59th Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin January 27, 2009

Peter Belsito and Sydney Levine, bloggers at Sydney’s Buzz on indieWIRE and founders of Film Finders, recently hosted an orientation at Film Independent on European festivals and markets. Veterans of the international festival circuit, these Euro-Fest experts guided our members through the first six months of the festival and market calendar.


U.S. Market < International Market
With the U.S. market now making up 30% of the international market, whereas it previously comprised 90%, Sydney and Peter emphasized the importance of thinking outside of the domestic box. Sydney stressed how “the business is an international business. You could make 70% more revenue if you market outside of America.” It is essential that you “think about your film in terms of its international appeal.” Aiming to sell your film exclusively in the U.S. is limiting your film’s potential revenue.


Peter’s “Big Five” Festivals for Selling Films
“One of the things I want you to leave with are the big five: Toronto, AFM, Sundance, Berlin, Cannes,” Peter told our members. He also noted that Sundance films go to Berlin automatically. Therefore, you have automatic access to promote your film there. “You can take a very active part in the Berlin Market.” He also believes Cannes is “the most important event for those of us who pour our lives into film. It is completely international and it has everybody from all over the world.” Do yourself a favor and plan well in advance for Cannes.


Sydney’s “Special Interest” Festivals
Sydney filled our members in on various “special interest film festivals in-between the major ones that you need to pay attention to.” For example: San Sebastian specializes in Latino films; Clermont-Ferrand shows popular shorts, Oberhausen is the cutting-edge shorts film festival; Karlovy Vary shows some American indies, has a strong relationship with the press and is great for student films; and the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland has a work-in-progress program “and they will help you get your project made.”


Rotterdam + Cinemart
Rotterdam is known for supporting cutting edge, experimental independent films. It showcases a huge amount of films and doesn’t charge a submission fee. Sydney explained it’s benefits of Rotterdam’s Cinemart pre-market: “Say you have a script and a director, and you want to talk to producers about your project. If you’re [participating in the Cinemart], everyone who is attending the Cinemart has already read about your project” and are potentially “setting up meetings with you about your project.”


Information Resources
Books: Sydney recommends Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul by The Film Collaborative. The book contains “a lot of case studies of a lot of films that are getting independent distribution.” She also recommends The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution by Stacey Parks, among others.

Submission Questions: Peter’s go-to expert for answering questions regarding submitting to festivals is Christian Gaines (Festival Specialist with Withoutabox, a division of IMDb). “If you have a festival submission question, call Christian Gaines. Tell him Peter Belsito told you to give him a call. He’s an absolutely wonderful guy.”

Peter Belsito's hand drawn diagram for film sales / film market (click for larger image)

Diagrams: A diagram from Ted Hope’s blog “Hope for Film” provides a comprehensive chart of distribution options. “This is the path before you for you to choose from,” said Peter. In addition, Peter drew his own diagram at the orientation, which reflected the European festival circuit.


– Lee Jameson for Film Independent


January 19th, 2012 • No Comments

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