No Entry Fee Festivals- What do you think?

To all,
A couple of weeks ago I noticed a blog that mentioned my noentryfeefestivals site. In referencing my blog, I couldn’t help but hear a hint of… ? well, I am not sure. I was left with the odd message that filmmakers should support festivals that charge them to submit their work, unless, of course, they are broke.

Here is the quote from Bob’s blog at Binary Recording Studio: “No Entry Fee Film Festivals: I support film festivals charging to submit your film. Why?  I have been involved in running a film festival and they cost money to put on, there is no way around it.  But if you have spent all your money on making the film and you want to get it out there, here are some that can get you started.”

My response: I keep this blog, facebook and twitter because I am amazed by the festivals that do not charge a submission fee to artists. Putting on a festival does cost money, so I imagine that it takes much effort, resources and volunteers to put on a festival and not pass these costs on to the filmmakers. I am moved by the passion of these individuals, who put on the festivals and do not want the submission fee to be a barrier. In many cases these are venues that artists are not aware of. These venues may put them in touch with an audience that truly appreciates their work. I have seen the effects of this connection on myself and on my college students.

Do I support film festivals that charge a fee? Sometimes, maybe, depending on the film, depending on the festival and depending on the fee. I don’t have the time and the resources to determine if the fee for any particular festival is justified, and some seem quite high, as if all the costs fall on the shoulders of the submitting artists. So, while I am more than aware that festivals cost money to put together, I have heard from filmmakers that they only submit to them if they are fairly confident that their film will get in. That leaves others who may not be sure, and so, may not get their work out there.

I do support the festivals that do not charge a fee, or I would not spend countless hours on this blog. I struggle with the comment to submit to them if you have run out of money. I create this site to help artists, but also to help these festivals. In my interactions with festival directors who somehow put on festivals in this economy without charging fees to artists, I have found all of them warm, passionate and enthusiastic.

I welcome your comments.



16 thoughts on “No Entry Fee Festivals- What do you think?

  1. As a fairly recent subscriber to your blog and twitter posts, and as a an animation director just starting out in the industry, I’ve already found the no fee film festival information you provide to be absolutely invaluable. Entering films into countless festivals can add up and soon it becomes an ‘exclusive’ practice that can only be afforded by the wealthy or larger teams and studios. Free film festivals are essential to allow a broader variety of films to be accessed. A big thank you to what you are doing for the film community!

  2. This is a perfect opportunity to thank you for the work you’re doing. Until I discovered your blog I gave up on film festivals altogether. I have never been granted any acceptance of a film into a (submission fee) festival since becoming an adult. I also am quite aware of the fact that superficial production value expectations and familiarity are key desires for most audiences and film festivals. Bob is a billowing idiot. There is this capitalist sentiment that money needs to be thrown into play with everything – that is what is ruining film in the first place. Film festivals are suppose to be presenting unique, undiscovered works, that are not catering to conventions or the industry – however these festivals end up just hiding behind that as a mask. The whole idea that a panel of “competent” judges always accept the best films to screen, making fair use of the submission fees, is laughable and infuriating on so many levels. It is impossible to know, based on what criteria, any festival is going to judge and accept your film on. It seems that most film festivals are tied to the city in trying to attain a certain preconceived image they already want of themselves – making them have certain quotas they look for the films they receive to fill. Film festivals usually end up displaying the most regurgitated, industry-loving nonsense. It is truly unfair to be asked to add to such a pot, blindly. (You very likely may be handing $50 to a group of people who have only nepotism to thank for their place in deeming your film worthwhile or not.)

    The idea that one puts all of this work into a film and then is asked to pay people to watch it is absurd. Art that will stand the test of time will never be fruitful in such a societal setup.

  3. Hi Tracy
    Well I for one am really happy to have found you! I am in the final stages of my new film and we have another film already ready to go out and we have found that many of the fee festivals have such a tiny percentage of slots available to the open submitters, that one’s chances of getting there are very low. Who can afford to just pay and pay for little hope? I’m not a rich person making films out of vanity!!! ;-)
    In any case it is up to the film maker to do the research – you should find out about the festival before you submit to it.
    Lastly, I find the idea depressing that “if it’s not about money its not valid.”
    I really appreciate what you’re doing and you can count me in as an ally!,

  4. Hey Guys

    Simon from Strawberry Shorts in Cambridge UK here.

