How I got film festivals to waive my submission fees

Film festival submission fees are usually a shock to any filmmaker. You need to budget for at least £500 if you’re planning a festival run of longer than 6 months. 

To save you $$$ (and a major shock when you’re budgeting) here are 2 major money-saving hacks to use on your festival release, including the simple strategy that had film festivals coming to me and waiving the fees.

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Read more: How to Know Which Distribution Route is Right for your Short Film

Money-saving hacks for a festival release

Plan it in advance. Girl, I cannot stress it enough. Plan. It. In. Advance. 

Having a plan means you’re going to have submission deadlines, including the discounted earlybird deadlines in your calendar. That’s upwards of £100 saved already.

Read more: Cambria Bailey-Jones: film producer, writer and director | Female Filmmaker Friday

Planning in advance is also going to give you the advantage of streamlining your submissions. 

There is zero point in submitting to the 100 film festivals coming up soon. You’re likely to be rejected by 70% of them. 

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Planning allows you to research and find the film festivals that are already looking for your film. Trust me, they’re out there. But you have to do the legwork to find them. 

Submitting to festivals that have a proven interest in films like yours majorly increases your chances of being accepted. That’s another £100+ saved by not submitting to festivals that you have a less than good chance of being selected for.

The Social Strategy

Our short film – serving as a proof-of-concept for a feature length – with a budget of £2000 got multiple festival selections and fees waived.

We achieved this by having the cast and crew posting consistently on social media. 

Read more: How to stand out as a creator in the Instagram age (without being spam-y)

There was also a designated hashtag for our film, which each post included. This allows every festival, producer or company to see every single post related to the film. The more posts, from more people, get the most attention. 

It proves that people are interested in the story and are ready and waiting to watch the film.

This is the sign that festival programmers are looking for. Remember, their biggest aim is to sell tickets and fill up screenings. 

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Again, planning is the biggest part of this strategy. You need to have your team posting for at least 3 months leading up to the shoot, and you need to ensure your hashtag is unique. 

Your to do list

  • Research options for your film’s hashtag
  • Prepare and create content for your team to post 

Get examples of successful social media content and ideas to create your own in the festival guide.

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  • Add reminders to post to your calendar (or schedule in advance)

Read more: The Complete Guide to Instagram for Filmmakers

  • Research festivals that have selected films like yours
  • Add festival deadlines to your calendar
  • Include festival submission fees in your budget
  • Bonus: add a marketing allowance to your budget

This is the super simple strategy that you can put into place asap, and will have you saving time and $$$.


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