Why I Enter Film Festivals and You Should Too!

Why I Enter Film Festivals and You Should Too!

When I just started out in film, my first instinct was to put the film online and show the world. Seeing the views go up was always exciting, checking day by day to see if more and more eyes were peering at my vision on screen. Of course there was something missing from that experience that I couldn’t quite explain. As I did more and more research I saw a piece of advice repeat itself over and over.  Enter your film in festivals.

I entered my first festival in 2012 and won. It was in Trinidad and it was a mobile film festival. It was an exciting feeling to be validated for your work. To know that people truly love what you have created cannot be described. Regardless, nothing could compare to how I felt after entering my second festival, the Lignum Vitae Film Festival. At first I was hot and nervous. This was the first time I would be in a room with strangers watching my   film. Watching and cringing at the flaws over-thinking whether they would spot the imperfections and dislike my piece. To my surprise the crowd loved it. I thought I was cleverly hidden at the back in the dark but the lady next to me turns and said is that you I just saw in that film. I sheepishly say “yes”. She instantly smiled and said “that was really good”. I sat a little higher in the seat and gave her a thank you in relief. I entered 3 films that year, one in every category so I had to endure this twice.  I walked away with 2 awards that year, BEST ANIMATION and BEST FOLEY.

I finally found what was missing, knowing how your audience reacts to your film. Why is that even important? Online statistics can tell you many things, even comments, but nothing compares to hearing how deep people laugh, sigh, cry or remark to your film. It tells you more about your audience than you know. In fact a small amount of fan worship takes place when your audience finds you after the event and asks you questions, take pictures with you, the works. You leave with a very elated feeling, a feeling that you are doing something right. Since then I have gone on to enter the Reggae Film Festival, the GATFFEST Film Festival and the Jamaica Film Festival, winning another award at GATFFEST in 2014 and 2015 for films called “Enter The Blackberri” and “Heart Shaped Box”.

Audience reaction isn’t the only thing to be gained by entering festivals. There is also recognition.  Since I have been entering festivals I have been interviewed countless times, my Facebook friend requests go up, and I receive messages from strangers interested in my projects. These eventually lead to people wanting to hire me for jobs. I have seen this happen to other colleagues in the filmmaking world. Some of them were completely unknown showing their stuff on Youtube hoping the likes will go up.  After entering the festival, they started getting jobs and eventually started their own business. GATFFEST in particular is known for being a recruiting ground by local media. Several GATFFEST Alumni have been given jobs in media companies.

This to me is fantastic to enter a festival for free and come out gaining employment.  As we become more seasoned the need to grow becomes stronger and we set our sights on bigger festivals. Festivals that provide advanced workshops on filmmaking, access to networking with potential investors and in some cases cash prizes. Of course these festivals require superb work  As a result we take longer and longer to make our films, trying to get the production quality as high as possible so that it looks the part of a film that should be in Cannes or Sundance. Despite setting my sights on bigger festivals I still enter local festivals because publicity is still valuable in my book and it’s one of the best ways to support the industry.

​If people don’t enter then there will be no film festivals and I rather enjoy having a platform around that new filmmakers can cut their teeth on. An article came out in the paper and there was a quote I have to paste here. It said…

“FILM festivals are a perfect way for young filmmakers to get their works seen; for actors, a chance to show off and sharpen their acting skills; and film lovers to see new and unusual cinematic pieces.”
I will leave it at that.

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