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Premiere status requirements for SHORTS

What's the deal with Premiere status requirements at particular film festivals?

As a director with a finished short, I'd like to get it seen but I am not keen on holding out for certain submission requirements. Most generally premiere status applies to features however I've started to notice the odd rule for shorts at a handful of high-end festivals.

How does the festival know whether or not its screened elsewhere? Also what counts as a screening? And who regulates this? There are many small screenings outside of film festivals for shorts but no one would know about these right?

Dilemma: In an incredibly optimistic fashion, what if you had entered two festivals at the same country around the same time and were selected at both, would you have to withdraw if the prestigious festival has premiere status?

  • Hi. I'm a Producer with shorts circulating festivals at the moment. There's a broadly accepted rule to approaching festivals. You're obviously prioritising premium festivals, which is the right way to start, then moving to more specialised festivals as time goes on.

    For shorts most festivals don't demand premiere status, but clearly state that they will give preference for it. Anything that constitutes a public screening (i.e. anything other than an invitation-only viewing of the film) would breach premiere status. So even if it's a tiny local festival or some such, you would be undermining your chances with many festivals. You're right that they may never find out, but if they do your film will be thrown out and you risk making a bad name for yourself. The same applies if your film is uploaded online publicly, and once it's up there you can never get it back!

    And yes, in the case of your incredibly optimistic scenario, if you were shortlisted for two festivals that both demanded premiere status, you would almost certainly have to withdraw from one of them. The point is, if they're that good a festival that they want the most exclusive content, then it's worth YOU prioritising THEM.

    Of course, it's all very good in theory, but you might not get selected for any! Still, if you do it wrong from the start, you're potentially seriously undermining your chances. It's a long game, so play it right and be patient!

    4 years ago
  • With two shorts that have played every continent (and yes, I'm working on Antarctica too :), I can assure you that many if not most festivals are unconcerned with premiere status for short films. Premiere status matters most for feature films, where a festival can be instrumental for helping to secure distribution, thereby raising their own profile. This is why fests like Sundance, SxSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto, Hamptons, etc. make demands for exclusivity. However, even Sundance plays shorts that have screened at multiple fests prior. Or, for example, a fest like Seattle Int'l,
    consistently named a top 5 fest in the U.S., only asks for a Seattle premiere when they could demand a West Coast premiere if they wanted. My last short BEDFELLOWS played one major fest which demanded a premiere in its country, but still played mine even though we had shown in another city months earlier. The same happened to a short I know at one of the above mentioned fests. In other words, if a fest likes your work, they will want to show your film.

    Withoutabox, ShortFilmDepot, Reelport, FestHome, and other sites where you can submit to most fests ask for filmmakers to update their screening status regularly. It does little good to hide your screening history (as you'll see below), and fests do like seeing that your short has been screened elsewhere. If you want to screen at fests, prioritize playing those first, then worry about non-competition short film nights.

    However, you are right to wonder about submitting to multiple festivals in a city or region. Fests do not like to program the same film if they are near each other in date and location. For example, I would recommend to all filmmakers to AVOID sending your work to the Long Island Film Festival in August because they have people check the websites and selections of the Long Island International Film Expo in July, and then they de-select films who were accepted at both, shorts included, and they don't refund your submission fee. Their level of immature is rare though. At the end of the day, if you have the good fortune to have multiple fests wanting to screen your work, be grateful to have that "problem."

    Also, to Simon's response, re: pulling out of one fest if you do get into two, I've not heard of anyone having to do that (except with the above fest mentioned). In fact, a feature I worked on not only played its LA premiere, but played a large LA fest one month later, albeit out of competition. With BEDFELLOWS, I'm sure that one of my premieres was engineered by two fests who communicated with each other about who would play my film. If you have the good fortune to play multiple fests, let it happen until someone tells you that you can't.

    Best of luck.

    4 years ago
  • Hello,

    In addition to the two lengthy and correct replies; it is in my understanding that you can have a 'domestic premiere' in the country of production and then have a international premiere elsewhere. This will normally be excepted. And I have heard that filmmakers, when in a situation, can give both 'world premiere' and 'international premiere' to two separate initial screenings, both of which can satisfy as a work-around solution to the film being in demand.

    If you work to festivals in the Oscars, Bafta and British Council Travel Grant Scheme lists first then this is obviously the best game plan for any decent short. Then put it out to any/all the rest. You have approximately a 2 yr life for your short, I wouldn't rush it out to a B or C grade festival if you can hold out for a Seattle or Clermont-Ferrand 6-9 months down the line.

    This is advice from what I learnt from my debut film's festival life which has now played 45 festivals after a strong start. Details of which can be found here; www.inspirationgone.com/screenings/...

    You'll be luckier with a decent strategy. Ash.

    4 years ago
  • In the "incredibly optimistic" dilemma, I think both fests would very much like to hear from you and it's likely that they would both play your film.

    4 years ago
  • The website short of the week published a pretty comprehensive list of festivals and their 'premier status' stance. Really helpful for working out your festival strategy:
    www.shortoftheweek.com/2013/05/31/list-o...

    4 years ago