Film festivals are definitely one approach to market and showcase your film and one I would encourage any filmmaker to consider. But using that as your sole approach can backfire. Let’s say one of your primary goals is to show your film at film festivals, particularly at the top festivals. Fine, the film festival route is certainly a viable one when it comes to promoting and marketing your film, but keep in mind that’s not the only route. Plenty of independent films land a distributor or self distribute and find an audience going different routes altogether. Regardless of whether you go the film festival route or have another strategy, you should start thinking about your film’s marketing and release strategy as soon as possible. If you’re smart, you’ll start before the screenplay is finished, certainly before the first frame has been shot.
Remember, the PR & marketing can be the engine that drives the project. It can open doors to distribution, financing and build your audience base. Keep your options open every step of the way. As I mentioned earlier festivals are one approach, but not the only one. Let’s say you’re working on a documentary; you have a number of distribution and showing possibilities from the festivals, to theatrical to outside the box screenings at schools, museums, organizations and churches. Often these types of screenings can run even during a festival showing.
One way festivals can help, is they are great places for forming relationships with others involved in various aspects of the film process. This can be particularly helpful for producers and filmmakers who are going to self distribute their film. Filmmakers now need to take a more active role in the marketing, public relations, and distribution of their films and festivals can definitely help forge important relationships.
But there can also be a downside to festivals. It’s possible to get locked in the film festival loop and not look at alternative, creative ways to market, show and showcase your film. Even if your film is accepted to one or more, that in itself does not guarantee your film will succeed. Too many film producers base their entire marketing strategy on being accepted by a festival. If it turns out no festival bites, which happens a fair amount of time, these filmmakers are left with no alternate strategy. They are more or less stranded and left with no alternate approach. You don’t want to find yourself in that position.
My advice is to begin on day one with a PR and marketing strategy that goes forward whether or not your film finds its way to a festival. Regardless of the direction you choose to take, get your PR and marketing gameplan in place, start your PR outreach and launch your filmmaking journey.
Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013
Cresswell, Jackson. “Sundance London Film Festival is Launching in April 2012.” Collider. 15, Mar 2011. 19 Apr 2013. <http://collider.com/sundance-london-film-festival-2012/>