Film festivals are a way to showcase and appreciate the talent and skill of filmmakers, and the lure and promise of getting your pride and joy in front of so many viewers can be enticing. This is why some filmmakers have fallen into the trap of film festival scams or unscrupulous festivals that are designed to make money rather than promote the art of film. These types of scams can not only hurt a filmmaker financially, but reduce the potential of promoting a place as a film hub and generally gives film festivals a bad name.
Filmmakers need to identify scammers beforehand, so they can spare their time, effort and resources for festivals that actually have the true intention and vision of promoting local and international talent.
Here’s how to spot that a film festival might be a scam:
1. Overpriced Entry Fees
Unless it’s a well-known film festival like Sundance or SXSW, overpriced fees for a film festival that’s just starting out or not highly recognised by its community, may not count as a legit film festival.
- Reconsider spending more than $30/£25 for a short film submission, approximately the average fee.
Be wary when an organiser approaches you with a proposal that sounds more like a sales pitch than a genuine interest in your work.
2. Lack of Information
If there’s no list of the festival’s website, no physical office address or contact numbers, and no clear communication as to who’s in-charge, then it’s a danger sign that the festival is most likely a scam.
If a festival can’t make mention of any of its partners, venues, sponsors, or public screening events, it’s definitely something to be suspicious about.
Aside from unclear locations of film festival screenings, festival scams can trick you into visiting their so called “office” in a supposedly residential area like a suite.
One way to make sure you verify their address is to look up the location on Google if it’s actually listed. Remember many credible film festivals are located in a commercial space. There still may be a reputable festival using a PO Box or mail forwarding service, so be sure to dig deeper into this list for more information.
3. Too Many Awards
Even for Cannes Film Festival, there’s a limited amount of categories that will be awarded. Legit film festivals also usually have a limit set to the awards they give to an individual or group of filmmakers. Another factor that makes this a scam is when the awards don’t make much sense to the industry.
4. No Clear Judging Criteria
If the festival doesn’t present clear criteria as a basis for winning a competition, then there’s little reason for filmmakers to risk entering that festival and spending money. Make sure the festivals you choose are clear about their selection and awarding process. This way if you have a horror film, for example, you’ll know you have better odds of entering it in a festival with a horror genre.
The Bottom Line
Do your research and be on guard for film festival scams. When in doubt, ask for help from recognised film groups to ensure your film investment won’t go to waste.
About the Writer: Katie Conlon is a young freelance writer who recently graduated from a university filmmaking program. She manages the blog and social media program for video equipment maker ProAm USA. When not on her laptop, Katie can be found snapping images of friends and family or hiking outdoors with her beloved dog Turner.