50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2016

 By  on April 6, 2016

When we compile the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee list every year, we start by imagining you: an independent moviemaker, probably English-speaking, heading into post on a short or a feature.

There are a few festivals that you’ve dreamed of getting into since you were a teenager: Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Venice… You know the risk is high with those top-tier fests, considering the sheer tidal mass of submissions they receive every year. But, what the heck, you’re going to try anyway. The International Federation of Film Producers Associations (or FIAPF) has a comprehensive list of this upper crust: from general competitive festivals like Locarno, Rotterdam, Tokyo, San Sebastian and Karlovy Vary, to “specialized” competitive events like Busan (Asian cinema), Thessaloniki (first or second features) and Sitges (genre). If you’re looking for a big-impact debut stateside, you can’t go wrong with South by Southwest and Tribeca, too.

You also know that niche festivals can be easy wins in terms of impact. Trust us, there’ll be one that applies to your project, whether it’s up-and-coming sci-fi/fantasy stop FilmQuest, or one of the new smartphone film festivals around the globe.

OK, done with the “dream bigs” and the specialty corners? Then it’s time to get down to brass tacks and really flesh your plan out. We asked Jana Dietze of the website FilmFestivalLife for some general considerations to begin with. “Moviemakers should always check to see if they are able to visit the festivals they are applying to,” she says. “Many festivals cover accommodation or travel costs, which helps a lot. Also, look out for industry markets, which are some of the best places to network. It makes sense to take a closer look regionally, as well—a lot of festivals have locally focused competitions for filmmakers from their region.”

Beyond that, what are your priorities on the circuit this year? Your answer draws the lines; the following list will color them in. These are the festivals that will, most likely, form the backbone of your journey on the circuit this year. Careers have been forged in their fires. Your film will find an intelligent, engaged audience who really gets it. Your social media accounts will blow up with future collaborators. You’ll party with crowds you never thought you’d meet, in locales you never thought you’d visit, with drinks you never thought you’d be sipping. And you may well find distribution along the way.

The Festival

Panelists at the 2016 American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs. Courtesy of the American Documentary Film Festival

Tony Robbins, Joe Berlinger and the cast of Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru at the 2016 American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs. Photograph by Loretta Vlach

AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL 

Palm Springs, California / Spring 2017 / american-documentary-film-festival.com

American Documentary Film Festival recently formed an alliance called the North South Doc Network, allowing selected films to screen at three other participating festivals around the world. Stateside, though, U.S. documentarians can also submit to AmDocs’ Film Fund Pitch Competition, which awards up to $50,000 to winners. 2016’s edition of the fest feted doc star Joe Berlinger, whose Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru opened the program.

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