August 21, 2019

The 6 Best Film Festivals That You Should Attend

Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet
Which film festivals are the best investment of your time and money? Find out here.

It’s a great time to be an independent filmmaker. Film festivals, once rare events scattered around the globe, are now regular affairs, and the best film festivals in the world are well-known as places where interested investors can find the cinematic classics of the future.

But submitting your movie to a film festival costs money, as does traveling to and attending the festival to promote your film. When deciding which movie festivals to submit to/attend, you need to be discriminating. You probably don’t have the time and money to attend them all, so you need to know which are the best film fests for you and your film?

Top Film Festivals in the U.S.

If you’re an American filmmaker, or want your film to get distribution in America, you’ll probably be interested in the top film festivals throughout the United States. Here are a few you should definitely try to hit.

Sundance Film Festival
Credit: Travis Wise

1. Sundance 

The granddaddy of all film festivals. When people think of independent film festivals in the U.S., Sundance is usually the first name they think of. Founded by Robert Redford in order to foster new talent outside of the studio system, Sundance has been wildly successful for decades. The entry fee to submit your film is quite reasonable, $40 - $110, given how quickly a viewing at Sundance can catapult your movie to fame, but very few films are selected, less than 200 out of over 10,000 submitted.

2. Tribeca 

If you’re closer to the East Coast, the Tribeca Film Festival might be more your speed. Although not nearly as old as Sundance, Tribeca has quickly acquired an impressive reputation. The entry fee is considerably higher, ranging from $60 - $500, but your odds are getting accepted to the festival are much, much better, about 17 percent vs. about two percent for Sundance, and the rewards can be as great.

3. Austin 

Austin might be one of the most fun film festivals and is unique in that it is writer-focused. In fact, it starts with the Austin Screenwriting Conference, which has its own contest that you can submit a screenplay to in a range of genres. After a week of screenwriter events, the film festival proceeds in earnest. It’s a great way to make connections with people in all areas of the film industry, from writers to actors to directors to producers, and has a very reasonable submission fee of $50 - $85.

Best International Film Festivals

While U.S. film festivals are great, some of the biggest film festivals take place internationally. Here are some major film festivals throughout the globe that you should attend if you can.

Arriving at Cannes
Credit: Fandemiss755

1. Cannes 

Anyone who takes film festivals seriously sees the Cannes Film Festival as the cream of the crop. Winning a Palme d’Or from Cannes is almost inevitably a ticket to movie making star status. Only 80 films, 30 of them shorts, are shown out of the many thousands submitted, but if you are a film lover, this is a can’t miss festival experience. Entry fee for the competition ranges from $50 - $400.

2. Berlin International Film Festival 

If you haven’t heard of the Berlin International Film Festival, you may know it better as Berlinale. Berlin and its Golden Bear award is quickly approaching the Palme d’Or in the prestige acquiring one can grant. Previous winning films include The Thin Red Line, Magnolia, and The People vs. Larry Flynt. Entry fee is $85 - $100.

3. Toronto International Film Festival 

Not only is Toronto a beautiful city to visit and this an extremely fun event, some think of a screening at Toronto as a ticket to Oscar fame. Skeptical? Some of the movies that premiered at Toronto are Black Swan, The King’s Speech, American Beauty, and Slumdog Millionaire. The entry fee is a modest $45 - $85.

Before submitting to a film festival, do a little research to see what types of films typically win. If you’re doing a documentary, research the best first-time documentary film festivals. If your movie is a comedy, see which festivals skew towards screening more comedy films. Don’t get blinded by the fame and success attached to certain festivals. Make sure you are submitting to the best festival for the movie you have made.

What’s Next?

Before you have a great movie you can submit to a film festival, you have to have a great script. Check out these Five Screenwriting Tips You Can Learn from ‘Mindhunter’ for some ideas on how to create a well-rounded screenplay.     

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