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Unlock Your Potential: The Benefits of Participating in Small Film Festivals for Indie Filmmakers

In the film industry, it’s natural to want quick success. After dedicating months – maybe even years – to the development and production of a story, a quick and easy distribution and a premiere at Cannes Film Festival or Sundance would make all the blood, sweat, and tears worth it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the path that most independent films take, but that doesn’t mean starting small is a failure; In fact, small-scale film festivals can be an incredibly valuable tool for any up-and-coming indie filmmaker.

Big Competition in Filmmaking

As post-production winds down, the thing on most filmmakers’ minds is distribution. Major film festivals – like Cannes and Sundance – are well known, prestigious events even outside the film industry, where the large-scale films make their debut and smaller projects are propelled into streaming deals, theatrical releases, and even awards shows. However, it’s also immensely competitive: Sundance received over 13,000 submissions this year, yet only screens about 120 feature films and 60 shorts, making it a major reach even for the seasoned filmmaker.

Variety of Film Festivals

Fortunately, many festivals are much more accessible and can be just as useful when starting out in the industry. There are thousands of small film festivals in the United States alone that will offer you critical networking opportunities and the chance to finally see your film on the big screen. The smaller number of screening spots does mean that these festivals can still be competitive despite the smaller applicant pool, but the good news is that there are many different types that cater to different audiences by selecting specific genres or types of films. If you have a horror film, there will be a horror film festival for that. If you have a documentary, you’re in luck – there are festivals for that, too. It’s important to pay attention to what kinds of films a festival is asking for and what they have chosen to screen in the past, because if it resembles anything like your project, that’s a green flag for you.

Film Festival Awards!

Another upside to small festivals? It’s easier to win awards, and sometimes that means grant money to keep making projects. With the smaller number of screening slots, you have a greater chance of gaining recognition in that community and establishing yourself as a filmmaker to take note of. This means you’ll probably have a better chance at getting selected for that festival in the future because the programmers who picked your film in the first place like your work and want to see you continue, but it also helps build your credibility beyond that festival. People in the industry talk to each other and you never know what opportunities might come out of making a good impression with the chance you’ve given.

Film festivals are always valuable in the process of distribution, networking, and building your career. And when you’re just starting out, the size and prestige of a festival doesn’t really matter as long as you’re making the most out of every experience. Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on our projects! Maybe we will meet each other at a film festival, who knows!

35 views2 comments


Feb 22, 2023

Would love to see some film festival suggestions for indie filmmakers!


Riley-Kate Pappas
Riley-Kate Pappas
Feb 15, 2023

Great article, very interesting!

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