Tips from Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival

Festivals offer an all-important route to recognition and a wealth of opportunities for short film makers, not forgetting the chance to get your precious masterpiece screened in an actual cinema. The people behind the scenes at festivals are passionate about film and love what they do, despite long hours, intense pressure and often little or no pay. Sound familiar? Think of us as kindred spirits – ones who could just open some doors for you. Some tips.

Develop a festival strategy
Draw up a list of target festivals, considering prestige, industry exposure, networking potential, awards and geographical spread. Budget for fees, film copies and postage costs. Read submission guidelines carefully (FYI: sending out random emails / tweets with online links just makes you look lazy). Create a simple website with a trailer, synopsis, full credits, contact details and a press kit with high-resolution stills. Make sure any DVDs you send out are well labelled, including an email address. Review progress regularly and adjust tactics accordingly. Take rejection gracefully and be responsive when your film is selected.

Attend festivals which are screening your film, but think about where you can get maximum benefit.
Are you competing for an award? Is there a market or industry programme targeting shorts? Will buyers, sales agents and programmers be there in a networking context? Although major feature-focused festivals look fancy on your filmography, they often lack a framework to support short film makers. On the other hand, smaller events have the benefit of a more intimate setting, which makes networking a more natural process. Many events offer training programmes which give them added value. Talent Campuses (Berlinale, Sarajevo) are a fantastic way to meet people, get inspired and learn new skills, while dedicated shorts festivals such as Encounters organise talks, workshops and practical courses. Every year we also give a special platform to ten short filmmakers who are ‘ones to watch’ – the Future Encounters.

Put yourself out there, but don’t be pushy.

Try to be engaging during festival Q&As, and make efforts to build relationships with interesting contacts. Just be careful to pick the appropriate moment to pitch your new project – nobody likes being pestered. Do bring along promo materials and DVDs but don’t desperately plaster them everywhere. Be sincere and friendly with the festival staff and volunteers, as a positive impression can work wonders for your reputation. Send a thank you email after your visit and an update about your latest projects: Encounters is always delighted to promote any alumni successes and always keeps the filmmakers in mind when interesting opportunities come up.

The Encounters Call for Entries is now open. Find out more at encounters-festival.org.uk.

text: Jude Lister