"We thank you so much for submitting"

P.A. wrapped shooting by September 2013; and once post-production was complete, it was submitted out to festivals heavily up until about August 2014. All told, P.A. was submitted to 27 film festivals around the United States. The total cost of submitting to those festivals: $1,124. That's more than double the amount of money that was put in to make the film. And how many festivals was P.A. accepted into?


Now we knew we were floating on some high dreams thinking we'd get into Sundance or AFI, but a majority of our destinations we're oft unheard of festivals that seemed like they might fit and be fun. Instead, they just turned out to be wasteful and costly.

This isn't my first time submitting to festivals; this just happened to be the time when I pushed it the most. I put a lot of time and effort into making P.A., I wanted it to be recognized amongst my filmmaking peers; I wanted to offer the cast and crew something beyond an IMDB and food on set. I wanted P.A. to provide a film festival experience.

Granted, it did once; and it was awesome! But we weren't in Los Angeles, or even close, where our cast and crew is; we couldn't share the good times with them. We had to export the fun back home in the form of pictures and video, harvesting LIKE's on Facebook but not cultivating any experiences other than with my already close friends.

As with every system, there are winners and there are losers. Perhaps it's just a bad gamblers luck or maybe a product that doesn't stand out against the work of others, it could be. Maybe we should have folded earlier but there's also the allure of festivals and stock letter rejections which might not tell you the bitter truth about your film but instead encourages you to submit again in the future.

There's only so many that you can read before you become numb to the feeling of a thoughtless response haphazardly copied and pasted, corrected to replace the film name so it looks personalized, and sent out to crush the souls of hard-working filmmakers, but only after deflating their wallets.

Perhaps festivals should only take fees from those who get accepted, though, I'm sure the festivals will probably, justifiably, argue a practice like that would, at worst, bankrupt them and, at best, make them unable to offer any awards or rewards to deserving, winning filmmakers.

Going forward, I don't know that I'll be going after festivals as much; it doesn't seem like a worthwhile investment. That money could be better utilized promoting and marketing my film, getting people all over the world to see it; not just those converged on a certain city, on a certain date. And as I and my company want to start releasing features on VOD, that seems like the smarter choice. 

Film festivals provide a sense of pride and accomplishment; they can also provide a modicum of proof that a film is, subjectively, according to these judges, worthwhile. That translates to laurels and red carpet pictures. I surmise that same sense of pride and accomplishment can come from a successful, profitable movie release that follows an effective promotional campaign. And I believe that translates to the freedom and ability to make the next one.