Making a film requires spending a lot of money, time and hard work whether it is a short or feature film project. The majority of filmmakers in film industry are passionate about the art of film making. An indie film producer spends many years to produce a movie, because it takes a while to finance a film. Studios and TV stations are becoming more and more peaky in terms of commissioning a film or TV series. While some film festivals are genuinely designed to promote independent films, some others are orchestrated with the sole intention of extracting money from indie filmmakers’ pockets. It is absolutely imperative that you differentiate between a genuine and fake film festival especially now when we are in coronavirus pandemic situation.
Although this may seem absolutely outrageous, the reality is that some film festivals are elaborate frauds aimed. These sham film festivals often exploit the aspirations and hopes of independent filmmakers.
This article is dedicated to helping indie filmmakers avoid this unsavory pitfall.
1. Exorbitant fees: One of the biggest red flags is an exorbitant submission fee. It is expected that submission fees for film festivals should be cheap or free. Typically, the fee should not exceed 50 bucks and could be as low as 5 bucks. However, when it is a charade, the fee is often ridiculously expensive. Once the fee is above 50 bucks, there is a heightened chance that you are about to be swindled.
2. The absence of support: Often times, film festivals are supported and sponsored by corporations and film companies. The absence of sponsorship is a big red flag and an indication that you are about to walk right into a sham.
3. Nearly identical names to an established Film Festivals: When you hear a name of a film festival that sounds nearly identical to the name of an established film festival, it’s a scam. Often times, swindlers figure out that they could cajole unsuspecting filmmakers into thinking that both film festivals are one and the same. Many of these con-artists don’t provide screening because they want to get the money without any cost in the back-end . Anybody can create a film festival in their grandmother’s basement and get people’s money. I have a friend who sent his film to many film festivals which cost him a total of $20.000 and guess what? He didn’t win anything. His film was indeed a film festival material.
In a similar manner, the use of popular city names is another gimmick that is used by these sham film festivals. Incorporating names of celebrated locations such as: “Hollywood”, “American Horror “etc. is just a way to lure filmmakers who wish to screen their films. Always remember to do your research in order to sniff out the fake.
There are some legit film festivals who even cover hotels and red carpet events but all others are not legit.
4. Negative remarks and comments: Thankfully, most people that have fallen prey to sham film festivals will air their feelings on social media and other platforms. Often times, you can identify a film festival con from the availability of negative remarks and comments online. Once you type in the name of the festival in the search engine, you can be sure to get a ton of information. If you see negative comments, the refrain from participating. So before entering to any film festival do a search on search engines and see what filmmakers say about these film festivals. Before submitting to any film festival send an email and ask question, it can be asking for a promo code or how their film festival will be arranged, if you don’t get any response, stay away. If you get a proper response and they even offer promo code, you can be sure they are not scam.
5. Collecting fees for additional screening: The goal of these con artists is to extort as much as they can from you. When you start seeing additional fees popping up, you can be almost certain that it’s a scam. This is by far the most obvious sign that you are being scammed. The reason is that most film festivals are free and film festivals will never request that you make extra payments for screening.
6. Not having a social presence: A good film festival must have a social presence on social media. They should have a good press and audience so that your film gets feedback from audience who are interested in your genre.
All of these guidelines will help you to navigate your way away from con artists that want to rip you off. Once you monitor these signs, you will be well-equipped to detect potentially fake film festivals that want to exploit you. I recommend submitting to film festivals who provide not only support but also judge’s feedback. It doesn’t matter how many films get submitted to them, not having time to go through these submitted films is an excuse. A legitimate business must make time to take care of their customers. If they come up with such excuses then they should find something else to do. To become successful in film festival business requires providing good customer support, quality product and service and good publicity. If you have a look at successful film festivals around the world such as: Sundance, Berlinale, Cannes you will see that they take care of filmmakers’ needs and give them what they want: screening and various events where filmmakers will be able to network with other producers, sales agents, investors, film studios etc. Of course Film festivals like Berlinale ( Berlin Film Festival) and Cannes film festival do not offer feedback either if your film is rejected, but they provide other facilities for filmmakers such as networking at their event. Their submission fees cost more than 50 bucks.
Whether you are a first time filmmaker and submitting your short film to film festivals or a veteran producer, remember not to give your hard work money to scam film festivals. Submitting to a film festival is not playing lottery and hoping for the best. Just do your research before paying to these people. If they screen the film and provide support and feedback they are legit, otherwise stay away.