[GUEST] The Indie Girl’s Guide to the Film Festival Circuit

[GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Alanah Rafferty is a New York-based filmmaker. She’s directed and produced short-form content for The New Agenda Foundation and Biorev. Mutiny is her narrative film debut, and has been making the festival rounds for 2019. For more on Alanah’s work, check out alanah-rafferty.comMutiny will be available via streaming as part of Bloody Disgusting’s short films compliation, World of Death.]

The independent film festival circuit has a lot of great opportunities for filmmakers—your film gets seen by audiences around the country, maybe even the globe; you get to meet film lovers and fellow filmmakers; and, sometimes, you get to explore a wonderful town or city you wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. But it can also be a lot to take in, both mentally and physically. As Mutiny’s film festival run wound down with the Ax Wound Film Festival in Brattleboro, Vermont, I’d like to offer some tips for any filmmaker going through the festival circuit for the first time:

PLAN AHEAD

Nothing makes me feel fancier than travelling out of town for anything film-related. Usually, film festivals take place over a weekend—you travel in on Friday and head back home on a Sunday. As you look over the screening schedules and things to do in the town or city you’re travelling to, try to come up with a schedule—even just a loose one—so you (and whomever you’re attending with) get to experience everything you want and not miss out on anything.

GET YOUR HEALTH REST

The beauty benefits of getting a good eight hours of sleep are great, but the physical and mental benefits of feeling well-rested are even better. Before starting the marathon of film screenings, workshops, and networking events, you’re going to want to put as much in the Sleep Bank as possible the week before.

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Photo: Alanah Rafferty

EXPLORE!

You never know where your film will take you, or when you’ll be back there—make the most of it and explore the city or town you’re in! Cards on the table: I never knew there was a town in Vermont called Brattleboro until we were accepted into the Ax Wound Film Festival. When we had some extra time before screenings started, my co-producer Stephanie and I found a great historic town filled with unique thrift shops, cool bars and restaurants, and even a haunted hotel (how appropriate). 

LOAD UP AND SNACK ON

You’re going to be seeing a LOT of films. Sometimes, you’ll be seeing one block after the other, back-to-back. Make sure you schedule enough time for a big, hearty, and healthy breakfast, and get a couple of emergency granola bars and a water bottle for when you need that energy boost in between films and workshops. And as Gayatri Patel Bahl, writer/director of the short film, Tina, adds, “Caffeine and camaraderie [are the best fuel].”

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Photo: Alanah Rafferty

MINGLE, MINGLE, AND DID I SAY MINGLE?

There’s one thing about film festivals that is better than being able to see a plethora of fantastic films, and that is meeting the filmmakers who made them. While some festivals will have a designated bar space for networking, there are usually some cool spots in walking distance that the filmmakers will go to before and after screenings. Don’t be shy, this business is about who you know, and the more film people you make connections with, the bigger your list of contacts—and film friends—becomes. Gayatri Patel Bahl adds, “I try my best to connect on a deeper level with a few filmmakers as opposed to meeting every person in the room.” Make sure if you have business cards to hand out to the people you meet.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS QUEEN

These filmmakers, as well as the organizers of the film festival, have put countless hours into making this work. What better way to give them the shout-out they deserve than by posting about the festival and films, and tagging them on your or your film’s social media account? Filmmakers and the film festival organizers will be more than happy to reciprocate by re-posting. 

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

I can’t stress this enough—be proud of what you’ve done. You may not be going home with a three-picture deal from Netflix or a basket full of Oscars, but your film has screened for audiences and filmmakers that you may not have been able to reach before. People have paid to watch your film, not a lot of people get to say that. Be humble, but also remember the impressive feat you’ve achieved.

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