Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Festival Submission Process

A few years back, when I was a newbie at submitting films to fests, I found it to b e a difficult process. You could research films on the web, but every one of them had different rules and requirements, and of course you had to fill out a different form for every fest to which you applied.

And then along came Withoutabox.

It's a brilliant concept, really. One place on the web where you fill out ONE application, and you then submit that application to any fests you want (provided they are signed up on Withoutabox.com -- and a great many are). Wow, what a time saver. It has made the process so much easier. Side note: it has also caused a dramatic increase in submissions to even lesser known fests.

One of the interesting parts of the experience is the Submission Status page. Because you're entering all these festivals, you have to keep track of which ones you entered and whether or not they received your materials. When you enter and pay, Withoutabox creates a listing for the fest on your personalized Submission Status page, and it has a little red dot next to it to indicate that they have NOT YET received your film for consideration. Once they receive it, the festival goes into the Withoutabox system and indicates that, which turns your red dot into a little blue dot with a "check mark" in it. See the screenshot:

That's a clipping from my Submission Status page for Clean Freak. Being the clean freak that I am, I don't feel comfortable until all the red dots have changed to blue ones. And I derive an inordinate amount of satisfaction from seeing them change, especially given that it means nothing about your chances of getting into a fest. It simply indicates that they've received the film and will be reviewing it.

The nature of the process indicates that you'll get more rejections than selections, so I shouldn't enjoy the "red to blue" change. It means nothing. It means only that someone who you PAID to watch your film got it in the mail. That's it.

But for some reason, I still like watching those red dots turn blue.


Blogger Jonathan said...


I've heard 2 or 3 other people speak about withoutabox and they all had positive things to say about it.

5/21/2008 10:50 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

It's very useful. There are some issues with it, of course, as there are with any services such as this, but in general I find it very useful.

B-side is starting its own version this year -- they're working to make online distribution a reality for indie filmmakers, too. So we'll see how things develop when there's some competition there.

5/22/2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger badMike said...

That was very enlightening. As I link to Withoutabox quite a bit with my "Call for Entries" posts, how the system actually works was always a mystery to me since I'm not a filmmaker myself. Seems like a good service.

And this is the first year in which I've seen several fests using the B-side festival schedule service. If I had any half a brain or forward-thinking ability, I should have launched a site like that myself.

I also downloaded a B-side iPod movie once, and although I didn't like the film very much, that was a pleasant, easy experience. They seem like a good site.

5/25/2008 9:27 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

I thought some people who DON'T use it might find it interesting...

B-side is coming on strong, and it seems like they're going to do well. I think a lot will depend on how the market for online film downloads develops. The new Netflix set-top box will be an interesting step in the development of the process (in general, not specifically for b-side).

5/25/2008 9:38 PM  

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