Three reasons why you SHOULD attend film festivals. 

by | Aug 28, 2023 | Blog, Filmmaking, Producing, Production, Screenwriting

Film Fests. They feel like camp for me.

One of the reasons I started BraveMaker Film Fest was to make something inspirational that supported filmmakers and created opportunities for meaningful conversations for audiences.

I must have been to over a hundred film fests in my lifetime. Both as an attendee and as a filmmaker with a film to screen. (These photos below show I’ve always had a sunglasses addiction and I definitely went through a vest phase).

I’ve learned a lot, been inspired a lot and let’s be honest, I’ve been let down a lot.  Some fests are not great. Let me get this out of the way. 

I have been to numerous festivals where I show up and wonder if anyone really even watched my film. Were they expecting me? Does anyone know who I am? Or care who I am? I’m dressed to the nines, is there going to be a red carpet or what? Did this organization do any marketing at all? The answer is sometimes, no. 

And I’ve had one too many film fest experiences that are so not professional and incredibly disorganized. I’ve been to awful venues, empty venues and amazing venues with perfect projection and sound… but there were no festival staff present and no panel discussion after the screening. Why even have a festival if you’re not giving opportunities for the makers to talk about their work? I’ve left these fests feeling taken advantage of as if it was just a grab for my cash via a film fest submission fee. (Sadly, there are a lot of scams out there. Beware!).

It’s important to do your research and ask your filmmaker friends for their suggestions. Not every fest is going to be perfect and make everyone happy–but if there are more than a few negative reviews (be careful for the angsty filmmaker with an ax to grind) you might want to take your submission fees elsewhere. That’s why you should read reviews and post reviews for others to elevate the good fests and warn of the not-so-good ones. 

This blog is not a complaining or venting rant. That’s just some of the down sides of my fest experiences above. For the most part I’ve had a great run. In fact, I’m currently in the midst of experiencing Cinequest in San Jose/Mountain View for probably the tenth time as an attendee and the second time as a filmmaker. (My short THE CROSSING GUARD screens this week). So fun and they have great theaters, good people and amazing publicity even amidst the strike, audiences are coming out and filmmakers are attending from all over the world. KUDOS Cinequest.

I’ve heard some of my actor/filmmaker friends say they won’t attend a film fest unless they have a film there. I would challenge that. I understand why someone might think this way but even if you get rejected from a film fest, I think it’s still a good idea to attend. (I’ve been rejected from Sundance six times now, yet I keep going). And here’s why I think you MIGHT want to make attending a film fest a priority. I’ll avoid using the word SHOULD but I’m a huge fan of film festivals and here’s why: 

#1-You might MAKE FRIENDS. 

I have made some lifelong friends at film festivals.  Yes, it does take some effort to sort through the smoke and mirrors (we filmmakers love to talk and we’re not always good about following up) but if you make the time and effort you just might find some life long friends. Sean, Lodric, Damien, Avril, and Angela are a few people that I have met over the years and I still stay in contact with and follow their careers with anticipation. Some of these people have then come and been a part of my BraveMaker film festival as presenter or filmmaker themselves. A beautiful full circle. You might not meet a friend for life, but you just might meet a friend for the week. I have hung out with new friends over the course of a few days and it’s been a blast… never to see or talk to them again, except for social media. And you never know what might happen in the future. 

#2-You might FIND A COLLABORATOR.  I met editor Abbi Jutkowitz at Sundance while we both ate dinner side by side, at different tables in a restaurant in which we both were meeting different people. WEIRD RIGHT? While we both sat alone for a minute we exchanged quick introductions and cards and next thing I knew we were working together eight months later on my short film Neighbor in 2016.  And I’ll never forget that I found two actors for my films while attending the Pasadena Film festival. The wild thing was that I found Dove Meir, who acted in my film NEIGHBOR in 2016, while I was screening my short film 1440 and Counting in 2015.

That same year I met Justin James Hughes, at the same time I met Dove, and Justin and I would stay in touch over the years. During the pandemic he did a virtual webinar for BraveMaker talking about his acting career and then I cast him as “Neo” in my feature film LAST CHANCE CHARLENE in 2021.

Watching films at film festivals is great because you might find the cast and crew for a future project. 

#3-You might GET INSPIRED. I can pretty much always guarantee this will happen for me. I can’t guarantee that will happen for everyone but when I watch movies and get to meet the makers it feels a bit magical. I get so many ideas while watching other people’s movies. I also get the guts to keep going. I watch movies and the discouragement and negative forces that seem to be working against me seem powerless against the hope I feel watching something on the big screen. It’s almost as if going to film festivals and hearing the behind the scenes stories of other’s perseverance convinces me that anything is possible. So I leave the fest and write some more, plan some more and do some more and keep going after my creative goals and dreams. 

And I think you just might, too.