There are an increasing number of calls to aspiring filmmakers to enter their work for various film festivals, both locally and globally.  In Focus thought it might be useful to consult with film experts who’ve won awards and the Southern Africa Communications for Development (SACOD) organisation to see what advice they could pass on.

Award winning filmmaker and producer with Video Vision International, Anant Singh advised: "It’s a very competitive world of filmmakers out there, and I urge emerging young filmmakers to be as creative as possible in their vision of their films. They have the capacity of learning from the many films that are posted on You Tube etc. to see the competitive environment.

“Entering international film competitions and festivals is an excellent way to introduce oneself to the international marketplace and to the creative community. It is, however, not an easy road and there will be many rejections along the way. This should not disillusion them, they need to continue and try to do their best work possible. This is an industry that, contrary to the glamour that it portrays, is a lot of hard work.

There is no substitute for this and ultimately dividends will emerge,” he said. Pieter Grobbelaar, who has just had his film Death of A Queen selected for INPUT, the international television conference taking place in Warsaw, Poland in May, said:  “If you believe in your story, have a passion for what you are doing, are prepared to work hard and surround yourself with good people that are willing to walk the second (and third and fourth) mile with you, you will be successful. I cannot emphasise enough that you must surround yourself with passionate people and not ones that watch the clock all the time.”

SACOD (Southern Africa Communications for Development) director, Tambudzai Madzimure, points out that  film festival coordinators often outline their film submission criteria in press releases or general electronic dissemination months ahead of the event, which are essential reading before considering a submission. This is highly dependent on theme and on festival initiatives, goals and objectives or current issues in the film industry.

Entering and submitting

Madzimure said that in most circumstances ‘call for entries’ forms are circulated to various industry organisations, websites, and available mailing lists. Aspiring attendants or film submitters are required to fill in relevant documentation for registration and film submission/selection purposes.

Inclusive in film entry application is a copy of the film in a specified format, a synopsis and CV. A panel of assessors or coordinators will conclude on the ultimate selection of films to be screened and later confirm with applicants.

How to market to broadcasters/TV stations:

She said that film festivals, forums, and screenings are a conducive platform to market films. Such gatherings offer unified discussions and conclusions achieved through hard-hitting debates regarding issues of distribution and marketing that these practitioners encounter.

Within the deliberations, there is a lot of input on advice, policies, and analysis from broadcasters, public and private, academia and professionals thus sharing and debating innovative ideas on how to meet and assess market trends as well as emerging markets.

What should filmmakers do in order for their work to be well received at these venues/by these markets: 

Madzimure’s advice is that aspiring filmmakers must associate themselves with organisations aligned to the film industry and play an active role in platforms like SACOD, SASFED, and Independent Producers Organisation (IPO), sending content entries/attending festivals to attain recognition and build a network for future and offshore collaborations and contacts.

She said as SACOD, one of their duties is to market member content mainly to the festival networks that SACOD works in partnership with.  This has seen an increase in the number of titles that festivals are able to access from the region.

The first thing a filmmaker needs to know is the availability (dates) of a particular film festival/media event/arts activity depending on what it is exactly.

The next step is to find out the requirements of the particular film festival. This area is crucial as it normally carries with it the genres required by the festival organisers. It also include the formats needed for the films to qualify, the lengths, the submission method – whether by e-mail, post box or courier, all these have to be understood and followed accurately in order to even be considered.

For more information on SACOD, a network of southern African filmmakers, film and video production organisations and distributors, go to www.sacod.org.za