GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FEATURE FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SUBMITTING TO SUNDANCE Image

Hey, filmmakers! Welcome to Going Bionic, #234. I hope you had a wonderful weekend, because mine was pretty eventful. I spent Friday afternoon on a Film Finance Panel at the sixth annual Lady Filmmakers Festival in Beverly Hills, only to go back to the festival Saturday for an art exhibit. Sunday morning was spent at the Los Angeles Zoo with my wife and our twins, and then I dropped the top of my car and jetted down the sun-drenched freeway to San Diego to catch a two hour and forty-seven minute Paul McCartney concert with some old friends from my UCLA days. As I drove myself home from San Diego, it dawned on me that Monday, September 29th is the late submission deadline for Sundance. Since many of you may have submitted your soon-to-be-discovered gem to America’s premiere festival, I thought today would be a good time to discuss three insights that may put a perspective on the Sundance submission process.

Acceptance Numbers don’t lie, even if you wish they would
The first thing you should do is to understand what the chances of getting into Sundance are, and how those numbers are derived. For starters, in 2014, Sundance had 12,218 total submissions, but only accepted 187 films. That’s an overall acceptance rate of 1.5%. In order to put such a number in perspective, consider that Harvard University’s acceptance rate in 2014 was 5.9%. Thus, getting into Sundance is nearly four times harder to do than getting into Harvard. As for the breakdown of the films accepted into Sundance in 2014, the following is a breakdown between feature length and short film submissions:

Feature Length Submissions: Sundance 2014 had 4,057 feature length submissions, but only 121 were selected. Thus, the feature film acceptance rate was 2.98%.

Short Film Submissions: Sundance received 8,161 submissions in 2014, but only welcomed 66 to the festival. Hence, the short film acceptance rate was 0.008% – meaning less than 1%.

So, based on 2014 numbers, it’s actually nearly three times harder to get your short film into Sundance, than it is to get your feature in, which in next to impossible to begin with!

Worldwide Reach of Sundance
One fascinating fact about Sundance 2014 is that 2,043 of the 4,057-feature length submissions were from outside of the United States. That’s an astounding leap toward growing Sundance global brand, but it also puts American filmmakers on notice, because Sundance isn’t just showcasing America’s finest independent filmmakers anymore. Furthermore, Sundance 2014 accepted films from 37 countries and showcased 100 worldwide premieres.

Sundance Distribution Numbers
29 of the 121 feature films projects at Sundance in 2014 sold to distribution, (23.96%), but only a handful or so of them achieved wide theatrical distribution deal. The others received cable, Netflix and VOD deals, with a few pictures landing very limited theatrical deals. Thus, even if your picture slides through the tiniest cracks in the doors at Sundance and earns a programming slot, you still only have about a 24% chance to get any form of distribution.

Should you be wondering why I’m spewing so many daunting facts and figures your way today, it’s my way of trying to get you to realize that the fate of your film shouldn’t live or die with getting into Sundance. Your film is a reflection of your efforts, vision, voice, and of course, your talent. Thus, you should carefully guide it through its journey toward distribution. Of course, if that journey starts at Sundance, then good for you and I offer you my heartiest congratulations. However, if Sundance isn’t your starting point, worry not, because if you stay positive, focused and relentlessly focused, I assure you that your efforts will define your film’s ultimate worth far more than getting into any one film festival will.

Okay, friends. Thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I hope you have a tremendous week. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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