How Film Festivals Can Help Your Hollywood Career

There are numerous ways film festivals can help your Hollywood career. The first thing is to know what a film festival is. This may seem obvious, but some don’t really know. Film festivals are organizations that charge filmmakers a fee to enter their films in to their competition. For the bigger, more prestigious festivals, competition is very fierce to get accepted even to compete. With most festivals, one loses the money paid to enter if their film is not accepted. If the film is accepted, then it is screened at the festival, and at the end of the event, a jury votes on the best film in specific categories. In some of the bigger festivals, the panel of jurors may include top, famous directors and producers.

It’s All About Exposure

Film festivals can help ones career in many ways. If one is accepted into a big festival, it can get exposure for their film by industry peers or media that the film may not have had otherwise. If the film wins, it can be a huge benefit, gaining the filmmaker money, prestige, a bigger deal, or attention from others who may now want to finance their other projects.

Getting Discovered

Film Festivals can also help actors, who may get discovered by producers or directors in one film, by those attending the festival and see their work appearing in one of the films viewed. Film festivals are also very exciting. They are fun to attend as a filmmaker or industry crafts person or talent, or even if one is simply a fan, and is allowed to attend. I encourage all filmmakers to explore the film festival market with their independent film, and see how far they can go.

Cannes and Sundance

While the world has many film festivals, Cannes being the most prestigious, as well as Sundance, the Los Angeles based festivals are also important, as well as are a number of other festivals from around the world.

AFI Fest

“The American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers, AFI FEST features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations and tributes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Films categories of the annual Academy AwardsA, and AFI FEST is still the only film festival in the United States to hold the prestigious FIAPF accreditation, assuring a high standard of quality and reliability for the international film community. AFI FEST is Los Angeles’ longest running international film festival and has been bringing the best in world cinema to the film capital of the world since its launch as FILMEX in 1971.” (source: AFI Fest)



The American Film Market (AFM) is the market partner of AFI FEST. The association between the two events connects art and commerce, broadening the opportunities for all participants, and collectively represents the largest gathering in North America. The business of independent motion picture production and distribution reaches its peak every year at the AFM, when more than 8,000 industry leaders converge in Santa Monica for eight days of deal-making, screenings, premieres, networking, parties and conferences. Participants come from more than 70 countries and include acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, the world’s press and all those who provide services to the motion picture industry. The AFM is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA). Both events are attended by many stars. (source: AFM)

AFM proved to be a great success this year. We spent the majority of our time at the more busy Leows location, (who finally finished their construction) going from floor to floor, networking, and also poolside talking business overlooking the palm trees and beautiful Pacific Ocean here in Santa Monica, California. Most vendors were very cordial and professional.

Tons of print media were also present, where they kindly gave away their issues. In addition to my many new contacts, I left with a bag full of new magazines including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, American Cinematographer, and others, which reminds one of the day when print was king. It’s sad how they have mostly disappeared, but nice to see relevant issues of them at least once a year. Advice to the publication “le film francais,” which looks like a good read, create a full English edition.

Runaway Production

A number of countries were representing their lands for tax breaks on film shoot locations, and even one state in the U.S., West Virginia, whose representatives were very friendly. With runaway production formerly going mostly to Canada, and now a lot going off to London among other places, it would be nice to see the film capitol of the world- Hollywood, again become the new world leader in incentives for filmmakers throughout the world. As for now, with zero representation I saw at AFM this year- aside from a blurb in the U.S. guidebook, the State of California is doing little to promote or improve this. (Film L.A. at least were here). Hopefully with the states’ new film czar, that will soon change.

Japan Expo

Japan cinema was widely represented as always this year, with Japan’s Jetro, as well as the group called Uni-Japan which consisted this year of a hall of various Japanese production companies. Most Japanese films I saw promoted ranged from horror, blood spattered young teenage girls in Catholic school girl outfits, video game influenced science fiction, and fetishy femme fatale leads. Many of the tables and booths here were filled with movie posters and fliers, but had no people stationed at them, which was odd.

While many of the Japanese promoted films ranged from the exploitative to the tacky, there were exception’s. Two here being the masterful John Woo and Ang Lee, two of Japan’s most treasured global talents, and its third, the outstanding genre of its superior animation itself, aka manga and anime, which did not disappoint. Korea, Hong Kong, and China were also heavily represented, For more Asian Cinema, The 7th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards was held on Thursday, December 12th, 2013 this year in Brisbane, Australia. UniFrance was also here, as well as individual companies from around the world including Russia and Italy, in addition to the usual American companies and a few new ones.

New Location Needed

One thing that would make the dual fest better for future years, and you can remember that you read it here first, it to move the AFI Fest over to Santa Monica right next to AFM, and extend the whole event an extra week, or at least an extra few days. The two locations are simply too far away between Hollywood and Santa Monica to see everything, and patrons and vendors are missing out by having to choose between one event or the other. Aside from this, my only regret about AFM this year, was that I didn’t pick up more of those free Belgium chocolates- amazing! Send America more of those, and we’ll watch anything! Joking aside, The Netherlands have some great auteur’s, along with naturally- the second greatest land for motion picture after Hollywood- France. Not to slight Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, or others; cinema is the universal language, and there is little more fun and exciting than seeing the world come together for ten days each year right here near our own backyard to do deals for the most powerful form of art on the planet, the motion picture.