Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers

What Does Success At A Film Festival Mean To You?

Success at a film festival will mean different things to different people.

For some, attending a film festival is a simple fun activity and success may be having a nice time or getting to meet their favorite star.

It may also mean attending the premiere of a much anticipated blockbuster. But for some others, success at a film fest is a lot more nuanced.

Regardless of what side you lean, you will probably agree that participating in a film festival is not an exercise in futility. It is a task and at the end of the day, participants would love to look back and say “mission accomplished, it was a success.”

But what could be your mission as a creative or filmmaker in the first instance? Why invest time and money, put other activities on hold, to meet up with members of the public or industry practitioners from all over?

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Reasons Filmmakers Participate in Film Festivals


Your reason for participating in the film festival may be to promote your current movie, look for distributors/buyers, or find investors for your next project.

You may want to get feedback on your work from the select audience at the festival before your work is available to the general public.

Many filmmakers attend film festivals to seek collaboration or co-production opportunities. These filmmakers look forward to connecting with or pitch to producers and investors.

But also, there is the opportunity to sell your titles at the film market.

Beyond all of the above, many creatives attend festivals to see new or yet-to-be-released movies.

Filmmakers want to see what is hot or new, so they can stay ahead of the creative storytelling and filmmaking trends.

Succeed at a Film Festival - Tips For New And Veteran Filmmakers -


Still, others want to establish new connections and strengthen existing relationships. In a nutshell, most attendees want to do business and have fun at the same time. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Whatever the motivation, participating in a film festival can be a transformative experience for filmmakers at any stage of their careers.

But one question many prospective and even regular festival attendees ask is:

“How do you optimize my participation and get the most out of it?”

How To Optimize Your Participation And Succeed At The Film Festival

Here are some suggestions to help both new and established filmmakers make the most of their festival experience:

APPLY: Rivers International Film Festival (RIFF)

APPLY: Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF)

APPLY: Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF)

Before the festival

Succeed at the Festival: 
Tips for New And Veteran Filmmakers

Research and select the right festival for you

There are many festivals and sometimes the temptation is to be a part of the party each time. However, picking a festival genre is vital because filmmaking is ‘segmented’ like many other industries or sectors.

Many film genres have their specific festivals. You have horror, documentary, mobile filmmaking, shorts, feature-length film and many other specialized film festivals.

So perhaps the first question to consider is: what genre does my movie fall into, and which one is better for me. A general film fest or specialised genre-based one?

Other Tips To Help You Succeed at the film festival

Know Your Audience

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New And Veteran Filmmakers - -  A cinema audience

Choose festivals that align with your genre, style, and target audience. If you create animations, shoot horror movies, or focus more on documentaries it is apt to look for film festivals in that regard.

Chances are your core audience will attend and your work will be exposed to the right viewership.

Film Festivals for movies in Indigenous Languages

Remember also that there are film festivals that cater to movies in indigenous languages.

In Nigeria, the indigenous film sector is growing in leaps and bounds. From Kannywood in the North, to Yoruba language movies in the West and Igbo language films in the East. The ‘moviescape‘ is vibrant and robust.

Many observers opine that this segment of the film industry has one of the most enduring and faithful fanbase. If you are an actor or filmmaker the audience in this sector can be lifetime supporters of your brand.

So if your movie project is shot in a local language, there are festivals that spotlight primarily indigenous language films.

This does not imply that you should avoid the general film festivals with multiple categories. Participating in them can be beneficial, but specialized film festivals also come with unique advantages.

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

READ ALSO: AI: A Magic Carpet For Sky-High Success in Filmmaking

APPLY: Lagos Fringe Outdoor Arts Festival

Follow Submission Guidelines to succeed at the Festival

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers - - logo of Film Freeway

Nowadays, many festival accept submissions through online platforms like FilmFreeway. However, a number of them still give you the option of submitting physical media (such as DVD, Blu-Ray etc.).

So if you have to send yours in via regular mail or courier, make sure its properly packaged to avoid damage while in transit.

Video Formats Required For Submitting Your Movies At the Festival

It is vital to learn what video format is acceptable to the festival. This could be:

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers - Video editing timeline -
  • MP4. MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14). This is the most common type of video file format.
  • MOV. MOV (QuickTime Movie) stores high-quality video, audio, and effects, but these files tend to be quite large.
  • WMV.  (Windows Media Viewer) files offer good video quality and large file size like MOV. Microsoft developed WMV for Windows Media Player.
  • AVI.  (Audio Video Interleave) works with nearly every web browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. Developed by Microsoft, AVI offers the highest quality but also large file sizes.
  • AVCHD. Advanced Video Coding High Definition is specifically for high-definition video. Built for Panasonic and Sony digital camcorders, these files compress for easy storage without losing definition.
  • FLV, F4V, and SWF. – Flash video formats FLV, F4V, and SWF (Shockwave Flash) are designed for Flash Player, but they’re commonly used to stream video on YouTube. Flash is not supported by iOS devices.
  • MKV. – Developed in Russia, Matroska Multimedia Container format is free and open source. It supports nearly every codec, but it is not itself supported by many programs.
  • WEBM or HTML5. – These formats are best for videos embedded on your personal or business website. They are small files, so they load quickly and stream easily.

