11 Film Festival Tips from Award-Winning Independent Filmmakers

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Pictured above: Regina, SK, Canada. Mid-shot on a music video set holding a DJI Ronin M. Follow @VisualsByRoyalZ.

Hello Filmmakers, Videographers, Animators, and Storytellers! This is a compilation of “Film Festival Tips” shared from award-winning independent filmmakers that were featured in Student Filmmakers Magazine. Here are 11 Film Festival Tips from 11 Awesome Filmmakers. This includes inspirational words and insights from Phillip Van, Samantha Davidson Green, Bradley Tangonan, and more…

“Competitions and festivals get your work out there to an audience or a committee that can evaluate it. Filmmaking doesn’t end with a final cut. Audience reception is a part of the experience. You want to see how your material plays among those that are not you, not your friends, and not a hermetically sealed group of people.”
~Phillip Van

“It’s about trying to write something personal and fresh and being aware of not imitating other films even if they’re great films that won the invitation. Trying to find that really personal story. And generally, I think that festival programmers really respond to that. They’re looking for something that’s sincere and from the heart and not about gimmicks. Some short films tend to rely on just being clever. There are some films that are totally fun being clever, but just try to find that way to make your story personal and expressive of yourself.”
~Samantha Davidson Green

“Just make a commitment to do something, anything, and follow it through to completion. It doesn’t matter if it’s the next great cinematic masterpiece, or even if it’s very good. If you just try, you are guaranteed to learn something and that’s really what we should be striving for.”
~George Seamer

“My advice to beginner filmmakers is that all it takes is some basic video equipment, a few dedicated team members, and above all else a story. To me, story is to film what melody is to music: movies live and die by story. The best thing to do when you come up with a story is to tell it to anyone who will listen and give you feedback. Pin down the story events and climax before you start writing. Build a strong foundation on which to base the entire project.”
~Bradley Tangonan

“Who cares if some or even most people don’t like your work? I can almost guarantee it’s still worth doing. In school, students practically never like another student’s work, and your teachers will get paid to tell you what is wrong with your film. I’m not telling you to ignore any criticism that is ever given to you, but at the same time, it’s not worth it to let someone else’s subjective opinion influence you enough to dislike what you do and create.”
~ Travis Walton Waugh

“The best advice I have ever heard, and I’m a believer as well is – just go out and shoot something, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad in your eyes, your next one will be better. But I’ve also come to realize that when it comes to making movies; friends are not fans.”
~Nick Kougioulis

“Prepare to get your hands and feet dirty and never give up. If you have a story to tell, tell it. And keep going. Tell another one, and another one and another one. Because you’re going to put a lot of energy into that first film, and it’ll open doors for you, but it’s not going to set you financially. If you’re doing it for the money, be a stockbroker. But if you love cinema, eventually your passion will transcend into something. The energy that you create will carry you places.”
~Sasha Knezev

“When you shoot a film, don’t think about things like Sundance or Cannes or what the film should be like in order to get it into a big festival. Just concentrate on your work, and do the film exactly the way you want it.”
~Joerg Wagner

“Writers go through a similar process to short filmmakers – they submit to literary journals and hope to get published, like we submit to festivals and hope to get programmed. There are lots of journals out there, if you’re having trouble with story ideas, get a few and find good stories. I bet most new authors would be thrilled to have a film made from their work.”
~Todd Davis

“The trick to getting accepted into a lot of festivals is submitting to a lot of festivals. We submitted to over a hundred, I think, and we got rejected from most of them. But we also got accepted into about 30 of them, which is quite a large number.”
~Taron Lexton

“It sounds really simple, maybe overly so, but – just make the movie. Take your time, be thorough, make sure you’re working with people you trust and like to work with, but don’t worry about whether you’re doing things the ‘right’ way, and don’t get overly discouraged if it becomes difficult at times. There’s a solution to every problem, whether it’s technical, budgetary, or logistical. There are a lot of different ways to get to a completed movie, so the only thing you can really do wrong is to end up not taking the steps to get there.”
~Kyle Garrett