the value of festivals

– . – The Value of Festivals


The Value of Festivals

Thousands of film festivals are held throughout the world every year, from the big guns of Cannes and Venice to small local showcases. But aside from a walk down the red carpet, what do filmmakers really gain from having their work shown at such an event?

There are over 4,000 film festivals held in the world every year, from the A-list such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice, down to parochial mom and pop festivals held in church halls. So how does a filmmaker choose where to submit, and more importantly, what advantages are there in being shown at a festival?

One of the main reasons is to get the film in front of an audience, and at a festival it will be a discerning one; a sure-fire way of gauging reactions, even if film buyers are not always swayed by public opinion. Nowadays, too, there is a lot of credibility attached to being shown at a festival, and there is always the chance that ‘Award-Winning’ or some festival laurels could be added to the film’s future publicity. The other main advantage, especially for indie projects, is that it could be picked up by one of the distributors who frequent the screenings.

Sundance, for example, used to be the place for films to be discovered and some now iconic films found their success there; Clerks and El Mariachi immediately spring to mind. That was a different era, however, and Sundance has become part of the establishment, with South by South West (SXSW) taking over the indie mantle in the US, with its combination of music, interactive and film festivals along with hot Texas weather. Gareth Edwards (interviewed in movieScope #18) premiered his film Monsters there, and it was immediately picked up for US distribution by Magnet, an arm of Magnolia Pictures. This may have been an exception, because there wasn’t an official film market attached, but it does happen.

While the American Film Market in Santa Monica is one of the largest in the world, there is an increasing number of festivals including markets, mainly to attract more industry interest and promote local films. Of course, for many filmmakers, the market is the main attraction at the behemoth that is Cannes but with so much competition for the attention of sales agents and distributors, the smaller festivals are often a better bet.

Producer Anna Higgs, from Quark Films, agrees. “Smaller, more targeted markets can be vital to the success of putting together an indie film. Our attendance at the likes of CineMart and Doc/Fest’s MeetMarket have been pivotal in projects, because you benefit from the expertise and attention of the market coordinators, rather than getting lost in a sea of stands at the bigger events.”

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