Film Festivals Vs. The Web

Congratulations! You made a film!! You spent many long sleepless nights,
didn't eat, sleep, shower and finally get to the big day: The presentation night.
The lights are off, all your family and friends are sitting there waiting to see that film you’ve been working on (which was also your excuse for ignoring them for the past year or so) and then, your film is finally up. And  a few minutes later: That’s it. it’s over, and you will probably never see it on the big screen ever again.

Some of you might hate your film by now and don’t ever want to see it again, but some of you (hopefully) have enjoyed working on it. In fact, you think it would be nice to share it with a bigger crowd. After finishing our film Defective Detective, I was really debating what was the best way to get it out there.
Should we try to hit the Festival circuit? or just post it online? YouTube? Vimeo? What to do?

We spent a lot of time reading different articles and notes from different filmmakers,
and I thought I’d share some of the notes we got from our experience with the life of the film after school ends.

Biggest Debate - Festivals Vs. Web.
There is a common misconception that once you have your film online it disqualifies it from entering festivals.
This is only partially true. There are only 2 big festivals (as far as I know) who are really strict about not having your film online prior to the festivals.
Those two are Siggraph and the Student Academy Awards. Both of these are very important venues that you don’t want to miss participating in.
There is a big significance for winning these festivals/awards: if you take the Gold in the student academy awards, or win Best in show in Siggraph, you are qualified to be nominated for an academy award (THE academy award).

There is a long list of Academy accredited festivals that qualifies you to submit your film to the Oscars, if you win Best of Festival (or any other qualifying category).
As far as I know, if you win the gold medal in the Student Academy Award, you are allowed to post your film online after that. I am not sure if the same applies to winning other festivals.
We sent our film to a lot of those Academy accredited festivals, and no one seem to care that our film was online. Only one festival told us that in case we win, we will be disqualified from submitting to the Academy. The whole Academy award deal is a long shot of course, but, hey, you never know!

Every Festival has its own “rules and regulations” section. I’ve been reading each and everyone of those for all the festivals we submitted to
(mostly to see that there is no fine print saying “we now own the rights to your film”) and none of mentioned anything about having your film online.
In our experience, the opposite was true. Since we posted our film online we’ve been getting many requests from festivals who want to showcase our film.

So why Festivals?
For most independent film makers this is the only way to get their film out there and to screen it in front of a big audience.
This exposure is an opportunity to meet other filmmakers and producers who might want to collaborate with and invest in their future projects.
As animation students the case might be a little different, as a lot students are very industry oriented and would like to work for a studio.
Nevertheless this is a great opportunity for you to establish yourself as an artist (if you want to go more independent), and meet a lot of very talented people.

Another reason is to have your film (that you worked on so hard) be shown on the big screen.
If you have a chance, you can visit those festivals and feel the energy in the crowd again. There is nothing like the real thing.

Some festivals will be willing to help with travel expenses (although it might not happen often) and it might be a great opportunity!

And of course, there is the award part. Nearly all festivals have some sort of award for the winning film. It’s a big honour, both for you and your school, and you never know, you might win some money.

If you choose to go the festival route, you must take into consideration the amount of work involved, and the cost. Most festivals in the USA have a submission fee (that ranges between $20-$70 usually). Then, there are shipping expenses, and exhibition copies (when you submit your film you usually send a DVD or digital file. If the film is accepted, the festival usually requires an exhibition copy of your film which could be a Hi Res file, DigiBeta tape, beta tape, Blu-Ray, or HDCAM. Those conversions can be pretty costly, but usually the festival will return the copy to you once the festival is done, so you can use it toward another festival).

A good idea would be to set a budget for yourself, send it to a few festivals (it would make sense to send to Academy accredited ones first) and see how it goes. Then you can decide how to continue. An important note - for most European festivals (and there are A LOT!) submission is free, aside from the shipping costs.

What do you need?
Before you delete/backup all your thousands of files and never look at them again, it might be a good idea to export your film to a few formats. Every festival has it’s own preferences but there are somethat ae common. I would recommend these:

uncompressed quicktime - this is a huge file, that you could export from to other formats if you need to later on.
quicktime H264
mpeg 2 (for DVD)
FLV (flash, for web)

Again, formats and codecs change every year, but these should give you enough flexibility.

Other than that, you’ll need to have some documents in reach.  In the festival world, it’s called a press kit. Almost every festival requires it either during the submission process or after you are accepted. Here is a list of things you should have:

Director’s Bio
3-5 Hi resolution images ( in Tiff and jpeg format) these should be 300 DPI 11x17 renders.
3-5 low resolution (web friendly) versions of those images
a (nice) picture of you
a copy of you student ID.
a poster of you film (Hi Res)
some production art
Any other promotional material you can think of

Presentation is important, like a nice image on the DVD, boxed in a case with a nice cover.
Festivals stress to not put stickers on the discs as they tend to peel and ruin their players. I would highly recommend to find a place that prints on DVDs. They can also make copies of your film, and for a fairly low price you get a nice stack of a 100 DVDs that has a print and your film on it. It’s good to have anyway, it will save you a lot of time if you decide to send it places.

One last note - a lot of festival deadlines are scheduled over the summer and very close to the end of the school year, so keep your eyes open. There are sites that help you find festivals and organize you submissions. is a good one that lists tons of festivals. After you set up your account, you will be able to digitally submit to a lot of places which will save you a lot of trouble.

Just YouTube it

The festival route, might be prestigious and nice, but there is something to be said for posting your film online.
In a way, the Internet is the biggest festival in town these days. If you advertise right, there is a huge potential to reach thousands of people, and different kinds of crowds, ones that might never even consider to go to a film festival.

Just like in school, people in studios surf the web and you never know who will see your film.
I know that we, as well as many people from our class were approached by big magazines, festivals and other artists, all because they saw the film online.

How do I reach out to people?

So you decided to put your film online. Great! now how do you get it to the masses?
Well there are no rules for what makes a film successful, but there are a few things that can help you advertise.

On your Vimeo or YouTube page, add a link to you website ( or even better, the Film’s website).
Make a simple website for the film. have some interesting info on it. On the front page put a big link to a Facebook page of your film.
This will help you to create a potential “fan base” that you can reach out to when advertising your film if it plays in festivals and such (see how it all works together?).
This is coming from a person who totally didn’t believe in all this social networking, and doesn’t enjoy it too much, but hey... I guess there’s something good about it

Once you upload your film, don’t wait for people to see it. Send it everywhere! Major animation sites, your favorite blogs, your friends.
The more venues you send it to, the bigger exposure you can get in the first few days, which is pretty crucial for the online success of your film, just like the real world box office.

well, those were my 50 cents. I hope you find this information helpful. Keep creating, and best of luck to all of you!

- Avner

These sources were very helpful to us, and you might want to check them out for further reading on the topic: