How to Win at Film Festival Roulette: Stack Your Chances at Top Festivals
Bryan Glick is the director of theatrical distribution for The Film Collaborative. Some of his notable releases include “I Am Divine”, “Manos Sucias” and “1971”. He has also worked for LAFF, AFI Fest and Sundance. Here is his take on the best festivals.
At The Film Collaborative, we frequently hear from filmmakers after regretting
premiered at the “A” festival and would like to have opted for the “B” festival Likewise, when we ask
a filmmaker why they want to premiere at a particular film festival, we rarely have
a research-based response.
The truth is, all of the best festivals have certain types of films they gravitate towards, and all of them attract certain types of buyers looking for a.
type of product. With Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca and Cannes behind us (and
many filmmakers go into production to meet Sundance deadline or packaging
to apply to TIFF), we thought this would be a great time to take a step back
and take a look at the 2015 festival landscape overview (including TIFF 2014).
We have chosen to define this list according to the number of films screened
at each festival and had not publicly stated that they were distributed before
the festival lineup has been announced.
The number of films listed as acquired is to the best of our
knowledge. This includes many films that have not yet been released to the public with their distribution.
offers but which we can confirm with filmmakers, distributors and / or sales agents.
While we have focused on a small list of the best festivals, please note that
large offers can come from any festival. All that said, the following
is the look at the major premiere festivals that most of the filmmakers we meet pursue.
Sundance Film Festival 2015
– 74 Sundance acquisitions (including 19 for over $ 1 million)
– 74 films out of 104 acquired
– 18 of the 25 winners acquired
Buyers: A24, Alchemy, Large Green Pictures, Film Arcade, Fox Searchlight,
Gravitas, HBO, IFC, Kino Lorber, Lionsgate, Magnolia, Netflix, Showtime, Sony Pictures
Classics and The Orchard.
The truth: Sundance may be the holy grail for shoppers.
Sundance is a popular playground for Netflix and the all rights agreements that
are much more difficult to find in Cannes or TIFF. The festival is particularly effective for
showcasing top-notch documentaries and narrative films.
The only catch is that Sundance is just not an international
Festival. If you do not agree to the full rights agreement, it may be much more difficult to sell
the film abroad. Since Sundance is the festival’s first major stop of the year, many jockey distributors for
position. But if your film isn’t American, this might not be the festival for you. Half of the world’s doc / drama films have yet to be released in North America;
all films except four in the United States. Drama and documentary section has secured secure distribution
and almost all of them were in six or seven digits.
When it comes to entry into the festival, the festival is notoriously insular.
A large majority of films in the American competition are supported by the Sundance Institute
and / or are from alumni of Sundance. Also, Sundance tends to stick with theatrical feature films. You will be
rarely see films of 50 to 70 minutes accepted. They show a particular interest in politically oriented documentaries.
– 37 SXSW acquisitions
including 3 for more than $ 1 million
– 37 films out of 100 acquired
– 11 of the 17 winners acquired
Buyers: Netflix, Drafthouse Movies, Roadside Attractions, Gravitas, FilmBuff,
Alchemy, Vertical Films, Ignite Channel and IFC
The truth: SXSW is always a tricky proposition. With 145 films (20 +% more than
Sundance or Tribeca) presented over nine days instead of 11-12, there are just a lot of them
keep on going. This means that it is much easier to slip through the cracks. Since the festival does not sell tickets in advance, it is quite possible that no one will show up to your screening.
However, the fact that slate is younger and more adventurous
often means that movies have large built-in fan bases and that there are some daring discoveries
that distributors can sometimes obtain at bargain prices. There’s a reason FilmBuff and Gravitas grabbed at least eight movies combined. Add Netflix and you have 11 titles that we
can confirm a targeted digital route.
This is the best festival where your movie is guaranteed
screened by a festival programmer when you submit. They do all they can to find
filmmakers who are not as connected to the industry. If you don’t have any industry contacts, this might be your best bet. The festival mainly
American Films program and is a popular follow-up to TIFF and Sundance. They too
spotlight local Texas talent.
Tribeca Film Festival 2015
– 22 Tribeca acquisitions including 3 for more than a million dollars
– 22 out of 79 acquired
– 3 of the 15 winners sold
Buyers: A24, IFC, Saban Films, Paramount and Strand Releasing have all taken multiple titles
The truth: Tribeca shows fewer films than other major North American festivals
and has a reduced schedule during the normal work week. As the only high level festival
in a large American industrial hub, things tend to follow a more traditional trajectory.
