Film Festival Lessons Learned When Promoting an Independent Film

My first foray into the film festival world was exciting and worthwhile, as I had a short movie that won an award and received reviews but could have possibly had better long-term success. After reading filmmaking magazines and tips from websites on attending these events, I thought that I was very prepared for this experience. Following the screening, I quickly learned some valuable lessons on important factors to consider while planning to attend film festivals to promote an independent film.

Be Prepared for Press
Members of a local student television news station were on site interviewing filmmakers at the festival and I was unprepared when the reporter asked me a few questions about my movie. Despite knowing the information that was being requested, I was very camera shy and could not express my thoughts very well. This resulted in a very awkward interview, which I’m almost certain did not end up being part of that particular news segment that covered the film festival. This not only cost my film a wider audience but also gave the impression that I was not representing the movie or it’s screening very well.

Since then, I learned the importance if being self-assured and convincing when promoting my films in unfamiliar territory… such as television. The most important lesson I learned is to hire or designate someone involved in the film who possesses skills in public relations to handle that aspect of promotion for my film festival screenings if I cannot deliver on this task.

Have Retail DVDs Available On Site
During the film festival, a parent whose kid starred in another movie playing at the festival asked me if I had a DVD of my film that she could purchase. Since I did not come to the festival with much aside from a poster, postcards and business cards, I could only offer some of these promotional materials and direct this film festival attendee to my website. Unfortunately, I did not have the movie for sale in any medium let along DVD, on the website either. This not only cost my film a sale to the parent but it also lost additional revenue based on the potential future sales that could have been made to other attendees who missed my screening and wanted to see the movie.

Attending film festivals is serious business, especially when promoting a movie. These lessons taught me that festival promotion does not stop as movie posters and business cards. It is important for filmmakers to plan for every aspect of a film festival, including situations that may seem impossible or unlikely to occur.