One of the best ways to gain exposure for your finished film is by submitting it to a top international film festival. There, you can network with people in the entertainment industry and try to find a distributor for your work. See the links below for more information about each festival’s unique submission requirements. You can also volunteer at film festivals to make connections and learn more about how the festival world works.
Mark your calendar! Here are the top international film festivals:
Cannes Film Festival
Founded in 1946, the Cannes Film Festival is held annually in May in Cannes, France. It hosts previews and premieres of films in every genre, including documentary. Feature and short length films are accepted, as are short and mid-length films from film schools. Filmmakers and vendors can also pay to have their films screened through Marche du Film.
Along with The Beguiled, Netflix’s Okja was one of the top films screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year; it was also part of a controversy, since the festival issued a new rule requiring that screened films have a theatrical release in France (as opposed to going straight to a streaming service and/or only screening in the United States). Cannes is also known for another controversial rule: the festival banned selfies on its red carpet in 2015.
Tribeca Film Festival
One of the film industry’s newer festivals, the Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 and takes place in New York City each year in April. It showcases features, shorts, documentaries, and video games. The star-studded festival is also known for its studio premieres, panel discussions, concerts, comedy shows, sports activities, family festivals, and outdoor movie screenings.
Tribeca showcases documentaries, animated shorts, and features. It also gives out a Student Visionary Award and the Nora Ephron Prize, the latter of which is a $25,000 prize given to a female writer or director who embodies the spirit and vision of the legendary filmmaker.
Berlin International Film Festival
Berlinale, also known as the Berlin International Film Festival, was founded in 1951 and takes place each year in February. It coincides with both the Berlinale Talents, a series of workshops and lectures, and the European Film Market, a trade fair where distributors, financiers, film buyers, producers, and agents can meet and make deals.
The program of the Berlin International Film Festival is divided into seven sections and includes documentaries, features, shorts, experimental films, films for children, and films that “deal with controversial subjects or unconventional aesthetic styles,” such as films about the LGBT community.
This year, Wes Anderson took home the festival’s Silver Bear award for his feature, Isle of Dogs. Berlinale also features restorations of classic films and special cultural presentations (on topics like food or the environment).
Toronto International Film Festival
Founded in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival (also known as TIFF) takes place each September in Toronto, Canada. It is affiliated with the TIFF Bell Lightbox, a year-round film center that features new releases, live film events, an interactive gallery, lectures, discussions, industry support, workshops, and festivals.
The festival screens features, documentaries, shorts, virtual reality, children’s and teen films, restored films, television episodes, genre films, experimental films, and films without North American distribution. TIFF also hosts the Share Her Journey program, which is dedicated to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera. Additionally, its Next Wave committee is open to students at 15-18.
Sundance Film Festival
Every year in late January, film lovers head to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States. Founded in 1978 by Robert Redford’s company, the festival awards prizes for documentaries, features, and shorts. It is one of the few festivals to offer competitions for virtual reality and episodic content. Sundance also hosts premieres in out-of-competition categories: NEXT, New Frontier, Spotlight, Midnight, Premieres, and Documentary Premieres.
The Sundance Film Festival is affiliated with the Sundance Institute, which also hosts a number of programs, prizes, and labs for new writers.
Good luck on the festival scene, whether you’re volunteering, networking or screening your work. Where would your dream film premiere take place? Let us know in the comments!