How to conquer film festival deadlines

Today, we are going to talk about deadlines. Not a pleasant topic, I know, but it’s important to talk about submission deadlines when applying to film festivals.

One thing that you have to keep in mind is that different festivals have several deadlines. Usually it goes: early bird, regular, late submission and even in some cases extended submission deadline. If you apply to film festivals that require no submission fee then you have only one deadline, if the festival requires a submission fee, usually there are several deadlines, like the ones mentioned above and the submission fee increases with every passing deadline.

You may ask if deadlines are set in stone. Yes and no, I would say.
For example, when I was researching for LGBT film festival to submit one of the shorts part of my experiment, Born That Way, I found a great film festival in San Francisco but the submission deadline already passed. After browsing on their website, I found out the email of the senior programmer and on a whim I decided to write to him saying:

“I would be grateful if you could let me know if this documentary is appropriate for your festival. I thank you for your kind attention and look forward to your reply”

I didn’t think anything of it, but to my surprise the senior programmer, Peter L. Stein, replied

“[..] because of the special nature and subject of the documentary we will be happy to take a look”

Mr. Stein had a stipulation, the film should be officially submitted through Withoutabox, an online film festival submission platform . He even was kind enough to give the film a fee waiver code.
You can see his  full email down below.

Mr. Stein's reply to Born That Way email

Mr. Stein’s reply to Born That Way email

Born That Way didn’t end up getting into the Frameline 38 San Francisco LGBT International Film Festival but I got two great tips/lessons from this experience:

1. NEVER be afraid to ask for a deadline extension or fee waiver

2. How to set up an account with an online film submission platform ( it’s not true that’s it’s “fairly quickly”, it is overwhelming for a first timer but it has its perks about which we will talk next time.

As you can see there are some exceptions to submitting your film on time but do not make a habit our of it. Film Festivals deadlines are there for a reason and film festival programmers had them set to control the work flow and the pre-screening program.

Next time we are going to talk about the mysteries of online film festival submission platforms.


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