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Illegitimate film festivals: Becoming more of an issue?

Hi all,

I'm a reporter for Broadcast Mag, the business publication that serves the TV sector.

I have recently had it pointed out to me that there are growing frustrations with the number of illegitimate festivals, while filmmakers often feel their films aren't being watched by judging panels - after paying a fee.

I wondered if anyone on the forum has had any recent experiences regarding this that they would be willing to share?

Would keep the conversation all on background for the time being. Currently researching the topic and would notify any interviewees if we were going to go public with an article.

If you want to reply on here that's fine, or my details are 02081020864/


Max Goldbart

  • Max, great to hear Broadcast are looking into this whole area. I've nothing direct or recent myself, but this short film might give you some leads and starting perspectives if you haven't seen it already.

    1 year ago
  • Hi, Max. If you to go to and filter on 'Film Festivals' you'll see it returns 7738 festivals. This number is growing all the time. Some of these are well established, legitimate fests with connections to the industry, others are festivals run by people with a passion for film who simply want to share their passion with others. A huge chunk though are those looking to make money from the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers and film makers. I'm glad you are investigating this and hope you can help bring these scams to light.

    1 year ago
  • I seem to remember a couple of other little films simarly reporting on other festivals that were at best farcical and at worst deplorable. But even many that are run with propriety, good intent and that are also fun events are often little more than mutual admiration parties whose awarded laurels are of dubious beneficial value.

    Even at the level of the most internationally esteemed festivals controversy arises about the judgement of the judges and associated prejudices. When it comes to the commercial benefits that accrue from festival success it's mostly the studio features that benefit. Amongst the many other films, documentaries and features that are broadcasted and distributed every year, festival appearances or indeed nonappearences have little or no impact.

    But even in that Swansea Festival film Paddy links to, the opportunity to meet and socialise with other creatives can be enough to make such parties at least entertaining, even if not to the extent of 7000 mile journeys and expence.

    1 year ago
  • Hi Max, you mention one aspect of 'bad' film festivals - 'filmmakers often feel their films aren't being watched by judging panels - after paying a fee'. However, there's a whole litany of bad practice at an increasingly high number of them that I've noticed. I've contributed to quite a few over the years and have enjoyed modest successes and a fair few ‘misses’. It’s never the rejection itself that dissatisfies me, it’s part of the whole ‘business’, but I often consider that a reasoned complaint/bad review would only result in being viewed as ‘sour grapes’. Generally, via Film freeway at least, a bad review is the only real way in which you can legitimately raise a grievance and only if you’ve been selected! Shocking mismanagement and plain bad organisation and communication, not to mention the wanton misappropriation you cite, seems rife. There’s an awful lot of promoted nepotism at some of these events too, which generally raises nothing more than a knowing smile or eyebrows. In all honesty, I’ve noticed general ‘crapness’ a lot more with some festivals who’ve actually have accepted my films. Personal bugbears are: Being up for an award but your film not actually being screened. Getting accepted but then finding you must pay another fee to actually watch your film. Hearing about festival selections and award nominees before the submission date has even closed. And I would never enter an online only festival. I don’t understand why people bother with that. For me, my way of dealing with it is just to learn from the experience and not bother submitting anything again to my own ‘blacklisted’ festivals. I do enjoy attending festivals and other filmmakers do talk and share experiences at such events, so eventually word does get around. However, that’s another case in point; at smaller festivals the predominant attendees are other filmmakers. The film festival circuit would benefit from some kind of regulation (which clearly isn’t likely to happen) and/or, at least, some kind of simple vetting before being allowed to stage an event. Things are so noticeably bad now that apart from a small selection of well-known and respected festivals, my current ‘festival strategy’ is likely to be, ‘sod them, stick it on Vimeo and promote like crazy!’ I’m sure a lot of festivals are well-meaning and not purely out to rake in the cash. I get that. However, a lot of them need to really get their act together about basic organisation, communication and etiquette towards people who put a lot of energy and expense into getting things made to supplement their festivals.

