It’s a jungle out there, guys. Not only are there thousands and thousands of film festivals, ready and willing to take your money, there are also several ways to submit. Here are your options.
Laurels. Adding words like ‘Official Selection’ or ‘Winner’ – neatly displayed between the familiar laurels – to your film’s poster, can help boost your credibility as a filmmaker or help your film stand out in you marketing. But be careful to not let the laurels be a goal in and of itself. There are many festivals that capitalize on inexperienced filmmakers’ eagerness to get recognized, without actually offering anything of value, like a public screening or networking opportunities.
A handful of online festival submission tools have made it infinitely easier for filmmakers to submit their work to festivals around the world, but this ease of submitting also means that many filmmakers don’t necessarily do their due diligence before paying up. So as we present the following tools, we do so with a warning – nay, a request: Please don’t submit to anything and everything that will accept your film. Do your due diligence and make sure the festivals have actual artistic merit and clout in the community. Otherwise you’re really just paying to give yourself a comforting pat on the back.
In the days of burning DVD screeners and mailing festival applications, Withoutabox was a much needed technological leap forward into the future of festival submissions. With Withoutabox filmmakers could suddenly upload their project to a website and submit to as many festivals as their little hearts desired, paying a small fee for the convenience. Withoutabox is still one of the mastodons of the festival submission tools and they do have partnerships with some of the more recognizable festivals, but the platform is lacking behind some of it’s more recent competitors in ease of use. And submission fees quickly add up.
Preferred by many over Withoutabox, FilmFreeway has quickly become the go-to for convenient submissions to a large number of festivals. Not all festivals are represented on the platform, so you may have to shop around a bit, but this is a great place to start. FilmFreeway never charge for submissions, so you only pay the applicable festival fees. An easy-to-use and well organized ‘project folder’ lets you present your film in HD, with a poster, director bio, trailer and much more.
A UK-based alternative to FilmFreeway and Withoutabox, FestHome sets itself apart by also offering a way for filmmakers to monetize their projects through their VOD channel, IndieHome TV. I have not used this platform myself, but it is by all accounts user- and artist-friendly. Apart from the per-submission fees that are charged in addition to the festival fees.
Reelport, based in Germany, is not so much an alternative, as it is a supplement to the larger portals. Similar to FestHome, it has partnerships with a smaller number of festivals, but many European ones, so if that’s your target market, you may want to look into Reelport’s services. The interface is less user-friendly than that of FestHome or FilmFreeway, and only your first upload (short film) and submission is free – after that additional festival submissions are 2 EUR and additional project uploads are 3 EUR. On top of that comes the festival fees, of course.
Another European option, Shortfilmdepot is – as the name implies – specifically focused on short film submissions, so if you’re about to submit your first short film and the thousands of festivals available through FilmFreeway or Withoutabox seem impossible to manage, this may be a good place to start. Unfortunately, submissions will cost you 3 EUR each (on top of any festival fees) and the user interface is not quite as inviting as some of the other alternatives listed above.
Lessons to be learned here?
Don’t submit blindly. Do your research. Target festivals based on your project’s format and audience. And make sure you budget for festival submissions before you even start shooting.