People who submit their films to film festivals usually have the belief that all one has to do is make a film in order for the film to be screened at a festival. But the desire to show the film at a film festival is not enough for the screening to take place.
Modern film production technology and film equipment have become readily available to everyone - even to children. (We even opened a category called "Films Made by Children" at some of our festivals).
As a result, the 6 USA/Canadian festivals within our network now receive more film submissions than the Venice Film Festival, TIFF, Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival received all together in the past two years.
We receive about 100 films a day, or 2,500 to 3,000 films per month, or 30,000 to 37,000 films per year!
What follows is a list of the main stages, obstacles, and requirements to have a film shown at our festivals.
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Here we present only 10 out of maybe 100, which are the most common.
1. Preselection by Judicial Assembly.
Due to the fact that there are so many problems related to showing films, the Jury selects 2-3 times more films than the festival can show. In professional language, this stage is called Preselected. After this step, only 30% of films will end up at the next stage.
Most of our festivals show our films in movie theaters. Movie theaters use only one movie format, which is called the DCP. If the filmmaker doesn't have a copy of his/her film in the DCP format, the film cannot be screened in a majority of cinemas. If the event takes place in a small club or any other rented facility (not a movie theater), in this case there is a projector that can display DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Only 20% of the filmmakers who submit films to the festivals know about DCP and can make it.
Most filmmakers do not realize the fact that, in all non-English speaking countries, if the film was not created in the local language, subtitles are a must. Moreover, a large majority of the filmmakers - usually for economic reasons - make subtitles through Google translator, which is unacceptable. Only 10% of the filmmakers who submit films to the festivals know about this and can make it.
4. Film quality.
A huge number of films are of very poor quality, according to some basic parameters: poor image quality, bad sound, etc. Having a low quality film is a major obstacle to screening at any of our festivals. About 60% films submitted to the festivals are very low quality and can’t be screened.
5. Transfer of film copies.
For a film to be screened at any of our festivals, a copy must be transferred (sent) to the festival or in our case to one of our Production Centers. Many filmmakers believe that if a movie is uploaded to one of the two known aggregators, FilmFreeway or Withoutabox, or to Vimeo or youtube - then the transfer problem is solved. However, this is not quite true. A copy of a film submitted through these or any other aggregators result in very poor quality (See paragraph 3). They are fit only for the pre-show or for online festivals. Yes, if the film is a short, a good quality copy can be downloaded from the Internet. But for full-length films, downloading from Internet links is not acceptable.
Therefore, filmmakers must spend the money and time to send a copy of the film to the Production Center. About 75% of the filmmakers never can pass through this issue.
6. Testing the movie.
Testing of the film can involve passing through several stages. The first stage: Acceptance of the films by the Film Festival directly or by the Production Center. Second stage: If testing goes well, the film is copied to the hard drive as a DCP and sent to the cinema. Most cinemas prefer to test the films not on the day of receipt, but only 2-3 days prior to the date of the festival. Sometimes, the film can't be launched by cinema equipment, though it was working well on the same equipment at the Production Center of the festival. In some other cases, the film worked well at the cinema prior to the screening, but on the event day, it didn't work, and for no apparent reason. There were cases when the filmmaker put a lock on the DCP, and it was not possible to launch the disk.
If testing in the theater passes favorably, the film should then be able to be successfully projected at the festival. This stage only 30% of the films can pass through.
7. Consent of the filmmaker.
Very often a filmmaker who has applied for the festival, suddenly and without explanation, withdraws his permission. This fact cancels the screening of the film.
10% of filmmakers do it.
8. Distributor's consent.
Sometimes a distributor whose movie has been submitted to the festival, suddenly and without explanation, withdraws his permission. This fact cancels the screening of the film.
10% of films don’t pass through this issue.
60% of filmmakers never respond to messages that were sent by the Film Festival to them. Their obstacles are:
- the letter falls into the spam folder.
- filmmaker's procrastination.
- filmmaker's workload in the filming and have no time to read letters.
- filmmaker's forgetfulness, or unexplained failure to respond.
10. The final decision of the Judicial Assembly granting the approval for a film to be screened at the festival.
As a rule, if a movie reaches this stage, the possibility of the film being screened is 90%. In other words, 9 out of 10 films that reach this final stage will be screened at the Film Festival. Though, there is still 10% chance that something else can happen.
Conclusion: All this 10 issues and about 90 more issues make the stages between “Accepted” status of the film and the status - “The film is screened” be very hard to achieve. And the % of the selected films that are screened is 5%. It means that if 200 films are Preselected - only 10 of this films would be screened at the festival.