Film Festival Insights: How to Document a Film Festival

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Just the Facts

The independent film market has been built on the film festival scene, and since film festivals tend to bring such an enormous boost to the local economy of the area hosting it you will see them popping up in almost every sizable city and for every possible sub genre. Film festivals themselves become major cultural events, bringing in people from the creative industries, celebrities, and the possibility of feature film distribution deals. For those trying to figure out how to document a film festival there can seem like too much going on to be able to itemize your story. The main key for this is to figure out exactly what needs to be covered for this specific festival and what can end up being dropped. Here is a look at how to document a film festival in a journalistic sense.


At its fundamental core, a film festival is an industry event. This means that the business of the film festival should take center stage when documenting it, especially when it comes to major festivals. Cannes, Sundance. Toronto, South by Southwest, Telluride, Venice, and a host of other large scale film festivals will be the site of major distribution deals. All of these come with a price tag, a distribution tag, as well as stories about how the deals went and how those involved feel about them. For those working in the industry, they are going to look toward this documentation to give them a professional leg up about what is going to be coming their way in a business oriented fashion. This is always primary news for what comes out of a film festival since it is what matters the most in a concrete way.

Film Festival Awards

Behind major film sales, the most important set of professional credentials to come out of a film festival will be the awards. When deciding how to document a film festival, special time needs to be spent with the awards because this is the news that is generated by the festival itself. In larger festivals, like the Sundance Film Festival, will have a major awards events with a lot of different awards given out. These are going to be important for those involved and will communicate with the outside film world who to keep their eye on. Film festival awards are one of the best ways to get out the word for small films that have just gotten distribution deals, or to help them receive their distribution deal.

Film Festival Controversy

Film festivals continue to be built on controversy at almost every level. Film festival controversies tend to stem from the fact that independent films in this form often have challenging material, with films that are likely to offend some and break through taboos. This can create a buzz out on the market, as well as the large personalities of those artists in the independent film world. There are almost no film festivals without controversy, and you can look at the protests by the Westboro Baptist Church and the internal distribution deal around Kevin Smith’s Red State at Sundance 2011 for an example


Source: Author’s own experience.

This post is part of the series: Film Festivals

Here are is a series of articles dealing with different aspects of independent film festivals.

  1. How to Document a Film Festival
  2. Tips for First Time Film Festival Submissions
  3. Creating Buzz at Film Festivals
  4. Digital Film Festivals
  5. Submitting Your Film to Film Festivals