While there are film festivals that are internationally popular such as Cannes and Sundance, there are also many more regional film festivals throughout the world which are run by locals. While more prominent festivals are often seen as the place to get your film career jump started, regional film festivals often provide a much friendlier, welcoming, and accessible opportunity to enter into the world of filmmaking.
Chances are that you have some idea of what you’re getting into with a regional film festival, but these following tips can help you have as great of a festival as possible!
Talk with Festival Goers
Something unique about a regional festival is the closely-knit community of festival goers who are eager to meet filmmakers. Whether you realize it or not, these people will want to talk to you. As a filmmaker, you are part of the attraction of the festival itself, and a big part of what makes the screenings special. With regional film festivals especially, the tie between filmmaker and festival goer is much more intimate.
The opportunity to see a film and then speak to the filmmaker afterward is what makes indie film festivals more attractive than just another day at the cinema. Talking with people at your screening can also be a great time to get genuine feedback on your project.
But the community of festival goers is more than just the audience who comes to your screening so you should also take the time to talk to anyone at the festival. If they’re local, they will likely have some tips on what things to see and do in the area. Who knows, you might even make a few friends and want to come back.
Attend Networking Events
While talking to festival goers is important, it’s also vital that you take advantage of the opportunity to meet fellow indie filmmakers. In order to make sure your time at the festival is a success, make sure you take advantage of the networking events at the festival.
No matter if you made a 5-minute narrative short, or a full-length documentary, the events are there for you to attend! Get out of your comfort zone and talk to the other filmmakers there, some may even be interested in collaborations, or even funding projects.
Not everyone you meet has to be an important industry connection, however. Making friends with other filmmakers is always an invaluable experience, they can offer advice from their own experience and help encourage and support you in your career in the coming years.
At BendFilm, networking events are always a highlight for the filmmakers to attend. There is always free artisan food and beverages involved like locally crafted beer. Moreover, networking events often provide a relaxing environment where filmmakers can feel free to converse and make connections.
These events can also give you a great chance to see some locations in the region, such as local restaurants, bars, or cafes.
See Other Indie Films
Talking to other filmmakers is great, but it can be even better if you’ve actually seen their movies! Every indie film is a unique opportunity to witness the hard work of dedicated people all for the love of movies. Going and watching over indie films gives you the opportunity to witness these up and coming storytellers, and you never know who could become a film sensation next.
At BendFilm, filmmakers get the opportunity to see any films at the festivals they want, free of charge. Going and seeing all the films you can only enrich your experience, especially at a regional film festival, where you can often speak with the filmmakers themselves after the screening.
People who have attended BendFilm over the years have had the opportunity to see truly important filmmakers before they become big names in the filmmaking world, or even after they have achieved national acclaim.
Filmmakers such as Debra Granik, Mark Duplass, and Kelly Reichardt have all been to our regional film festival, so make sure you see all the films you can, you might be able to meet a filmmaker before they become the next big thing!
Make Industry Connections
As a new filmmaker myself, I know how important making industry connections can be. Making a connection with the right producer or director can be the difference between being a struggling artist and a successful filmmaker.
It’s common knowledge that the film industry is notoriously difficult to get started in. Sometimes it can seem impossible without personally knowing people who work in film, either professionally or independently. But a regional festival provides a perfectly intimate place to finally make those connections.
Professionals in the industry at film festivals are looking for new talent, and where filmmakers are looking to jump start their career. Many filmmakers get their start by working their way through the world of film festivals, and regional festivals provide a particularly accessible place to get your career jump started.
“Festivals offer the unique opportunity to let you meet people you admire, and hopefully, representatives who want to help get your film distributed. Having people see your film and getting an impression of what works and what doesn’t is what makes a film festival important for the filmmaker,” says Todd Looby, Executive Director of BendFilm.
Bring Business Cards and Promotional Material
Industry connections are numerous and frequent during a festival, so it can be important to find ways to make sure people remember you. This might not initially seem all that important, but giving people promotional material for your film or a business card can determine whether or not you make a lasting connection.
Over the course of the festival, filmmakers typically meet hundreds of people, making it difficult to recall everyone you encounter. But if you meet someone and give them something to remember you by it becomes much more likely that you’ll make a connection that lasts. Even giving your cards or material to festival goers can be very helpful, as it could encourage them to continue to follow your work.
Speaking personally, as someone who recently attended his first festival at BendFilm, I can say one of my biggest regrets is coming to every conversation empty-handed. I met so many filmmakers I admire and would like to stay in touch with.
Nowadays it seems more common to follow up with someone by texting them or finding them on social media. But filmmakers still frequently use printed materials to hand out to people they meet. The reason is simple, it offers an organized way to keep track of everyone you meet. It also provides an efficient way to give someone your information and avoids the awkwardness of asking for a personal contact. If I would have done the same, the connections I made would have likely been stronger.
Know The Awards Before You Go
It can be easy to be caught up in the excitement of the festival and forget about the most important part: the awards! It is always beneficial to be aware of the awards ahead of time. Make sure you know what awards your own film is eligible for, what the major competitors are for others, and who made those films. It’s invaluable to seek out the films and filmmakers which are going to be the most important in the festival.
Never forget to attend the grand finale either, the award ceremonies. This is always one of the most memorable parts of the festival. You’ll, of course, want to be present if your own film wins, but it’s also important to support the filmmakers you’ve met over the course of the festival. Even if you don’t think you will win an award, make sure you go and finish the festival together positively as a community.
Go to the Parties
While festivals with all their screenings and networking are often very fun, they can also be stressful. People are often rushing about, always wanting to be somewhere else, and while valuable conversations are often had, they tend to have been in a rush. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all.
But a festival provides a way to get away from this all: the parties give you a chance to let loose and have fun. There are typically at least opening and closing parties, with any number of other parties in between. Grab a couple of drinks, enjoy the complimentary food, and just have a great time with the new friends you’ve made at the festival.
The parties are an essential part of the experience for filmmakers at BendFilm. It’s important to witness the teeming excitement at the festival’s opening party. Then there’s a certain satisfactory feeling at BendFilm’s annual karaoke afterparty.
All the parties give the filmmakers an opportunity to chat and connect in a much more relaxed environment, and at a regional film festival, almost everyone will know each other by the time of the closing party.