The best film festivals are not always the biggest

With worldwide attention focused on the Toronto Film Festival, you would think that being in the selection would be enough to breakthrough, think again.

Film Festivals around the world are vying for audiences with bigger premieres, more glamorous red carpet screenings, extravagant parties and special events, but can filmmakers get the most out of their selected films?

When entering any film festival, filmmakers, whether shooting documentaries or features have to consider what they want to achieve if they make the selection. Short filmmakers entering major film festivals face stiff competition, but have the opportunity to have the prestige of being in an official selection. However, being selected for lets say Toronto, Cannes, Berlin or Sundance, doesn’t quite give you all the keys to enter the film industry.

Successful short filmmakers have managed to garner critical acclaim through tireless networking prior to major festivals, creating relationships and establishing a following which in turn provides them with a stronger purpose should they have a major projection.

The bigger film festivals tend to be more difficult for independent filmmakers to get any attention because the media and industry focus is looking at such a diversity of films. Those with a media spark, a controversial story, or a star-studded film tend to get all the press. Yes, celebrity is an industry wide phenomenon that cannot be undone, so there will always been a strong media presence at any large film festival, as long as film premieres will pack red carpets with top A list stars.

Independent filmmakers can succeed at smaller film festivals because distributors and talent scouts often turn to them to find hidden talent particularly if there is a niche genre in focus. Film festivals which have short film markets such as AFM and Berlin provide an opportunity for short filmmakers to have their films on display, but don t get you an automatic viewing if there are 5000 films competing for distributor eyeballs.

How does one make the most out of a big, or small festival? It all comes down to prep, and most of the time, indie filmmakers that truly gather momentum before any festival, big or small, can achieve great odds. After all, the film industry is a who you know kind of world.

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