    Film festivals need to finance themselves, even no fee film festivals have expenses. For instance Strawberry Shorts runs in The Cambridge Festival Theatre, one of only four remaining pre-Victorian theatre in the UK. Its totally awesome and not cheap to hire.

    Our choice is for our audience to directly finance the festival, not the filmmakers. It feels fairer and more egalitarian. It gives films of merit from broke filmmakers, more chance to get screened. The contribution we ask from the audience is much less than a night out at our local arthouse cinema. And we have to work hard to give the audience a fantastic shorts film experience, as our revenue comes from a full auditorium.

    But I’m not sure thats the only right choice.

    I’m a filmmaker and lately I’ve received a couple of unsolicited emails from different film festivals. The emails name films I’ve uploaded to Vimeo and suggest that I submit the films. When I check the submissions pages, there is always a substantial submissions fee. I can’t help but feel that these film festivals are trading in the hopes and dreams of filmmakers, in order to aggrandise and further the careers of their organisers.

    I don’t like submissions fees, but are they wrong? Film festivals have bills to pay.

    I think it comes down to the character of the film festival and the job its doing. But from a personal perspective I prefer film festivals that put the filmmakers and their films first by providing the level paying field of no submissions fee. In a strange way this also puts the audience first, because an empty auditorium would mean no money and no film festival.

  5. I’d like to ditto Natasha – you provide an invaluable service. while I understand the need for festivals to charge a submission Fee, they feel excessive at times – Serving only to keep filmmakers without a budget out of the race. You are helping to democratize the festival system; Thank you for helping give us broke filmmakers a chance.

  6. I believe that your site is a very valuable resource for film makers. Please keep up the hard work it takes to keep this blog site going, it is very much appreciated! I too am humbled by the passion of these individuals, who put on the festivals and do not want the submission fee to be a barrier. I have recommended this site to many of my students and fellow film makers. thanks again! Binary Recording Studio 

  7. Hello Tracy,

    I just want to add my voice to the warm thanks for your work in running this blog. You do an outstanding job and provide a stunning resource for us filmmakers.

    It’s solely thanks to you and your blog that I discovered the London Polish Film Festival where I have just won the Best Film Award!

    Not only was this a no-entry-fee festival, but the judging panel comprised some serious heavyweight heroes of mine – Timothy Burrill (producer, The Pianist), Pawel Edelman (DoP, The Pianist) and Jerzy Skolimowski (screenwriter, Knife in the Water). What an incredible opportunity to get feedback from major players! I have yet to see ANY fee-paying festival that can claim such an auspicious judging panel.

    I have so far spent over 40 times the production budget of my film on festival entry fees, because I really want my film to be seen, as I am so proud of it. It’s paid off to some extent, as we’ve won 4 other awards and garnered another 4 nominations, but I can’t help feeling exploited and seen as easy money by the festival organisers.

    Worse, the fee-paying festivals tend to deliver pathetically small audiences, whereas the fee-free Polish Festival delivered a full house at a major London venue. You simply can’t ask for more than that!

    On balance, the no-entry festivals have been a much more appreciative home for my film and I will certainly be re-thinking my strategy on the next films.

    Keep up your good work!

    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Brian

      I find your comment about fee paying festivals having small audiences very interesting. Like I said above, when your festival has no submissions fee and you depend on the audience to pay for the festival, you have an incentive to work at giving the audience a great film festival experience and hence getting those audience numbers up!

      Putting filmmakers and their films first with no-submissions-fee also means putting the audience first.


  8. Tracy, I LOVE your site. It’s a valuable tool for aspiring (and broke) filmmakers like me.

    It takes money to run a film festival I agree 100%, I have nothing against that. It’s really up to the filmmaker turned distributor to do the research and see which festivals are right for them. What are the chances their project will be selected? If selected would it be worth it meaning, there’s a difference between being selected by Sundance and by a small, out of the way, community college who’s having it for the first time. Remember, on the average, each entry cost about $40 plus shipping, plus cost of DVD.

