Why filmmakers submit early to film festivals?

Every festival committee dreams that all filmmakers make it to the early submissions and don’t ask a million of repetitive questions. But this is a utopia. In reality, most filmmakers postpone the submission until the deadline and then do whatever is possible on the day of the deadline. Such a strategy works but not really. You may suffer from a breakdown, don’t get accepted because you forgot to fill your home address, or send the wrong cut. Well, the scenery already looks depressing. But what if you submitted early? Could you imagine?

Let’s go over the perks that early submissions offer to the filmmakers.

1. Time to learn the rules

However obvious it may sound, learning the submission rules is essential. Submission director at Red Rock Entertainment reviews their film applications meticulously to avoid any weak spots; yet, they confirm that irrelevance or not-following of the submission rules is the most common reason for films participation in a festival. Each and every festival has its own set of submission rules and guidelines. If you have already decided to participate in a given festival, then don’t be lazy. Go to the festival’s website and scrupulously go over the submission guidelines one by one. The better you learn them, the fewer questions you will have and hence the less annoyed committee you will get.

2. Ask around

With early submissions, you have the most significant advantage on your hands — time. You have time to ask your fellow filmmakers about the preferences a particular festival may have. For example, one docs festival may prefer Africa-related films while others focus on racial discrimination. Depending on such opinions, you might consider or reconsider applying for a particular festival. Moreover, a piece of advice from someone who has already participated is always an advantage since you are getting information from the primary source and so can prepare your film better.

3. Market your submission based on the programming strategy

Every year every festival plans its focus and main theme. Based on those preferences a program is created. You might find out that this year you don’t get into the stream and hence submission will be only a waste of time. But you might have a better fit at a different festival or another year. Moreover, sometimes your film theme might not be a perfect match, but with the right pitch, it can get through. It means that when submitting early, you have a chance to research this programming strategy and market your film to a particular demand.

4. Prepare the submission

Again, this point sounds ridiculous because every filmmaker believes that they do prepare the submissions. In the real world, festival programmers cry over most of the submitted films. And this happens due to a number of reasons, such as:

  • Someone submitted a film but s/he didn’t have the rights or permission from the rest of the crew.
  • A film didn’t clarify the music rights.
  • A preview disc/USB drive/file won’t open.

These mistakes seem to be obvious, but they are extremely easy to avoid if you carefully plan your submission and clarify all these issues.

5. Time for a change

Festival screenings take time and a lot of preparation work. It means that you will need to stay in close contact with the festival’s programmers to prepare the release strategy. And the regret of not having enough time for it is one of the worst ones both sides have. An early submission gives you and your programmer enough time to think, change, and carefully plan the film release strategy for a given festival. Remember that your distribution deals and reputation depend on the success of such a screening. So consider getting into this business as early as possible.

6. Save money

No matter how well-off you are, saving money has never hurt anyone. Early submissions tend to cost much less than second and third rounds. Be the early bird and save your film budget.

7. Prepare a press kit

After your film gets chosen for a festival, the PR department will go over your project and plan the strategy for its presentation. The more time you give those experts, the better presentation you get, and hence the greater coverage you will get during the event time. Moreover, after the strategy is done, you will need to prepare a press release and also send to the festival’s people. If you are a newbie in the film world, then such a thing will take a lot of time and effort on your side as well. Ensure that you spare as much time as you can by submitting your film early.

8. Get social marketing going

Social media marketing is not something you can switch on in a day. It requires a lot of time, effort, and commitment to get going. So the earlier you start your own marketing campaign, the greater audience will come to your screening. And trust the expert opinion of Red Rock Entertainment producers — festivals adore filmmakers who can pack the screening with their own viewers. A marketing budget for every individual film is very limited at any festival, from Sundance to the local fair, so the more effort you put in it yourself, the greater feedback and turnout you can receive.

9. You can plan your festival strategy

And the final, yet not least important thought. Any film festival is a social event during which any filmmaker can find an investor, decide on a new project, get useful connections, or just drink good champaign. The strategy you choose depends on you only. Whether you choose to stay in the shadow on your own or shine brightly to work the floor and fill your notebook with useful contacts is up to you. But the earlier you submit and get accepted, the better you can prepare yourself for the event to take it all in a couple of days.