These days there are so many films being made globally that it is crucial to get your film out into the public domain any way you can. Often the best way to do this is to send your film to various film festivals around the world. However many filmmakers vary in their opinions about the value of such festivals.

Director Michael Raeburn, (Triomf, Jit), says they are only useful "if they can provide distributing contacts, press or awards and cash prizes, otherwise they are social events. Many small festivals want to try and get your film for free. I refuse that - unless there is a cash prize. The majors pay nothing but they can give a lot to a movie's prestige. I like smaller festivals like the African Film Festival and the New York African Film Festival."

Greg Copeland, director, who is best known for being an international cinematographer having worked with the likes of Tori Amos, Robbie Williams and Sting but who has just directed his first short film Roads, says that for him it is crucial to get it out there.

"I am only entering film festivals for the first time. I have mainly been using a website called 'withoutabox' for submitting my film and they do all the paperwork as well. I have entered into Sundance Festival, Cinequest, Zero Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, London Independent Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival. I am hoping to get recognition that will hopefully lead to collaboration with new people, kudos and developing an audience."

Producer David Max Brown, whose latest production The Manuscripts of Timbuktu was featured in last month's In Focus (click here) explains: "I hardly go to festivals except locally, for example the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) or Tri Continental Film Festival. I have found them both extremely valuable for seeing new films and meeting other filmmakers. Also the AFDA Film Festival is very useful to see new talent and Women of the Sun (WoS) is very useful for seeing stuff that I wouldn't otherwise see and for networking. The directors I work with normally go to the international film festivals."

Joe Khumalo, producer and director at Mandela Film Production, says they find film festivals very important. "Film Festivals are a platform for up-and-coming filmmakers and directors. They are also crucial for networking opportunities. It is not about what you know but who you know. We have attended the Pan African Film Festival, dedicated to the exhibition of black films - PAFF is priceless, nothing compares to it. Their objective is promoting film and giving adequate exposure to young filmmakers."

It is important, however, to know which festivals you need to go to and how to strategise for these. Brown explains: "There are strategies that I have learnt over the years in terms of which festivals to apply to. For instance, with The Manuscripts of Timbuktu, because we knew we had a good chance of getting in to the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), we applied to it. Also, this is one of the most prestigious documentary film festivals in the world so it was worth skipping other festivals to get into IDFA and have our world premiere. We are now looking at festivals in America and probably the New York African Film Festival."

Khumalo says: "We look at the following to determine what festivals we should apply to: what are the criteria; what genre are they looking for; what is the background of the festival etc. I think South African directors and filmmakers must focus on telling their stories and this will help us gain more recognition."

Raeburn elaborates: "Certain of these festivals give prizes to the message not the art. Some film directors from Africa give the Europeans what they want, to get prizes - subjects like AIDS, struggle, living in huts with goats. New films like Triomf and Jerusalema are really a problem for many festivals. This is an issue of 1st world looking at 3rd world and forcing their expectations on us. They never apply this attitude to films from Europe and America. My warning is that you must be selective about what film festivals you go to."

Jacques Stoltz, senior marketing manager at the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), concludes: "Filmmakers must do their research as there are some film festivals that are more proactive in seeking out new talent from around the world.

"For young filmmakers going to Rotterdam or Sundance might be more beneficial than surviving the Cannes International Film Festival. The other consideration is that certain festivals coincide with markets and conferences which, from a learning point of view, could be far more valuable. The only drawback here is the often astronomical registration fees for attending. I think it is good for filmmakers to attend local festivals, especially for producers starting out. For first time international festival goers, it might also be good to speak to those who have attended and submitted work and possibly shadow someone."

Useful websites:

Wikipedia - Film Festivals gives a comprehensive list of festivals around the world.