The video format that is indicated in the submission guidelines is the one you should export your video in and send.

If you are using any of the online platforms like FilmFreeway, chances are it will be in MP4 video format. Submitting a physical DVD media means your work has encoded in Mpeg 2.

Following the guidelines for submission is the first step to succeed at the festival. If you flunk this chances are you entry will be rejected. So please read and complete the instructions to ensure your work is accepted.

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers. Nollywood filmmakers on set -

Prepare your materials

Press Kit: Create a comprehensive press kit including a statement from the director, story synopsis, cast and crew bios, high-resolution stills, and a trailer.

Business Cards: Bring plenty of business cards and be ready to share them. Having a business card with your contact details, social media platforms, website, or even the name of your movie can attract attention.

Social Media: Establish or update your social media platforms to engage with audiences and promote your festival screening.

Plan your trip

If the festival is taking place in your city of residence, then there might be no need for travel or accommodation arrangements.

However, you still require planning, depending on how far or near the venue is to your location.

Many festivals that invite participants from abroad would share information on how to process travel visas, accommodations, or other regulatory requirements. 

And for those in the same country but in different cities, they would share information about accommodation or at least have a phone line through which attendees could get further information.


Plan your attendance around specific events, screenings, and networking opportunities.


You may need to prepare a budget for travel, accommodation, and festival passes. Not all festival events are free.

During the festival

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers - Networking at a film festival -

Attend Events: Go to as many screenings, panels, and parties as possible to meet other filmmakers, industry professionals, and potential collaborators.

Promote your film

Screening Promotion: Use social media, festival boards, and local media to promote your screening times.

Audience Engagement: Interact with your audience after the screening, answer questions, and gather feedback.

Participate in Q&A sessions

Be Prepared: Prepare thoughtful answers to potential questions about your film, its themes, and the production process.

Engage: Be engaging and open, showing passion and enthusiasm for your project.

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New And  Veteran Filmmakers - hppts:// - Filmmakers at a lecture session

Learning Opportunities: Take advantage of workshops and panels to learn from industry experts and improve your craft.

Ask Questions: Do not be afraid to ask questions and engage with speakers.

Leverage the film market

Distribution Opportunities: If the festival includes a film market, be proactive in seeking out distributors, sales agents, and buyers.

Pitch Your Project: Be ready to pitch your film or future projects to potential investors and collaborators.

After the Festival

After the festival, what happens? The work of marketing, promoting, and distributing your movie continues. It could also mark the beginning of a new project.

Follow Up

Contacts: Follow up with contacts you made during the festival, whether they are potential collaborators, distributors, or media contacts.

Thank-You Notes: Send thank-you notes to festival organizers and anyone who supported or helped promote your film.

Continue Promotion

Share Success: Share any awards or accolades your film received at the festival on social media and through press releases.

Audience Engagement: Keep engaging with your audience by sharing behind-the-scenes content, updates on future screenings, and news about distribution deals.

Reflect and plan

Feedback: Reflect on the feedback you received and how it can help you in your next project.

Next Steps: Plan your next steps. These may be entering additional festivals, securing distribution, or starting a new project.

Additional Tips for New Filmmakers

Attend festivals before submitting

Experience: Attend festivals as an audience member to understand how they operate and what kinds of films they showcase.

Seek Mentorship

Guidance: Look for mentorship opportunities from more experienced filmmakers and industry professionals.

Utilize festival resources.

Filmmaker Services: Many festivals offer services and resources for new filmmakers, such as pitch sessions, mentorship programs, and networking events.

Additional Tips for Established Filmmakers

Share your expertise

Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers - Panelists at a film workshop -

Panels and Workshops: Volunteer to speak on panels or lead workshops to share your knowledge and increase your visibility.

Promote future projects

Teasers: Use the festival to promote upcoming projects by sharing teasers or trailers with your audience and potential collaborators.

Strengthen industry relationships

Reconnect: Use the festival to reconnect with industry contacts and strengthen professional relationships.


Succeed at the Film Festival: Tips for New & Veteran Filmmakers - Cinematographer walking to take a shot -

By engaging in all aspects of a film festival, from networking and promotion to learning and sharing knowledge, new and established filmmakers can significantly benefit from their participation.

Festivals provide a unique platform to showcase talent, build professional networks, and advance filmmaking careers. To succeed at the next film festival you participate in please consider some or all of the tips above.

What film festivals have you attended this year? Will you be at RIFF, AFRIFF, AFIFF or any of the Nigerian and international festivals for 2024?

Let us know. Thank you.

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