How To Plan for the Festival Life of your Film

He said…..

KFC: I have some good questions for you, so here we go with my first one: What should be included in a Cover Letter, a Director’s bio, and a Director’s Statement?

DPC: Your Cover Letter ought to briefly introduce you and your project and why you have chosen our festival, why it is a good  fit for your film, indicating you did your research rather than making mass submissions.

Your Bio ought to be factual & brief, around 120 – 200 words. Keep all the awards to a minimum – what we really want to know is how/why you make films.

Your Director Statement ought to also be around120 words, including why you made this film, what you were exploring, whom you think your audience may be.

KFC: What is a common choice filmmakers make that make it hard to program their film?

DPC: Length. Although short films are usually under 50 minutes, the longer  a short film goes over 15 minutes the better it must be because it becomes difficult to program. Features over 90+ minutes must be extremely well made, especially well written – with or without “name” actors.

Do not ever include bloopers – you spent all of this time creating a world, a story, characters that you want us to believe in, then you spend several minutes showing us how goofy, silly, wacky everything got on set. I DON’T CARE. Sorry, I get a little heated about this. Believe in your work enough to leave us with nothing else than your story.

KFC: Should I make a film that will sell or should I make the film that I’m dying to make?

DPC: Our opinion has been and will always be: Make the film you are passionate about.

Period. That passion is unique to you. Only you can tell this story, so tell it. If our festival doesn’t screen it, if so & so festival doesn’t screen it, it just wasn’t your time with us or them. But you WILL find the perfect screening opportunity for your film.

KFC: How much should I budget for festivals?

DPC: Go to, pick 10 festivals that you can attend and will position your film  well.  Do the math. Plan for marketing including posters, postcards, social media ads, an updated website. Then plan for travel, hotels, food, drinks. Figure that all into your budget from the beginning and protect that number.

KFC: Should I let programmers know my piece is a proof of concept?

DPC: Short answer, no. If you are using us just to see if you have a good idea, our festival is  not for your work. I would urge you to do test screenings which is what other professionals do,

She Said….

DPC: OK, it’s my turn to ask you a few questions, like what makes your job difficult?

KFC: I have a few pain points, but my main one is that I really want every filmmaker, every  creative to have the opportunity to grow, to be screened, to be heard, but we just can’t screen everyone. I hate saying no to alumni or to DPC, I hate saying no to any of the filmmakers who trusted us with their work.

I want everyone who screens at the festival to leave more connected to the film community, and more confident about their work.

Sometimes people behave badly, aren’t appreciative, expect preferential treatment and that is unfortunate….and painful.

DPC: What are some of the festival mistakes filmmakers make?

KFC: I have a list. Some filmmakers are not aware that they are part of the festival community the minute they submit. Many people on our end are working on their submission and we are giving everyone the best shot we can here is my list:

  1. Not reading the terms of our submission agreement.

  2. Submitting an incomplete submission form.

  3. Using music or photos or clips or products in their film without securing the rights to do so.

  4. Not responding to communication from the festival (check your SPAM).

  5. Getting drunk at a festival event and puking on my shoes.

DPC: When is it appropriate to ask for a waiver?

KFC: Your job is to advocate for your film and you should do that wherever and whenever you need to. Asking for waivers is your right, BUT telling us that you already spent your festival budget on other festivals is not a good look. Don’t tell us your film is a labor of love. All of them are. Festivals are as well. If you need a waiver, state your case like a professional, make an offer and strike a deal that is respectful to all parties and keep it moving.

DPC: When is it appropriate to call a festival.

KFC: If you have an extenuating circumstance or a submission emergency: comb through their submission page, comb through their website and make sure they haven’t already addressed those kinds of things, then call them. If it is a message, leave a short professional message requesting a call back. When you speak to a human, negotiate a solution that is respectful to all parties and again, just keep it moving. You have a film to finish and I have a festival to build.

DPC: Why is the drop dead deadline more expensive?

KFC: We want you to get your work in as early as you can so that our team has plenty of time to curate the festival. DPC creates thematic blocks and that takes time. We don’t program ‘The Short Block’ or ‘The Comedy Block’… that process takes time and it is just better if you get your film in as early as you can. With that being said, we know that many times filmmakers are finishing films and it seems next to impossible to meet that deadline…we understand that is a tough spot. Maybe that is a good time to call the festival.

They Said:

Your job is to tell stories. Our job is to make sure there are people in the room to  experience them.

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