1. Always check your DVD after burning it and before sending it to film festivals. There was a case with a requested documentary, a good one too, that had a minor glitch in the middle of the film. An email was sent to the filmmaker requesting a new copy stating the reason why. When the new copy arrived the problem persisted so the film was just tossed aside. Most of the times programmers won’t even bother asking for a new DVD even if they think the film is good. So, take a minute and check your film/copies.
2. The first and last 10-20 minutes of your film are crucial. Sorry if the middle is your best part but the beginning usually holds the promise of good storytelling and it can be your golden ticket into the festival program.
3. Research in advance and be sure your film fits the festival, don’t waste your money on sending the submission package to the wrong one. Once there was a doc submission that was more fit for a scientific conscious audience and totally not fit for TDF.It had to be tossed aside because it was not what the festival was looking for. Do not worry yourself; there are plenty of film festivals that focus on particular subject like environment, music or shorts, which will cater to your particular interests.
4. Send what is asked in the rules. If the festival asks you to send two copies of your film, a copy of your submission form and a simple press kit then please do just that. Do not overdo it, read carefully and follow the rules. Many times the programmers will receive the DVDs with no information on it, no press kit, no submission form and they have no other choice than to pop in the DVD and look at the opening credits for a title, director name etc. Then the programmer has to look for the submission form in the general online database and import it in the current festival one.Usually the programmer has to look for additional information on the web in order to finish putting the film into the database with at least a modicum of information. Yes, it is frustrating, inconvenient and it takes a lot of the precious time programmers have. Don’t be sloppy in your submission.
5.Don’t send your synopsis in another language than English. The programmers don’t have a Chinese, French, German etc translator on standby just for you. Once again pay attention to the rules, they are there for a reason. There are film festivals that do permit bi-lingual synopsis and for that you will have to, again, pay attention to the submission requirements.
I hope you find these tips helpful, there are more to come, don’t worry.