    1 year ago
  • TBH I'd never pay any money to enter festival without first satisfying myself that the festival was one worth winning/networking, and if not, I just wouldn't enter.

    Anyone can set up a Festival,and nothing should prevent people from doing so. That doesn't mean you need to pay them any attention.

    1 year ago
    • I’m curious, what is your criteria for ‘satisfying yourself that the festival was one worth winning/networking’? Because that coat on that model sure looks well made and warm from the glossy catalogue photos, but when it arrived it was itchy as fuck and looked like it’d fall apart in the first British breeze. Then their customer service was a joke and wouldn’t answer my calls for a return. You get my point?

      I think there are some naive suppositions in this response, in as much that it assumes nobody else has ever considered doing basic research or due diligence. Of course ‘people’ do this, but the ineptitude and wanton disregard for entrants or whatever is usually not apparent until after or during the literal event. Sure, there are some red flags from the get-go with some festivals and so they’re easy to avoid, but not all of them.

      By the same token, it’s like saying anyone can set up shop as a barber and cut people’s hair, which is true. However, just because they have a fancy frontage, all the hair cutting paraphernalia and good advertising, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a great haircut. You'll only know afterwards.

      Yes, the responsibility is obviously on filmmakers to carefully consider festivals in the first instance, I entirely agree and I’d be surprised if this didn’t occur. However, it’s a shame there is such a proliferation of bad festivals that can exist with apparent impunity, which can sometimes deceive people, at least once anyway.

      1 year ago
    • @Lee Charlish

      If it's to win a prize, then you are looking at the big internationals, nationals and leading specialist ones. They're the ones where the prize helps get you noticed.

      If it's to network, then the ones you can get to where you expect to meet interesting people.

      As to the rest, they are also rans that really don't matter very much, and no one really needs to bother with them. The ones that do a good job will survive a few years and build a reputation and move into the "networkable" zone and perhaps, one day, the big league.

      12 months ago
  • Can anyone explain to me how any but the most celebrated festivals actually benefited them in I real terms ?

    Can anyone quantify how their projects have been projected forwards, in terms of profitable distribution, as opposed to an enhanced profile in the mutual appreciation fringe bubbles ?

    Clearly there's been numerous relative success stories with non studio productions, but was it festival appearances that made the difference ?

    1 year ago
  • Max's article is available to view here-

    12 months ago
  • Ive put a few films in that festival over the years ok 2012 but i didnt have an issue as long as you ad good pictures so the fest can promote it a short and sweet synopsis also a good press pact make it easy for the festival to read it and make it simple for them to read remember short and sweet rather than huge SA style detail and you should be ok , ive found poor sound or poor quality image doesn't help , do a test screening in a cinema or screening room if you can and test it out before submitting anything you want a festival to watch , portobello film fest is perfect as they screen almost everything subscribed which is great way yo see your film and see what the audience reacts too , smaller festivals im not sure about we got our zero budget feature film “when london sleeps it came alive” mocumentary in a few small free comedy festivals in the usa but not tried
    any big festivals in the uk with it
    What i have found is getting them in the big festivals does get distubutors interested rather than small festivals , we got are zero budget feature the dark hunter a distribution deal after it was screened in canada ! Worth researching the festivals beforehand name and shame the ones who take film makers money and dont even watch the films ! Ask them why it wasnt picked and what didnt they like about it ? That way you can see if they watched it or not ! Or plan B start ya own festival up and screen every film sent in If possible and ones not picked reply to them Say why it wasnt picked ?

    12 months ago
  • Perhaps this is just the forum to form a discussion based upon experience of the good and the not so good.

    11 months ago
  • A lot of them seem to be little more than Vanity Presses for gullible/vain filmmakers IMO. It would be good if there were some sort of Quality Benchmark Badge that helped filmmakers choose festivals based on decent quality criteria.

    Will repost this to a couple of FB filmmaker groups I admin if that's OK with you Maz?

    11 months ago
  • Sorry Max!

    11 months ago