Which Documentary Film Festivals Should He Send His Film To ?
October 16, 2006 8:58 PM   Subscribe

A good friend of mine completed his first feature-lenght documentary this year. Now he wants to submit it to different documentary festivals.

His film is a pretty good auteur doc (66 min I think) about a North American Indian community dealing with hydroelectric development on ancestral land.

My friend is thinking about sending the film to Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival, Madrid's Documenta, Toronto's Hot Docs and Nyon's Visions du réel (some deadlines may have passed but those are the events that first spring to mind).

What are the other "prestige" doc fests ?

What are the other festivals that can't be ignored ?

I mean, it can be easy to find lists of doc festivals online but it's seems to be another thing to know which events have a tradition, are auteur oriented and have some media visibility.

Ultimately, he will send the film to many-many festivals. But for the very first round, he'd like to focus on the most "established" and "esteemed" events.

Any thoughts ?
posted by amusem to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: huh feature-length
posted by amusem at 9:01 PM on October 16, 2006

maybe he already knows this, but www.withoutabox.com is a great site for submitting your film to festivals. Besides being a free submission tool, they have a lot of background info on the festivals and break them down by various categories. (they have info even on the ones that dont allow submissions through withoutabox)
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:07 PM on October 16, 2006

AFI's Silverdocs.

It's an awesome festival, with a wide variety of docs every year. I didn't get to go to any this year (stupid foreign travel), but saw much of the programming in 2005, and it was all top-notch.
posted by god hates math at 9:35 PM on October 16, 2006

Can I piggyback, and ask the same exact question focused specifically on Chicago-area festivals/critics who's eyeballs should land on such a film?
posted by Roach at 9:38 PM on October 16, 2006

There's a newish, documentary-only festival called True/False that's becoming pretty popular. That'd be a good one to submit to.

TrueFalse.org, and here is the entry form.

March 1-7, 2007

...and to get an idea of what's played at T/F in the past, here is:

2004 films
2005 films
2006 films
posted by nitsuj at 10:03 PM on October 16, 2006

Hot Springs.
posted by jazzkat11 at 10:09 PM on October 16, 2006

When I worked in the industry 66 minutes was considered a short. 73 minutes was considered a feature. Diff festivals will have diff rules but I'd be sure to check if I were your friend or he may be wasting time/money sending to places that don't take shorts.
posted by dobbs at 10:43 PM on October 16, 2006

There's Doc/Fest in Sheffield, UK.
posted by einekleine at 2:40 AM on October 17, 2006

Full Frame in Durham, NC. One of the biggest doc festivals out there. And they seem to pair shortish features in pairs, or with a real short, but check the guidelines. A really fun festival.
posted by fionab at 5:49 AM on October 17, 2006

I wouldn't let him limit the film to doc only fests. Get it out there to every and all fests you can. The more exposure the better. Also, try to convince him to get screener copies to sites.individuals that are likely to be interested in a doc of that type. Exposure really does help.
posted by ChazB at 6:59 AM on October 17, 2006

I wouldn't let him limit the film to doc only fests. Get it out there to every and all fests you can.

Absolutely. All the major festivals - Berlin, Edinburgh, Sundance, Venice, &c. - have documentary sections, and given the higher level of industry presence at those festivals, your friends film is more likely to get a distribution deal or bring him to the attention of the right people there than it might otherwise.

One thing to be aware of - festivals often require some degree of exclusivity, especially if the film is being entered into competition, so it may not be the best idea to get all excited and jump at the chance of showing at a minor festival if the big ones are still considering the film.
posted by jack_mo at 1:20 PM on October 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Helpful stuff!

About whitoutabox drjimmy11... I'm intrigued...

I have gone through many of the steps...

I've made it to "payment method" (credit card info...) for submission to Big Sky Documentary Festival...

Before I go further...

I want to know how they want us to submit the film... I have to upload it on withoutabox? I may be helping my friend but I don't have his film on my hard drive...
posted by amusem at 1:39 PM on October 17, 2006

There's someone who runs a film festival in my flat just now, she says:
It sounds very Sundance, which commercially would be a better launch platform than the others. It totally depends where he wants the film to go and what the potential audience is: is it a possible cinema release, is he looking for a TV deal, or a DVD deal?
Basically, finances permitting, I'd recommend submitting everywhere, and going for the highest-profile and/or most suitable showcase. Check entry requirements - how much exclusivity is required, primarily - and act accordingly. Don't accept anything till the biggest have got back to you - smaller ones will wait, and will show stuff that's already premiered elsewhere. Doc-specific fests are very useful for TV deals; and reps of other filmfests will be there to see it. If the film has cinema potential, look to the big film festivals, cos that's where you'll pick up press heat and potentially a cinema deal, if that's what you want. Bear in mind that premiering at one fest doesn't rule out others - the British fests, for instance, will accept UK premieres that have already shown elsewhere.

For further info please feel free to contact me: hannahm@edfilmfest.org.uk.

Good luck!
posted by jack_mo at 4:28 PM on October 17, 2006

Hannah also says: Withoutabox is a good thing, and festivals do indeed use it.
posted by jack_mo at 4:33 PM on October 17, 2006

Response by poster: very useful hannah and jack -- thanks !
posted by amusem at 10:29 AM on October 18, 2006

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