By Brad Wilke | March 20, 2014

In our last installment, we discussed best practices surrounding film festival deadlines and submission procedures. Today, we’re going to touch on a variety of topics connected to the theme of relationship building among film festival programmers and staff in support of furthering your career as an independent filmmaker.

Part 3: The Networked Filmmaker
Developing relationships with film programmers is a lot like making friends with fellow film lovers. Maybe we connect at a cocktail party, a film screening, or the dinner party of a mutual friend. You love movies, I love movies…it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Or, it could be the set-up for the sequel to SINGLE WHITE FEMALE with a dash of FATAL ATTRACTION thrown in for good measure.

Much like in the business world, where an informational interview request can get you a 30-minute coffee with a high level executive in a career field of your dreams, reaching out to film programmers at festivals you are interested in one day playing is a great way to start building relationships in the world of film festivals. But here’s the thing: don’t let your first contact include an “ask” for a submission fee waiver or some other type of leverage. Think of it this way: would you ask a new friend for $20 (or to borrow their car) the first time you hung out? Probably not. Same etiquette rules apply here.

So, for now, forget about your “ask.” For now, treat the film programmer as someone you might be able to learn from. If you’re local, invite them to coffee. If you’re not, request a short phone call. Inquire about the trends we’re seeing in recent submissions, or the best ways to submit your work (hint: password-protected Vimeo link!), and, while you’re at it, find out more about the history/focus of the festival itself. What you’re really doing is getting on our radar, so that when your film finally does show up on the submissions list, we can put a name to a face and begin tracking the trajectory of your career.

Many film festivals will have contact information for at least a few members of the programming staff readily available on their website. If you can’t find it there, you always have the Twitter option. In fact, I would highly recommend any filmmakers out there that don’t already have one, to sign up today for a Twitter account and use it to follow and engage with film festivals, their programmers, fellow filmmakers, and film culture “influencers.” In my opinion, it’s where a lot of the online conversation is happening right now, and the film world will seem a whole lot smaller (and maybe even more friendly) once you take the plunge into the Twitterverse and really get engaged.

This installment was a little longer than I expected, but I really can’t emphasize enough the importance of actively participating in the film community that we are all co-creating every day, both online and off. It’s a rich ecosystem that benefits from each and every new voice that brings something positive (or constructively critical) to the conversation. It won’t necessarily help your film get into a festival, but the more you participate in the broader community, the more you do to increase your “luck surface area,” opening up new possibilities you might never have known existed.

Next time, the waiting process and dealing with rejection…

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