    In a perfect world, it would be nice too if you get word that you didn’t make a film festival. Most of the time I never hear back from my festivals. I just find out that I didn’t make it when they send out their official program.

    Your site is great. There is no reason why filmmakers shouldn’t use it and enter the free festivals.

    Please keep up the GREAT work, I appreciate it.


  9. Hi –

    I’m a filmmaker and festival director from the US, working in SE Asia since 2005. I can tell you with certainty that some indie, unsubsidized festivals (such as the CAMBOFEST, Cambodia & Bangkok IndieFest I founded in the region) absolutely require filmmaker entry fees just to ensure a zero net loss.

    Since there’s time put into screening the submissions, this has to be covered in some way with a basic “core” fee, though this should be reasonable and on par with the work actually being conducted to organize, catalog, and screen the submissions.

    With that being said: our festivals are grass roots events with minimal external funding, so they just couldn’t exist with out the baseline input of submitting filmmakers – otherwise we’d sustain a net loss and couldn’t have an event.

    On the other hand, major film festivals with external funding should not be charging $40-$60 per entry, this is just not reasonable.

    Also, interestingly: festivals that are ‘non-profit’, and who cite this in their operational standards, are not necessarily ‘volunteering’.

    Non profit simply means that the organization is not designed to generate a net profit. Principal staff still get paid, and they are also able to write off a significant portion of their operational expenses, tax-wise.

    So, in my view at least, when a festival rejects a filmmaker’s request for a waiver stating as a reason that the event is ‘non-profit’: this can be disingenuous.

    If the reason for a waiver is based simply upon “non-profit’ status, then this may not reflect the truth of their actual revenue availability.

    ** “Non-profit” should not be confused with, or equated with, “volunteerism” ** (some non-profit staffers make a very decent salary indeed…)

    In summary: unless the event is very grass roots and truly (or essentially) volunteer driven, filmmaker entry fees should not be making up a core component of the festival operations.

    I’d say a reasonable compromise would be for a well funded – if even ‘non-profit’ – fest to charge $15-$20 per entry, tops.

    Anything else is excessive…from my experience as a festival operator at least!

    But now I’m back in filmmaking and I find resources like this to be excellent and worthwhile.

  10. Tracy, this site is fantastic. And you are amazing for organizing it. I thank you. Personally I find this to be a great resource and I hope some of these amazing festivals will consider my films.

    As for the rest, I think that legitimate festivals could simply have a more rigorous screening process that weeds out what they are looking for from the beginning. That way they wouldn’t necessarily receive hundreds of applications vying for a dozen spots. But of course, then they would loose out on my 20, 30, 40 or 50 bucks per submission where all they have to do is send me some generic e-mail rejection and i have no idea if my film was even considered for one second.

    But this is a closed system in many ways and I think it’s best to support small festivals and no entry festivals to expose alternative cinema to audiences.

    Thanks again Tracy.

  11. Hi Tracy,

    Your blog rocks. You rock. Thank you!

    There are plenty of great festivals that charge submission fees, but try to keep them reasonable. There are also plenty of festivals that use Withoutabox in order to increase their revenue stream. WAB has been a windfall for some of the festival organizers I know: not a creative or artistic windfall, necessarily, but certainly a welcome source of moolah. Some of those festival folks would argue that the end justifies the means: that their awesome film festival is worth it, no matter how unseemly it might be to pocket $50 per entry from a bunch of filmmakers who don’t have a snowball’s chance of getting accepted.

    Anyway, I’m a filmmaker who makes the kinds of movies that mostly get rejected. I’m grateful that there are some festivals out there that don’t charge me for the privilege.

    Thanks, Tracy.

  12. Did I mentions that I hugely look forward to the update emails from this website.

    When one pops up in my inbox, I always set time aside to go through it for submissions opportunities.

    Thanks Ms T.

  13. I absolutely LOVE this blog. Charging fees merely segregates submissions, allowing film makers with means to create prestige. The film community has a lot of latent egoism, free festivals remove these barriers and let films be chosen on merit.

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