However, we find that films at Tribeca often don’t think long and hard.
Thu. Summer being a slow time, many films will simply stop running festivals.
while waiting for a deal – a strategy that tends to backfire, as more often than not
they end up forgetting.
As storytelling quality increases, star pricing tends to dominate. Some according to their featured brand can get
big business, but deep down, the festival is really all about documentaries. They
have a lot of character profile and political documentaries that fall under the bait of rewards
category and often draw on a host of more traditional independent films.
As Sundance continues to narrowly define its documentary programming, Tribeca
proves to be an asset of the industry. It is also a great festival to visit as a North
American premiere. Often times, films that fall through the cracks in Berlin, IDFA and Rotterdam get more attention here, and tend to be too.
the winners during the awards ceremony. As a result, if you are an American filmmaker and awards
are important to you, recent history suggests you may want to work around this
fest. Also (unlike SXSW) they kiss their local filmmakers a lot less,
preferring to focus on international power.
Cannes Film Festival 2015
– 21 out of 81 acquired
-9 winners out of 25 acquired
Buyers: Alchemy, Cohen Media Group, IFC, Kino Lorber, Radius-TWC, Strand Releasing, Film Movement, IFC and Sony Pictures Classics
The truth: Cannes is the international giant and certainly in competition
is the best place to start a film as a candidate for a foreign language. The festival
is much more international in its programming and transaction opportunities. While the
The situation of distribution in the United States is darker, the rest of the world is catching up quickly
all they can from the festival.
It is perhaps the most initiated of the festivals. Only one movie
in competition was from a director for the first time. Cannes frequently draws from their
own rank and file. They also show the fewest documentaries of all the festivals on the
list and these are almost only movies about movies / filmmakers / actors.
There are also few slots for gender tariffs. Movies in the other
sidebars like Directors’ Fortnight and Un Certain Regard are much less likely
North American distribution when dust settles, but can usually count on a long
Cannes, of course, is attached to French films. however,
the festival continued to struggle to showcase female directors.
This festival is by far the worst of the group to think outside the box when it comes to distribution. DIY is basically a dirty roulette word and very little
crowdfunding films come in. Distributors are also less likely to brag about how well they
paid for a movie in press releases, which is why we don’t list the transaction amount in seven digits.
Toronto Film Festival 2015
– 99 TIFF films acquired (including 16 for over $ 1 million)
– 99 out of 214 acquired
Buyers: A24, Alchemy,
Bleecker, Broad Green, Image Entertainment, Lionsgate, Magnolia, Roadside Attractions,
Paramount, Radius-TWC, Relativity, Saban Films, Sony Pictures Classics, Breaking Glass Pictures, China Lion, Focus World, Cinema Guild, Cohen Media Group, Film Movement, IFC, Lionsgate, Magnolia, Monterey Media, Drafthouse Films, Oscilloscope, Strand Released, Music Box Films, Screen Media, Saban Films, Kino Lorber and The Orchard
Now keep in mind that TIFF was nine months ago. So why are the numbers relatively low compared to Sundance or even SXSW?
The truth is, TIFF has too many products and is largely biased
towards a star rate. This may be a place to collect Cannes remains
and Locarno, but English-language fares without stars (including several
films), documentaries and one of the films of the discovery of the contemporary world
The cinema and wavelength sections are unlikely to receive much attention.
The good thing about TIFF is that they take movies from more countries
than anywhere else. The festival has never been too concerned with length, with
many films over two and a half hours and others not even reaching 70 minutes.
With such a variety of films, TIFF is the most eclectic and the toughest
to define at programming level. They take a lot more genre awards than other festivals
and their documents tend to reflect an international worldview. The seven digits deal
come almost exclusively from star prices. If a movie is in English and Oscar
bait, but lack of distribution, this is the place to be. Keep in mind that documentaries make up less than 15% of the festival’s programming.
Of course, keep in mind that many more films from these festivals will ultimately secure some form of national distribution. It took “Gore
Vidal: The United States of Amnesia ”Nine Months After Its Tribeca Premiere
close its deal with IFC and it eventually became the second biggest
2013 Tribeca film.
So be smart in organizing your priorities, do your homework and get ready
the emotional roller coaster of festivals.