Submitting to Film Festivals

Author: Justin Mackey

*For those looking for the vimeo / tracking method, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Just completed a short film, documentary, or a feature film?  That’s just the beginning!  Now, it’s time to start your film festival campaign.  The methods of how to do this have evolved in the past decade.  There was a time when sending a VHS was acceptable.  That time is over.  Most film festivals prefer digital now.  In this blog, we discuss the steps to take and our recommendations on how to complete them.

Sign up.  Set up your Project.  This site is a must if you are entering a film festival campaign.  We’ll get more into this later.

Selection of film festivals

This is one of the most daunting processes as the number of film festivals have soared over the years.  The website filmfreeway lists pretty much all film festivals out there but be careful.  Some of the big ones are left out because they do not need the services of film freeway.  Tribeca, Sundance, and Cannes are just a few examples.  Technology is widening the capabilities for indie filmmakers which ultimately increases the volume of the films submitted to festivals each year.  This drastically alters the selection process and the possibility of a film being accepted by a specific film festival.  Depending on the quality, budget, and cast of your film, you must consider a number of factors before selecting a film festival. 

 First, carefully evaluate your project and show your friends, family, and professional colleagues.  Once you have feedback, go directly to the big film festival websites (Tribeca, Sundance, Cannes).  Watch the selections or winners from the previous year and determine if your film competes with these films.  One of the most important realizations before spending money on a film festival is determine how competitive the festival is.  You may not want to submit a short starring your friends shot on an iphone if you are competing with short film starring Jon Hamm.  That is not to say your film will be rejected by all but be realistic with your budget and selections.  If you spend all of your money on Academy Qualifying festivals while neglecting to consider smaller festivals, you may end up with zero selections and no networking opportunities.   A good structure for your budget and selection of film festivals ……

Amateur Projects (First Timers)

Stick with the smaller guys.  No academy qualifying.

Middle of the Pack (Professional but may not compete with the big guys)

50% of your budget dedicated to Academy Qualifying / bigger film festivals with the other half dedicated to the smaller guys.

Pro (You had a budget and shot on a RED or Alexa)

If you think you have something special.  Go all out.  Make sure your budget is dedicated to the big guys.  You have all academy qualifying and top rated film festivals on your list.  

Make sure to also consider the geographic locations as some of the festivals within driving distance are probably worth your time.

Filmfreeway helps you browse film festivals with a number of filters.  Make sure you to apply all appropriate filters to the search.  This includes genre, length, entry fee, etc.  The site also makes recommendations based on reviews and if the festival is academy qualifying.    You can add the festivals that grab your attention to a watch list which gives you notifications on entry deadlines.  

How To Deliver

FilmFreeway and Withoutabox are the preferred methods of delivery for film festivals now.  As mentioned prior, Filmfreeway is recommended.  The site allows your to create a project page which festivals are able to view.  This includes your synopsis, posters, behind the scenes images, bios, trailer, and your film.  I would also recommend taking the approach of utilizing Vimeo for film preview and delivery.   Filmfreeway easily embeds the Vimeo private link into the site.  You can also designate Vimeo and Filmfreeway to keep your link private except to film festivals (this is important for tracking views). 

How to Track Your Stats

Another great thing about the combination of Filmfreeway and Vimeo, you can track the viewing stats with Vimeo Pro.  It’s a bit tricky but just follow me.  Once you have linked filmfreeway and a vimeo private link, you should be able to track who is viewing your film on your Vimeo stats page.  You will need to filter your stats to show “Source URL” and a graph will pop up.  You can look at the detailed views below the graphic which designates a specific url from where your video was viewed.  Here’s the tricky part.  When you click on, additional url’s appear with a number at the end.   This number is directly correlated with one of your submissions on Filmfreeway.  The only number available on filmfreeway site is the submission “tracking number.”  This is not the number you need.  The number you need is encoded in the raw html coding of the Filmfreeway submission page.  You will need to “view page source” from your internet browser and go through the raw html coding of the page to find the correction number extension that goes with your submission.  Once you have this number, I would recommend creating a document dedicated to tracking your stats.  This is an effective way to see how your film is doing with the screeners.  If you had three views two months ago and none since then, your film may be dead in the water.  More views that are occurring frequently means your film is making its way up the ladder.  This is also an effective way to determine if a festival even watched your film.  I’m pretty sure I caught one particular film festival (won’t name) who never actually screened my film and ended up rejecting it.  


After you’ve set up your Filmfreeway account, set your budget, select the film festivals, then submit to your top picks, just hold tight.  Make sure not to stream or upload your film anywhere as film festivals do not want your film online.  

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