Over the coming months, we’ll be featuring articles written by our many friends within the industry to offer advice and tips to independent filmmakers. First, we kick things off with Rebekah Louisa Smith, the founder of the The Film Festival Doctor.
Obviously since I work within the film festival industry I’m a huge lover of film festivals and I could write a whole book (or even another PhD thesis) regarding the benefits of attending film festivals, especially industry focused ones which always produce useful networking.
It’s also important to remember that as an aspiring film industry professional you should go to film festivals even if you’ve not got a film screening in competition, as festivals are the places where the unexpected happens. There is a wealth of abundance and opportunity waiting for you to take advantage of and create for yourself at film festivals – an unlimited amount in fact. The anecdote below describes how that magic works:
I first attended the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. I had a huge rush of adrenaline run through me before I was about to leave. This was also the year that I started up my company; The Film Festival Doctor so I went to Cannes with a business plan and my idea to pitch to people for their constructive feedback and advice. I remember buying a book called ‘The Virgins Guide to Cannes’ just to ensure that I had done as much research as possible and was prepared to cope with being within a big festival full of all different types of people.
I had an agenda – but it was broad – and the only thing I needed to do there was network. In hindsight I realised that the more flexible and loose your agenda is the better. If you go there expecting specific concrete results this could hinder your route to having a successful trip as you may miss out on opportunities which you may not have expected to have occur or be presented to you. Best thing to do is go with the flow.
A friend of mine called me and asked me to join the sales company whom she worked for at the time’s evening reception. It took me ages to find the building and I almost missed the event, however eventually I found it and and still managed to catch the last 30 minutes of the party.
It was during those 30 minutes where I unexpectedly met a man who shortly after the festival became an integral part of my company and is still to this day one of my business advisors. He gave me valuable feedback and insight from a Producer’s point of view on my initial plans and how to turn my ideas into reality. I went in expecting to catch up with a friend of mine and eat some posh complimentary canapés but instead it turned into a very useful and productive 30 minutes of networking.
The golden rule is expect the unexpected and enjoy every minute of what I hash tag #filmfestivalmagic