While your first impulse as producer or filmmaker may be to throw a screener at every festival that happens to be accepting submissions; there should be a method to the madness.
1. First, isolate the festivals that feature similar releases. This works especially in favour of genre films (i.e. submitting your horror film to the “After Dark Horrorfest” festival in Toronto, or eco-warrior project to Wildscreen festival) and it will also give you an idea of the competition out there. The festival programmers will be encouraged to pick projects that reflect the values of their festival – and you’ll have an easier time branding your project for distributors and other buyers.
2. Scheduling is also of great concern when choosing festivals. Choosing a festival that would promote your project the furthest will contend with which festival happens earlier in the year. As your project receives more press and coverage, it can then snowball throughout the year. Secondly, scheduling properly means you can budget for travel costs and your time should you choose to accompany your project. (Don’t forget to apply for government funding to travel with your project!)
3. Finally, choosing your festival should be influenced by which festival you have the best relationships with. While you may get a spot in Cannes or Sundance – if it’s in the general lineup, it could be missed by festival goers. if there is a smaller festival that is willing to open with your project sooner in the year – then by all means, make the most of the exposure. It will help bolster the projects presence at the bigger festivals.
Click here for a list of Film Distribution and Film Festivals in Canada from Queen’s University. (They also have a list of recommended festivals for students)
Sites to research film festivals around the world:
Wikipedia’s List of Film Festivals (includes travelling and online festivals)
Film Festival World (they feature lists of past winners of festivals, clips and more)