Part of what I do through the consulting arm of Guerrilla Rep Media is review peoples Decks and business plans. One thing that I keeps coming up in these documents is that entirely too many filmmakers list their distribution strategy as sole their festival run. There’s a lot of issues with this line of thinking, so as I do with any question that keeps coming up I thought I would write a blog about it. So without further adieu, here’s why you probably won’t get distribution from your festival run.
You generally only get distribution from top tier festivals
Realistically, there are only a few film festivals that will get you distribution. The festivals that can get you a good distribution deal are pretty much the ones you’d expect. Sundance, Tribeca, COMPETITION screenings at Cannes, TIFF, and to some extent South by Southwest (Although that’s far less true than it used to be.) Unfortunately, due to Amazon Discontinuing the Festival Stars program, there are no longer any festivals that GUARANTEE a decent distribution agreement if you get in.
Even if you do get into these festivals, it’s probably not going to help as much as you think it will, although it will definitely help a fair amount. That being said...
You’re probably not going to get into a top tier festival.
I know I’m being a pretty major buzzkill. Unfortunately, fewer than 1% of films that submit to Sundance get in. While that’s likely to be the lowest acceptance rate among the majors, it’s unlikely the other festivals that would get you distribution are going to have much more than a 2-3% acceptance rate.
So realistically, do you think it’s a good idea to hedge all bets on your film’s distribution on the 2-3% chance you’re going to get into a major film festival?
Even if the film festival offers distribution, it’s probably not very good.
There are some film festivals that offer distribution to the films that get in. Generally, this sort of distribution is only slightly above aggregation. Even though it’s often framed as non-exclusive, it’s generally not in your best interest to take it as it ties up a lot of platforms and can greatly discourage more reputable distributors from coming on. Also, a lot of times the split with these distributors is far less than ideal.
Some festivals retain this right as part of their submission process, so be careful.
Even if your film gets into festivals, that doesn’t guarantee butts in seats.
If you’re looking to get your film into festivals as a way of building awareness for your project, then you’re going to need to make sure you market that your film will actually be at the festival and drive people to show up. There are far too many times where a film is shown at a festival to an all but empty room. Don’t let this be you.
If you show your at too many festivals, you can saturate your market
While you definitely want to build buzz about your project, showing the project at too many festivals can just make sure that all the people who would seek out your film have already seen it. That’s somewhat hard to do, but it’s still something to be aware of, especially since most festivals don’t share their box office with filmmakers or pay a screening fee.
Thanks so much for reading! Check out Last Week's Blog for guide on what you should prepare to make the most out of your festival run. In the meantime, you should consider joining my email list for some great giveaways including FREE monthly blog digests segmented by topic.
Also, I do both US Direct Distribution, and fmarketing/Festival planning as a service for my clients Click the links below for more information.
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My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.
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