Film Festivals: Why They Are Important For Success As A Filmmaker

Film Festivals: Why They Are Important For Success As A Filmmaker

Film festivals are an integral part of the film industry across the world. They are to movie-making what championships are to soccer. A celebration of talent, skills, excellence, and a quest for the ‘prize.’

Whether you are a new or established filmmaker, film festivals are important platforms to fast-track your career. It is a golden opportunity to spotlight your brand and reward your hard work.

Hollywood has multitudes of festivals. In Nollywood, we have over forty film festivals on paper, but a sizeable number are inactive.

The National Film Corporation (a Nigerian Government Agency) facilitates the Zuma Film Festival, while most of the others are private initiatives. The Nigerian Film Festival Association, is one of the umbrella body for film festivals in the country.

NFFA Logo - Film Festivals, why they are important for success as a Filmmaker. -

If you want to achieve your goals as a filmmaker faster, perhaps an effective marketing and promotions channel to explore is the ‘film festival circuit.’

You may be wondering whether it is too late to submit to a film fest midway in the year. No it is not. You still have the opportunity to participate or make an entry. The festival calendar in Nigeria is filled up until December 2024.

In this piece, we will look at the importance of film festivals and what benefits they offer us as filmmakers. But before we dive deeper let us share our thoughts on what a film festival is.

What is a film festival?  - Film Festivals: Why They Are Important for Success as a Filmmaker.

A film festival is an organized event where films are showcased to an audience over a specific period ranging from a few days to a couple of weeks.

These festivals often include screenings of new movies, panel discussions, workshops, and award ceremonies.

Think of a film festival as a big celebration of movies. Like music festivals celebrate bands and singers, film festivals celebrate movies and the people who make them.

A Brief History of Film Festivals

The concept of film festivals dates back to the early 20th century.

The first major film festival was the Venice Film Festival which started in 1932 in Venice, Italy. It was created as part of the Venice Biennale, a major cultural exhibition to showcase and celebrate the art of cinema.  - Jury at Venice film festival 1932.

The selection commission of the first Venice Film Festival (1932), Director Luciano De Feo is the second from the left

Today, there are thousands of film festivals worldwide, catering to every genre, theme, and audience imaginable.

From the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to the Mumbai Film Festival in India, these events continue to be vital platforms for filmmakers to premiere their work, gain recognition, and connect with audiences and industry professionals.

According to Francois Balogun in her book “The Cinema in Nigeria” (1987), the first film festival was held between October 3 and 8, 1977, at the National Theater Cinema Hall, Lagos, with six feature-length films.

It was organized by the Goethe Cultural Institute and the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture. However, through the decades many more have come on stream in Nigeria.

On a broader perspective (since the pioneering days of Venice), film festivals have evolved from a handful of prestigious events to a global network of celebrations. Supporting and promoting the art of filmmaking, reflecting the diverse and dynamic nature of the film industry.

What activities are common at a film festival?

Film Festivals: Why They Are Important For Success AS A Filmmaker - A woman in African attire standing in front of a banner at a film festival -

Film festivals are vibrant, multi-faceted events that offer a range of activities designed to celebrate and promote the art of filmmaking.

Here are some of the most common events and activities you can expect at a film festival:

The Opening Ceremony

A high-profile activity that may feature the premiere of a major film to kick off the festival.

Screening of Films

At a film festival, various films are shown to the public. These films can include feature-length movies, short films, documentaries, experimental films, animated films, etc.

  • Premieres: Many festivals feature world, international, or regional premieres of new films.
  • Competitions: Films are often grouped into competitive categories, with awards given for various achievements (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, etc.).
  • Retrospectives: Screenings of classic films or films by a particular director or actor.
  • Special Presentations: Unique screenings, sometimes including restored or rare films. Many of the films shown at festivals are new releases or films that haven’t been widely seen yet. This gives audiences the chance to watch fresh and innovative stories that they might not see in regular theaters.

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Opportunities to Learn and Connect

Festivals often have panel discussions, where filmmakers talk about their work and answer questions from the audience. This is a great way to learn about the creative process behind movies.

Workshops and master classes are also common, offering hands-on learning experiences about different aspects of filmmaking.

Panel Discussions and Q & A Sessions

Question & Answer Sessions: After screenings, directors, actors, and producers may participate in question-and-answer sessions with the audience.

Panel Discussions: Industry experts discuss various topics related to filmmaking, trends, and industry issues.

Workshops and Masterclasses

Film Festivals: Why They Are Important for Success as a Filmmaker - Filmmakers at a workshop -

Educational Sessions: hands-on workshops covering aspects of filmmaking such as screenwriting, directing, editing, and cinematography.

in-depth sessions led by renowned filmmakers sharing their expertise and experiences.

Awards and Recognition:

Recognition of outstanding films and filmmakers in various categories. Such as narrative, documentary, and short films, plus technical achievements, etc.

 Film Festivals: Why They Are Important for Success as a - Filmmaker - Audience at a film

Networking and Collaboration

Film festivals are also social events. They bring together filmmakers, actors, critics, and fans from around the world. This creates opportunities to meet new people, share ideas, and possibly collaborate on future projects.

