Starting a film festival: the ultimate guide

Starting a film festival can be daunting, but it’s also a rewarding experience that brings together a community. A community of filmmakers, who can showcase their work, and film enthusiasts, who can discover new and innovative films. To help you with the set-up, we’ve written the ultimate guide on how to start a film festival that will succeed.


What do you want to achieve?

First things first. Before you start planning your film festival, you need to set your goals. What’s your focus? What do you want your festival to accomplish? How are you going to be different from other film festivals?   Your festival can, for instance, showcase the latest indie films. Or you might want to focus on bringing attention to local filmmakers. Many festivals also have a particular theme or focus on a specific genre. The possibilities are endless. Knowing your goals will help you attract filmmakers and audiences who share your vision.

Starting a film festival with the perfect team

As much as starting a film festival is fun, it is also a lot of work. You will need a team of dedicated staff and volunteers to help you succeed. You will require people to help with programming, marketing, logistics, etc. You want professionals for some positions, but you can also find enthusiastic volunteers for others. Reach out to film schools, community groups, and other such organisations to find volunteers who are passionate about film.


Securing funding

Starting a film festival can be expensive. You will have to cover expenses such as venue rental, film screening fees, marketing materials, and more. The best way to cover these expenses is by securing funding. Consider partnering with local businesses or organisations that share your vision, and explore grant opportunities for film festivals. Don’t forget about the local municipality’s options for cultural initiatives. In some cases, they can also help with funding.

Starting a film festival in the right location

The venue you choose will play a significant role in the success of your film festival. The venue has to be accessible to your audience and also be able to accommodate everything a film festival needs. You will need to find a large enough space to fit your audience. If you’re just starting out, a small venue could be perfect, but the venue will have to grow with you as you grow. Besides the size of the venue, it will also have to offer the necessary equipment for screening films and doing Q&As. Those are the practical sides, but you will also want a venue that suits your film festival or can be made to suit your film festival. Potential venues include theatres, community centres, and outdoor spaces.


Selecting your films and programming your schedule

Starting a film festival comes with many challenges, but the one aspect most people look forward to is the selection of the films. With your goals in mind, look for films that fit your festival’s theme, genre, or focus. You can build your program by using films that are sent to you via film-entry platforms such as FilmFreeway, but as a starting film festival, you may also want to actively look for films. You can find films by searching online and attending other festivals. Reach out to independent filmmakers and film distributors to find films that fit your festival’s focus. Be sure to watch each movie all the way through before making a final decision. Consider including panels or Q&A sessions with filmmakers to add value for your audience. 

Now you can share your final programming schedule with the public. Be sure to make it easy for people to understand, with clear information about each film, the program, and special events or guests. Consider creating a (mobile) website to help attendees navigate the festival and keep track of their favourite films.

Time for marketing

Marketing your festival is essential to attract audiences and building buzz around your event. The easiest way is to build an online presence by using social media. This is the perfect place to showcase what your film festival is all about and attract the right audience. But don’t forget about local media outlets, and other marketing channels to spread the word about your festival. Consider partnering with other organisations to help promote your festival and offer discounts or promotions for early bird ticket sales.

Don’t forget about the logistics

As the event takes shape, you will also need to consider all the logistics that come with planning a film festival. Logistics are an essential part of any event, and you will need to plan for everything from ticket sales to catering. Consider hiring security and having volunteers on hand to help with crowd control and other logistical issues. Logistics will differ for every festival depending on the venue, crowd size, and festival length. Map out your film festival and think about every aspect that might need planning.


Ready to start a film festival?

Starting a film festival can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following these tips, you can create a successful event that showcases the best of (independent) filmmaking and brings together a community of film enthusiasts. Running a film festival is never done, so we will keep you updated on the latest trends and give you more tips on our social media accounts.

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At Fiona, we love tech and film festivals. That is why our film festival clients love Fiona’s film festival management software: designed to be effective, user-friendly, and easy to use.  We are constantly adding new features and learning from our trusted film festival partners. Meanwhile, we stay updated on new technologies to keep Fiona the best film festival management software.

About The Author

Peter Goldman
Three films you don’t want to miss at IDFA 2022!Unlocking the Power of Film Festival Management Software


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