Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide (Book Review)

Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide (Book Review)

If you ask a young filmmaker how they would start a professional directing or producing career, they would say that they are going to take part in some film festivals. However, do they know actually how to do so?

Today, I read a book named Film Festival Survival Guide by Chris Gore, which mainly teaches young filmmakers to make good use of various film festivals and help their movies get attention from the public.

Literally, a film festival is a celebration for filmmakers to show their talents and socialize with each other. However, not all film festivals are parties where people raise their wine glasses and say hello to each other. Usually, film festivals are events that filmmakers (especially independent filmmakers) submit their films to and wait for the opportunity to garner attention. However before accessing a film festival, consider the 10 dirty secrets of independent film which are revealed in the first chapter of the book:

1. Corporate Independent rules – co-opt the independent spirit.
2. Business relationship – know some crucial executives.
3. Casting counts – get some “actors” in your film.
4. Be original, but don’t be too original – familiar genre, but unique content.
5. Get to know the “phantom programmers” – respect people who are trusted by the film festival.
6. Get a good review from “Roger Ebert” – get some decent reviews from recognizable media.
7. Awards are meaningless unless you get the award – know how to tout your awards in the market.
8. Don’t be an orphan – distribute your films, even if they’re distributed by yourself.
9. Get a look – post some creative pictures.
10. The truth – most independent filmmakers cant get a good pay.

Combining the book and my personal experience, if this is your first time to take a film festival, please put these strategies in your mind:

1. Don’t screen or show your films (shorts or features) for the public, even on platforms such as Youtube. It would be fine to upload your films to Vimeo with a personal code, but don’t send the link to everyone. For most features, before getting into film festivals, you should keep your film’s world priority.

2. Create an account on Withoutabox, which is a professional website for people to apply for film festivals by themselves. There is a search function which could help you to decide what kinds of film festivals you should go to, including the deadline for application and fees. One tip for the application is to do it as quickly as possible. If your application date is closer to the deadline, the fee you pay will be higher. As a student applying, there are a lot of discounts.

3. Pay close attention to your synopsis. Every year, every film festival will get a lot of film submissions, thus you should persuade judges or audiences to watch your film through your powerful synopsis. Some tips are to use famous quotations under your title, write a specific logline, and get a review quote from celebrities if possible.

4. Don’t try to buy your way into film festivals. If the application fee is more than $100 or you get a call that you are accepted by their film festival but you should spend higher fee on getting entrance, please be careful. This is a scam designed by some film festivals that try to earn money from naive filmmakers.

Overall if you’d like to take part in some film festivals, you should get more information and festival lists from Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide.

.Chris Gore's ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide Book cover

Xioyi Fu
TRF Graduate student in Newhouse. Film Lover
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