On Thursday, May 4 Head of the Festivals Department at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Myriam Frankel introduced the first edition of a new guest lecture series, Best of Fest, featuring Festival Programmers and Filmmakers. The panels covered the myths and realities of film festivals, from the most effective submission strategies, to the best ways to optimize networking events, and take advantage of the festival circuit to advance your filmmaking career.
The first panel included: Larry Laboe (PGA), Executive Director of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, NYFA alumnus Kevin Resnick along with his filmmaking partner Rebecca Norris who showcased their short film “On Becoming a Man” made at NYFA, and festival award-winning writer/director Tamar Halpern.
“Before you can start submitting to festivals you need to make sure you’re comfortable talking about your film,” Laboe told the students. “Research and a well thought out strategy are the keys to success. If you apply to ten film festivals you’re spending around a thousand dollars. You want to play it safe.”
Another piece of advice Laboe shared with NYFA is not to get mad if a film is not accepted. “A lot of times it’s not about the quality of your film. Sometimes the festival has too many comedies, or they want more LGBTQ filmmakers or more filmmakers of color. Tribeca has a wall of shame for people who’ve sent ugly notes in response to rejection letters. Don’t be one of those people.”
Never be afraid to be the squeaky wheel Halpern stressed. “Let them know your actress just got cast in something. Let them know that you have a name working on your project. There’s a fine line between being a squeaky wheel and being a pain, but you can certainly use this information to promote your work.”
Stony Brook Film Festival accepted Halpern’s first film and she strongly encouraged NYFA students to send their films there as well. It’s only twenty dollars to apply. They flew Halpern and her lead actress out, provided accommodation, and were very nurturing throughout the process.
Veterans in Film and Television helped Resnick get his film in front of Disney executives. He encouraged students to get their money in line for festivals upfront. For “On Becoming Man” and his feature “Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine,” he split his budget in half. Half went to pre-production, production, and post. The other half was for film festivals.
Here’s a quick tip for filmmakers at their first festival: pass around a clipboard during the Q & A to collect the emails of those in the audience. Having met the filmmaker in person and being personally invested in the film, the audience will most likely help build a strong fan base.
Another suggestion was to shop the film around to different regions. The Midwest has been incredibly kind to Resnick and Norris. There, the film festival is a huge annual event for the town. “It’s a really rewarding thing when people just love movies and they tell you they like your movie there’s no feeling like it.”
Additional quick tips included: Know who’s attending the festival. Don’t be afraid to ask the coordinators. Be clear and timely when communicating with organizers. Don’t make them hound you for information. Try to meet as many people as you can. Hustle to promote your screening. Know the journalists who’ve covered the film festival in the past and reach out to them.
At the end of the event, Frankel was elated with the turnout and the richness of the discussion, “It was practical and insightful and I felt it was very valuable,” Frankel said. “I hope students walk away with a more tangible and realistic outlook on festivals.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Resnick, Norris, Laboe, and Halpern for taking the time to speak with our students. Keep checking the NYFA calendar for more upcoming events, Q & A series, and networking opportunities at the New York Film Academy.