask for additional materials to send along with your entry form. These additional materials are what will be included in your press kid. We highly recommend having these materials in one convenient downloadable folder on a site such as Dropbox or using your Google Drive or ready to upload via WeTransfer. Here is a list of what your folder should include:
3 hi-res stills of your film
1 hi-res Director Photo
Dialogue list (if applicable)
Director Bio – a short paragraph about yourself (100-150 words)
Film Synopsis – This should include one short synopsis (under 25 words) and one longer synopsis (50-100 words) if applicable
List of Previous Festivals/Screenings/Awards
Preview versions of your film: vimeo link/ .mp4 in H.264
If you are an animator, most of the festivals you will be submitting will be animation specific festivals. Thankfully, the majority of those festivals do not require an entry fee. But as mentioned above, the vast majority of live-action festivals require screening fees. If you truly believe in your film and believe your film fits with the programming philosophy of the festival, then it is certainly worth it to pay the submission fee. Don’t be afraid to contact the festival politely requesting a fee waiver or a discounted or student rate. Festivals understand the plight of the short filmmaker and are often willing to work with you. That being said, operating a festival is quite costly and as such they might respectfully decline.
THE SELECTION PROCESS
Every festival has a different selection process. Some festivals select through committees, some artistic directors have oversight over the committees, and some festival directors have complete control and want to see and choose everything themselves. Selection committees are often small and have specific tastes and your film may not fit into that, but for another festival it might be a perfect fit. Once your film is accepted into one festival, you can anticipate it being accepted in another, and a snowball effect will take place.
When your film is selected, you’ll receive an email from the festival with details of how to proceed. Each festival has their preference as to what final screening format they require. Some require DCPs, HD-CAMs, high-quality Digital File. More and more festivals screen from DCPs or high-quality Digital Files. High-quality digital files (such as ProRes 422 HQ or ProRes 422 Codec) don’t cost anything. The cost of DCP’s and HD-CAMs tend to be calculated based on the film’s duration in minutes. For DCPs, look online for a DCP conversion location near you. Some festivals have a special program in cooperation with a DCP service that provide a discounted DCP conversion rate if you do it through them. As with screening fees, it never hurts to ask for a discount.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF ATTENDING?
Attending festivals is one of the most beneficial things you can do as a filmmaker. The experience itself of viewing curated animated screening is worth the attendance. First and foremost, it is great exposure for you and your work. You’ll become acquainted with the majority of filmmakers in attendance and create lasting professional relationships, and often times lasting friendships. You’ll have access to other filmmakers as well as other festival directors and press. You’d be surprised as to what job opportunities will come of this experience.
Be smart about which festivals you invest your money in. Many festivals provide lodging to filmmakers who are featured in competition screenings. If the festival is on the top ten list AND provides lodging, it’s best to attend if you can. You’ll most likely have to pay for your own airfare, but this is common. For animators from the US traveling to European animation festivals, you see how this can add up quite quickly. But again, if the festival is longer than a three days, it’s certainly worth it to attend.
SHOULD YOU PUT YOUR FILM ONLINE?
The short answer is, it depends. Generally speaking it does not hurt your chances to get into festivals. Over 70% of film festivals accept films that have appeared online. But be smart about when you release it and how you release it. The general trend for animators is to allow their film to run the festival circuit until they release their film online. Just to be sure, check to see the festival’s policy.
DON’T BE DISCOURAGED
Many animators submit their films to only the top three festivals, get rejected, become discouraged, and stop making films. Don’t do that. You’ll certainly find a home for your film somewhere in the world. And even if you are rejected, do not take it personally. Your film may be fantastic but difficult to program with other films. Your film might just also not be terribly great. Work harder on your next one. And most importantly, don’t give up. Each film you work on you’ll learn something that will make you a better filmmaker. Many filmmakers are rejected from major and even smaller festivals when they start out. But they keep making new work and eventually they get in.
ONLINE RELEASE STRATEGY
It is a good idea to plan how you intend to release your film online when you decide to release your film online, particularly if the number of views is of importance to you.
Be sure to plan ahead and understand that releasing your film online successfully does take work and a bit of time. It’s a good idea to post works in progress, original artwork, GIFs of clips of your film if applicable on social. Make a trailer and release it prior to releasing your film. You want people to be excited about your film and anticipate it coming out.
When you’re ready to release it online, submit it to short film websites at least a month beforehand.
THE MASTER LIST OF ANIMATION FESTIVALS
This site includes all major and non-major animation festivals including some live action festivals with animation categories or simply welcoming of animation. This site provides direct links to websites, festival dates, and indicates submission fee, if any.
RAINDANCE ESSENTIAL LIST OF 100
This is primarily for live-action films, but it includes links to each festival as well as short summaries of the festival’s major accomplishments and philosophies.