Independent Movies and Film Festivals

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Once a movie is finished being edited and the music and score have been completed most independent filmmakers hit the film festival circuit. This means usually the director or producer submits the film to various festivals in hopes that their movie will get selected. Once it does, the key members attached to the film (director, producers and lead male and female actors) attend the festivals. The goal is to network with other filmmakers and of course, hopes are high for a win. Winning a festival, especially if it’s a big one, e.g. Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes, can change a filmmaker’s life. A win normally includes media interviews, exposure to agents and distribution buyers, and in some cases cash awards.

WHAT ARE FILM FESTIVALS?

Film festivals are events or venues that provide an opportunity for filmmakers, especially up-and-coming filmmakers, to get their movies screened in front of an audience and to have their films reviewed by professional critics and distribution companies.
Film festivals are a golden opportunity for filmmakers, but it can be quite expensive. To enter a film into a festival it can cost anywhere between $30 to $100. Most independent filmmakers don’t remember to include these fees in their budget. That means the money for entry fees must be paid out of pocket by the director and/or producer(s). Due to the high fees, a director or producer will be more selective when choosing a film festival to enter their movie into.

For “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives,” Jillian Bullock, writer, director and producer, will enter the film into major film festivals - Sundance, Cannes, and Tribeca, among others – but she will also enter the movie into smaller festivals which are Academy Awards qualifiers.

DISTRIBUTION DEAL

Every independent filmmaker wants his or her movie to get picked up by a distribution company, whether it’s a big studio or a smaller one. With a distribution deal the film can either go into theaters, straight to DVD or to TV with online streaming through channels such as Netflix, Hulu, AmazonPrime. It used to be that filmmakers frowned at the mere thought of getting offered a deal from companies like Netflix, but that has changed in a big way due to the power this company has generated over the past few years. Currently, Netflix has over 16 million paying customers and it’s the world’s leading Internet subscription service for movies and television in the U.S. and Canada. Even A list actors, including Dwayne Johnson, Robert DeNiro, Will Smith, and more, are making lucrative deals on Netflix.
(Will Smith)
(Dwayne Johnson)
(Robert DeNiro)
Most filmmakers want to make a deal with a company who will 1) pay them a fee that will help them recoup the money they put out to make the movie. 2) An advance so they can benefit financially from making the movie. 3) A company who will put in marketing dollars to help promote the film.
It is rare that an independent movie, with no named actors, will garnish millions of dollars upfront fee from a distributor. However, a good sum can be secured if the movie is marketed and promoted properly. For the director and producers this means getting as much press as possible before the movie goes to film festivals. Doing this is called Pedigree.

Pedigree means getting tons of press coverage, interviews, quotes from critics, and awards, if possible. By doing this it says to potential distributors that you have a winning movie.

The road to acquiring a distribution deal for a movie is arduous and not for the weak at heart. It takes time, patience, and a great deal of hard work to secure a deal that benefits the filmmaker and the distribution company.

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