Last week TVWriter™ brought you “The Indignance of ‘Indie’ Film Festivals,” a rant about the way indie film fests are run, wriltten by award winning filmmaker Bri Castellini. Bri’s points certainly are valid, but we thought that this week we would show you a different angle – how to prepare for your first film festival so you can get all you want from it.
No, we aren’t even pretending to be “fair and balanced.” Just tryin’ to be helpful, is all:
by Jared Ian Goldman
I repeatedly ask myself one question as I ready for a festival premiere: What’s my goal at the festival?
What am I looking to get out of the festival?
As you get to know the festival organizers and begin preparing for a premiere, the answer to that question may change or even have multiple answers. If you’re going to a festival with a film looking for distribution, for example, your priorities may and will likely differ than if your film already has distribution. You’d be surprised how many filmmakers I encounter who assume that the work is done once their film gets into a festival. However, the festival premiere simply marks a next phase in the life of the film, one that requires just as much focus and attention to detail as any phase in bringing the movie to life.
Step One: Caucus
Once accepted into a festival, I arrange a call with my filmmaking team, which includes the financier(s). This not only ensures that our group strategies and expectations are aligned, but also lets us check in with one another if we haven’t been in regular touch in a while.
Inevitably, this will lead to the question of who from the team is attending the festival—and how is that getting paid for? Production budgets don’t usually account for festival expenses, and not all festivals provide subsidies, so check in with your festival contact to find out what the festival will cover and what relationships they have. (I’ve found that regularly checking in with the festival staff is always beneficial.) Some festivals may cover director and cast travel and housing, while others may be able to provide a sponsor for a party. Some will only provide the platform to premiere.
This initial team strategy call is also the time to discuss a domestic sales agent, a foreign sales agent and a publicist.
Step Two: Hire Sales Agents
If you have a sales agent prior to getting into a festival, then they’ll likely have coached you on which festivals to be submitting to. If you don’t, once the festival makes its line up announcement, sales agents will likely reach out to you—but it’s OK to be proactive and reach out to a company if there is an agent that you think is especially well-suited for your film. If you secure a domestic sales agent, you’ll want to consult with them on who they partner well with for foreign sales and vice versa. When shopping for a sales agent it’s valuable to know how many other films they’re representing so you can ensure you’re being prioritized.
Step Three: Hire an Entertainment Lawyer
If you don’t have a sales agent (or can’t afford a publicist—more on that below), then it’s critical that you have an entertainment lawyer who can help coach the festival process and introduce you to sales agents and/or distributors. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having an attorney with a depth of entertainment experience. That experience can translate into a significantly better sales deal—and may mean the difference between making any deal whatsoever. Just because you have a friend who is a lawyer and will do you a favor does not mean they can actually help you. Some entertainment lawyers will want to charge hourly, whereas some may work for a percentage of the sale, so be prepared for either….
Producer Jared Ian Goldman’s credits include Brother’s Keeper starring Rose Byrne, The Skeleton Twins starring Kirsten Wiig, Kill Your Darlings starring Daniel Radcliffe, And So It Goes starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton.