Budgeting for Film Festivals
So you’ve finished your film and you actually have some money left over. I know you’re just itching to transfer it to one dollar bills and swim around in it Scrooge Mcduck style, but you’re not done shelling out just yet.
Regardless of what your goals are for your film, festivals are almost always the first step to get there for any completed independent film. Done right, it’s still the best outreach you can do for your film, even with so many alternative platforms available.
Submitting to and attending festivals is a process that can be deceptively expensive and time consuming. It’s also one that filmmakers, so focused on their film, often neglect. But what you do after your film is completed is as important as the work you put into the film.
Here is a breakdown of likely costs:
Festival Submission Fees- $500- $2500
Submission fees are easily one of the most expensive parts of submitting to festivals. They vary in expense, but average about $50 a pop, so they add up really quickly.
Applying to festivals is a little like applying to colleges. You should come up with a list of your top festivals- making sure that you have some reach festivals and some safety festivals. You’re probably going to want to submit to at least 10.
Hard Copy Production and Mailing- $50-$100
Believe it or not, some festivals still require a hard copy of your film. You can avoid these festivals, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little money set aside incase you see one that you like.
Online Presence- $0-$200
You’ve probably heard it a million times: people, both festival directors, potential partners, and potential audience members, need somewhere to find more info on you and your film. But as often as it’s said, it’s neglected. Something should go up about your film as early as possible (during pre-production is a good, low stress time) and should be updated as much as you can manage.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a website or design person, templates and site builders have gotten really advanced. There are plenty of free options that aren’t as sleek as some of the better paid options, but content matters the most.
CONTINGENT ON BEING ACCEPTED
It’s hard to estimate how many festivals you’ll be accepted to, but based on the number and type of festival (some accept virtually all submissions while Sundance Shorts Program accepts .7%) you’re applying to you can get a ballpark figure.
Travel $50-$700 per festival
Most of the benefits a film festival can offer a filmmaker require you to actually attend the event. You don’t have to go to every one you’re accepted to, but it’s best to make face time at least a few.
Travel costs vary, so it’s prudent to focus on a core of festivals close to home- not only do you save the travel expense, but many festivals give preference to local filmmakers.
Promotional Materials $25-$200 per festival
Most festivals screen dozens, if not hundreds of films. If you want to stand out, you have the option of using promotional materials: posters, postcards, swag, etc. I wouldn’t go overboard, but the more you can get people to think or talk about your film, the better positioned you are to achieve your goals.
It all comes out to about $1000-$5000. If it sounds like a lot, it is. There are ways to shave off expenses here and there, but many times these are at the expense of your film’s festival profile. The best thing to do is to consider your festival budget along with your initial film budget.