How much budget do I need for a festival run?
Engrossed in shooting, postproduction, distribution and marketing, filmmakers tend to underestimate the efforts and budgets needed for a decent festival run. Film festivals still are the main distribution option for short films. And besides the opportunity to gain professional credibility, being selected at festivals results in huge benefits like travels, awards and cash prizes, networking with the industry, and even funding opportunities for future projects. In this post we share our recommendations for festival distribution budgets, in relation to different strategies and expectations of the number of selections.
First of all: The costs of a festival run vary, depending on the goals and the preferred strategy. Keep in mind that not every short film is suitable for festival distribution.
The conventional short film distribution: Premiere at a big festival
A conventional strategy means aiming for World, International and Country Premieres at renowned festivals, followed by mid-range to smaller festivals later on. The releases on TV, VOD or any other chanels are planned after several festival screenings. The public online release can be expected after two to three years.
Famous festivals often are expensive to submit to, and as the conventional strategy already calculates a timeframe of 1.5 to 2 years of festival submissions, you have to calculate to cover the festival fees.
We recommend budgets of 2000 – 3000 CHF($) for a fiction short which leads to 160 to 240 submissions, and a festival run of two years. A smaller budget means a shorter and smaller reach.
Animation, documentary and genre shorts are slightly better off: the budget can be a bit lower, as there are more festivals to which you can submit for free. Plus the chances to get accepted are higher, as there is less competition in specialized categories.
Be Everywhere all at Once
Another possible approach to a festival run can be the Be Everywhere all at Once strategy. There is less focus on where the premiere takes place: the goal is to spread your work. In a first round you submit to quite a bunch of festivals (50 to 100), big or small, and see where it takes you. In the second round you can optimize, and follow up with submissions to the kind of festivals which liked your film. Realistic festival fee budgets start at 1000 CHF($).
You can even try to see how far your film travels when submitting to free or cheap festivals only. At FestivalWhizz you can choose the preference „Low Fees“ when getting your Festival List. Some famous and big festivals, especially in Europe, are still free to submit! This option is recommended if you have a tight budget, if you already submitted a lot, or if your film is an undergraduate work and you want to gain some experience with festivals.
With the Be Everywhere all at Once strategy you can plan your online release early, and still continue to submit to festivals. According to Short of the Week, more than 70% of the festivals allow films to be published. To our experience even famous festivals like Sundance, Clermont Ferrand or Tampere program released shorts in competitions, and even award them. You might want to check our article When is the best moment to release your short online?
If you’re film is online for the public, don’t forget to change the film’s status on FestivalWhizz. Your next list will only contain festivals which have no restrictions regarding the online release.
A common misjudgement is, how many festivals you need to apply to, in order to get selected to one. Nearly every filmmaker gets insecure when receiving the first rejections. Keeping in mind how many great shorts are out there, and how challenging it is for programmers to create screening programs that fit their audience, one realizes that rejections are part of the game.
Here are some expamples of how many submissions the big festivals receive, and how many they actually select for their competitions in 2018:
Even very successful films receive a lot of rejections. One of our shorts, winner of a BAFTA award and shortlisted for an Academy Award, played at more than 110 festivals and received 26 awards. The short was submitted to more than 300 festivals, which means there have been roughly 200 rejections.
The list gives you a rough idea about how many submissions can lead to which percentage of acceptances.
We consider acceptance rates between 10% to 20% as quite good, anything above 20% is fantastic. With a guide like FestivalWhizz one can hope for higher acceptance rates. More so, as you will only submit to festivals worth submitting to, custom-matched for your film. You will spend the budget in the best way possible.
by Andrea Sponring & Lilla Puskás
2018 © FestivalWhizz / CUT-UP GmbH, Switzerland. Free for fair use: if you quote, credit.