(Originally published in Film Strategy.)
As the new year begins, you find yourself feeling excited by what you have accomplished in the previous year and what you will accomplish in the new year. And as a filmmaker, one of your goals should be to screen at a festival or visit one. It goes without saying that screening at a film festival will boost your career but even if you don't screen at one you should visit as many festivals as possible. Doing so will expose you to films that you can't see anywhere else. Aside from supporting the art and the business of film, you will find yourself inspired, entertained, or educated (ideally, all of the above) if you go to the festivals. Of course your time is limited and so while I advocate going to your local fests as much as possible, I also recommend going international.
Of course, having your film screened in practically any film festival is a blessing and something to be proud of. But there are a select few festivals that everyone wants to get into because of their prestige, history, connections and ability to send your filmmaking career into orbit. Those are the first tier festivals where legends are born and reputations are made.
Below you will find a calendar* with a listing of those very festivals. If I could, I would go to every single one of these and catch at least one film, workshop, panel and party in each one. Until Hollywood comes a'calling (and even after), it should be your supreme goal to have your films open or screen in one, if not all, of these noteworthy festivals.
And don't forget the film markets. The calendar below also includes the important film markets you also need to attend so you can find investors and buyers for your films. Being a regular at these festivals and markets is a sign that you are a major player, especially if you're invited. Granted, you may not have a film opening in one of these festivals or a film to sell in a market yet but you should still go as an attendee to as many of these events as your budget, time and geographic location allow (at a minimum, follow the news going on in these places throughout the year). You can still reap the benefits of learning, networking and getting experience in filmmaking. And most importantly you'll be submerged in the business of film.
* Calendar date is for the approximate operating festival dates NOT the submission deadline dates. Check each site for the various submission deadlines including Early, Regular and Late Deadlines as well as fees and rules to enter or visit.
- European Film Market (associated with Berlinale)
- Berlinale Co-Production Market (associated with Berlinale)
- BAFICI (Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)
- CPH PIX
- Images Festival
- Tribeca Film Festival
- San Francisco International Film Festival
- Take a break... Work on your project. Or Hibernate.
- Toronto International Film Festival
- IFP Film Week (NY)
- San Sebastian International Film Festival
- Vancouver International Film Festival
- The New York Film Festival
- Festival del Cine Latinoamericano Internacional (La Habana Film Festival)