  • Parties and Receptions: Social events where filmmakers, actors, and industry professionals can meet and network.
  • Industry Mixers: Specific networking sessions designed for industry professionals to connect, often focusing on collaboration and business opportunities.

Film Market and Pitch sessions

  • Film Market: A marketplace where filmmakers can sell distribution rights and network with buyers, distributors, and sales agents.
  • Pitch Sessions: Opportunities for filmmakers to pitch their projects to potential investors and producers.

Exhibitions and Installations

  • Art Installations: Multimedia and interactive art related to film and cinema.
  • Exhibitions: displays of film memorabilia, photography, and other related artworks.
  • Virtual Screenings: Online streaming of selected films for a broader audience.
  • Webinars: online workshops and panel discussions for those who cannot attend in person.

Community and Engagement Activities

  • Youth Programs: Special screenings and workshops aimed at young filmmakers and students.
  • Local Outreach: Events designed to engage with the local community and involve them in the festival.

Closing Ceremony

The festival concludes with an awards ceremony and a final screening, often of another significant film.

Why participate in a film festival

For a new or established filmmaker, a film festival can be a big deal. It is a chance to show their work to a larger audience, get feedback, and connect with other people who love making movies.

Film Festivals: Why They Are Important for Success as a Filmmaker - Audience at a film festival seminar -

Even if someone is not making films but loves watching them, festivals are a great way to see exciting movies and learn more about the art of filmmaking.

Why should a filmmaker submit an entry to a film festival?

Exposure and Recognition

  • Showcasing Work: Film festivals provide a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work to a broad and diverse audience, including industry professionals, critics, and general film enthusiasts.
  • Media Attention: Festivals often attract media coverage, leading to reviews, interviews, and publicity that can significantly raise a filmmaker’s profile.

Networking Opportunities

  • Industry Connections: Festivals gather filmmakers, actors, producers, distributors, and other professionals, creating invaluable networking opportunities.
  • Collaborative Opportunities: Meeting other filmmakers and professionals can lead to collaborations on future projects.

Feedback and Improvement

  • Audience Reactions: Watching how different audiences react to your film can provide insightful feedback.
  • Q&A Sessions: Engaging in Q&A sessions after screenings allows filmmakers to discuss their work, receive direct feedback, and explain their creative choices.

Distribution and Sales

  • Market Exposure: Festivals often have markets where films are bought and sold. Filmmakers can connect with distributors, sales agents, and buyers to secure distribution deals.
  • Sales Opportunities: Winning awards or generating buzz at a festival can make a film more attractive to distributors and sales agents.

Awards and Accolades

Film Festivals: Why They Are Important for Success as a Filmmaker -
  • Prestige and Credibility: Winning or even being selected for a prestigious film festival can add significant prestige to a filmmaker’s resume, enhancing their credibility in the industry.
  • Financial Rewards: Some festivals offer monetary prizes, grants, or other financial incentives for winning entries.

Learning and Development

  • Workshops and master classes: Many festivals offer educational opportunities, including workshops and master classes led by industry experts, providing filmmakers with valuable learning experiences.
  • Panel Discussions: Participating in or attending panel discussions on various topics related to filmmaking can broaden a filmmaker’s knowledge and skills.

Inspiration and motivation

  • Exposure to New Ideas: Watching a diverse array of films and interacting with other creative minds can inspire new ideas and innovative approaches to filmmaking.
  • Renewed Passion: The festival environment can reignite a filmmaker’s passion for their craft by immersing them in a community of like-minded individuals who share their love for cinema.

Marketing and Promotion

  • Building an Audience: Festivals help filmmakers build an audience base, which can be crucial for the success of future projects.
  • Promotional Material: Festivals provide filmmakers the opportunity to create promotional material (posters, trailers, and press kits) and develop their marketing skills.

Career Advancement

  • Agent and Manager Interest: A successful festival run can attract the attention of agents and managers looking to represent new talent.
  • Future Opportunities: Visibility at festivals can lead to offers for future projects, including directing, writing, and producing opportunities.

Personal Fulfillment

  • Celebration of Work: Participating in a film festival is a chance for filmmakers to celebrate the hard work and dedication that went into creating their films.
  • Community Engagement: Being part of a film festival community can be a rewarding experience, providing a sense of belonging and accomplishment.

Film festivals are rich, immersive experiences that go beyond simply watching movies. They offer an array of activities designed to educate, inspire, and connect filmmakers and audiences.

Whether you are attending screenings, participating in workshops, or networking at industry events, there is always something exciting at a film festival.


Film festivals are more than just celebratory events; they are pivotal to the growth and success of filmmakers at all stages of their careers.

Whether you’re a budding filmmaker looking to break into the industry or an established filmmaker aiming to sustain and grow your career, participating in film festivals can provide invaluable benefits.

So, mark your calendars, prepare your entries, and get ready to embark on an exciting journey through the world of film festivals. Your next big opportunity might just be a festival screening away!

What festival are you attending or submitting your film to in the second half of 2024? Let us know. You may find us at one of the many exciting events. It will be great connecting in person as well.

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