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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 week 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.

    7 days 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.

    7 days 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.

    5 days 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.

    5 days 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.

      4 days 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 ?

    4 days ago