Do you submit your films/animations to festivals? And do you pay money to do so?
People often ask me how I win awards (usually fellow artists wanting to promote themselves) and they ask if I had been ‘chosen’ for the award. Nope! I spend a lot of time, and a lot of money, hunting down ways to promote my work, and ways to get as many people to see it as possible.
In December last year I completed an animation for the RSA, “The Power Of Empathy”.
This animation received well over one million views on YouTube in just a week, and is now creeping up to three million views. I was blown away by how many people loved the clip.
I thought that if ever I was going to push one of my animations on the film festival front, this was the one.
Some festivals charge a fee for film submissions. Some are free. These days a lot of ‘free festivals’ require you to submit via websites like withoutabox, FestHome and eHomeRemedies – which often charge a pound or two for your online screener. If you’re submitting to a few festivals, this all adds up. For those of you who aren’t filmmakers/animators, note that if you pay to submit to a festival you will never see that money again whether you are, or are not selected for screening. A lot of your money can potentially be spent on absolutely nothing.
Here’s a breakdown of costs for the submissions I made:
RSA Shorts: Dr Brené Brown, “The Power of Empathy” Festival Submissions
Festivals entered: 51
Animation selected for/screened at: 12
Awards won: 1 (SheSays award – this was free to submit to)
Animation not selected for: 27
Festivals I haven’t even heard back from, despite emailing numerous times: 12
Total money spent on entering these festivals: £320.41
Breakdown of fees:
Festivals I was selected for:
£1.84 to third party websites in order to submit to ‘free festivals’
£47.92 direct to festivals
Festivals I was not selected for:
£6.57 to third party websites in order to submit to ‘free festivals’
£178.96 direct to festivals
Festivals I haven’t even heard back from, despite emailing numerous times:
£7.88 to third party websites in order to submit to ‘free festivals’
£77.24 direct to festivals
Film festivals are BLOODY BRILLIANT and I try to go to as many as I can. It’s so fantastic to watch people’s imaginations right there, on a huge screen, in front of you.
Festivals need money for venue hire, projectors, awards (sometimes!) and promotion, but more often than not these fees are paid for by the filmmakers. Some festivals also charge the public to pay to see the films (they do not reimburse filmmakers with any of their profits) – while others think it should be free, to encourage people to enjoy the arts (good!). Is there another way to fund these events?! I would hate for film festivals to cease to exist, however I think it’s crazy that it’s the filmmakers who have to pay for them. We already spend a considerable amount of time making the work (often non-profit personal projects), time filling out forms for the submission process, and now money to be part of it all too? Give us a break! The film festivals would not exist without our work.
The worst though, and what has been rubbing me up the wrong way today, is festivals/events/companies that charge a LOT of money for submissions, and then don’t even have the courtesy of letting you know if you have been selected or not.
One company in particular, mentioning no names of course, emailed me specifically saying “We greatly value your work, as demonstrated when we recently featured you in _________, and hope that you’ll enter the Awards. They are a great opportunity for you to be recognised for outstanding work and to be seen by our millions of readers.” This man went on to personally say that as they had featured my work (used my work on their website front page), that I would have a great chance in winning an award… blah… blah… blah…
These guys were charging $100 to submit work. As I had received this email and it was so personal and encouraging, I scraped my pennies together and went for it. Time passed… and I never heard from them again. I have been on their website and seen that they have chosen the shortlisted projects and are making progress with their event. I don’t mind not winning things – that’s part and parcel of life! You try, sometimes you win, sometimes you loose. But you’re part of it all, and that’s fantastic. My beef is the rudeness, and lack of appreciation from some companies. When you spend $100 on entering something like this, you at least expect to get a courtesy email saying if you have got through or not. Like… $100… sent to somebody… and then… NOTHING. Not one measly email.
If a company is going to get in touch, encourage people to send them $100 and then never speak to them again, then it’s just spam. If you look at the broader picture, to have their event they must have hundreds of entries all paying $100 each. Why is this such an excessive amount? Their primary motivation is monetary: they care about profits, not about creativity and innovation. These companies can, and will prey on vulnerable artists that crave acknowledgment. It’s criminal.
Companies that have free submissions and actively support and celebrate artists deserve huge recognition and gratification, and the other ones that are rude money-grabbers should be pointed out to artists, and forgotten.
I still want to be part of the hustle and bustle of the industry – to attend events and festivals – but my happiness about submitting to festivals is slowly being drained.