Film Festivals

RiverRun BadgeWhile more and more documentaries are making it to the local Cineplex, the reality is that the documentary genre is still a very independent, word-of-mouth field. What does this mean for DFP students in search of an audience for those first-year shorts and thesis projects? It translates into an education of a different kind into the world of film festivals.

Read on for a couple of  tips on developing your film festival strategy along with a list of festivals to consider.

 

Know your film and take the time to find festivals that fit.
With most festivals requiring entry fees, it pays to do your research and know which festivals make sense for your film. Before submitting an application, review festival programs from years past to get an idea of the kinds of docs that make it onto the schedule. Don’t overlook topic-specific festivals that might offer the perfect niche for your film (i.e. environmental, social justice, cultural, children’s, women’s issues, LGBT). “It’s sometimes better to be the toast of a smaller festival than be overlooked at a larger festival,” writes Chris Gore in his Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide

Your film only premieres once.
Think strategically about the festival where you would most like to premiere. Does it sync up with a realistic completion date for your film? Seasoned filmmakers warn against rushing your time in the edit suite just to make a particular festival’s deadline. Also keep in mind that programmers often favor films that will be premieres for their festivals. Read the fine print on festival applications about whether or not your film must be premiering on the international, national, regional or state level in order to be considered for the event.

Top Student Competitions for Documentary

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Annual Student Academy Awards
Entry Deadline: April
Awards Ceremony: June

Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards (Student Emmys)
Entry Deadline: Mid-January
Awards Ceremony: March

IDA/David L. Wolper Student Achievement Award
Entry Deadline: June
Awards Ceremony: October

Festivals for Documentaries Only
AFI Docs
Entry Deadline: January-March
Festival Month: Mid-June

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Entry Deadline: September
Festival Month: February

DocFest: New York International Documentary Festival
Entry Deadline: By invite only
Festival Month: Spring

Doc/Fest Sheffield
Entry Deadline: Early June
Festival Month: Early November

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-October
Festival Month: Mid-April

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-December
Festival Month: Late April-early May

Hot Springs Documentary Festival
Entry Deadline: late April
Festival Month: late October

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
Entry Deadline: May-October
Festival Month: Late November-early December

True/False Film Festival
Entry Deadline: August-November
Festival Month: Early March

Visions du Reel International Documentary Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-January
Festival Month: Late April

Premier U.S. Festivals
Los Angeles International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: June (early), July (late)
Festival Month: Early November

San Francisco International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: November
Festival Month: Late April-early May

Seattle International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Early February
Festival Month: Late May-June

Sundance Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-September (shorts), early October (features)
Festival Month: January

SXSW
Entry Deadline: Early December
Festival Month: Mid-March

Telluride Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-July
Festival Month: Early September

Tribeca Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Early December
Festival Month: Late April-early May

Premier International Festivals
Berlin International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: November
Festival Month: February

Cannes Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-March
Festival Month: Late May

Rotterdam International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: November
Festival Month: Late January-early February

Toronto International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Early June
Festival Month: Early September

Venice International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-June
Festival Month: Early September

The World Film Festival (Montreal)
Entry Deadline: July
Festival Month: Late August-early September

Top Festivals for Shorts
Aspen Shortsfest
Entry Deadline: December
Festival Month: Early April

Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival
Entry Deadline: October
Festival Month: Late January-early February

International Short Film Festival Oberhausen
Entry Deadline: Mid-January
Festival Month: Early May

New York City Short Film Festival
Entry Deadline: August
Festival Month: November

Palm Springs International Short Film Festival
Entry Deadline: May
Festival Month: August

Short Shorts Film Festival
Entry Deadline: November
Festival Month: Summer Tour

Slamdance International Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Mid-October
Festival Month: Mid-January

Tampere International Short Film Festival
Entry Deadline: Early December
Festival Month: Early March

Online Film Festival Directories
British Council Film
User generated listing with information on thousands of festivals in over 80 countries.

Documentary Film.net
A list of exclusively documentary film festivals and a comprehensive listing of film festivals.

FilmFestivals.com
List of film festivals and other film related news.

Film Festival Source
Festivals from around the world, searchable by categories such as genre and country.