Final Cut Or Festival Cut? Don’t Submit The Wrong One.

By Mikel Fair

"Oh My Goodness, These Credits Are Scrolling Forever, I'm Going To Step Out For A Minute"

Those are the comments that I hear sometimes during the end credits of short films.  An excellent film screens at the festival, the audience applauds for the first 10 seconds of the credits, and then, after 20 outtakes and 100 slow crawling names in the credits, people get restless. Add long end credits logos of production companies and three minutes later ... everyone in the crowd is looking at their phone, or returning from the bathroom. If you want to be successful on the Film Festival Circuit, this is one piece of advice that you simply cannot ignore. Understand the difference between the Festival Cut and the Final Cut and you will have an advantage. This film ( LINK ) which was an official selection of the Portland Comedy Film Festival managed to pack A LOT of credits into a single frame at the end.



Very creative and effective right? I have written an ebook and recorded an audiobook with a film festival submission strategy. The Film Festival Submitter's Handbook 2021 version (LINK) is now available. A small investment, goes a long way. Do yourself a favor. Avoid common costly mistakes that filmmakers make every day when submitting to Film Festivals. Strengthen your submission and get ahead of  thousands of filmmakers that are submitting their creative work on the festival circuit. I have included a free chapter of my book below. If you like what you are reading, please support our efforts by getting a copy of the ebook and audiobook.

Film Festivla Submitter's Handbook ebook and AudioBook


Chapter 11: Final Cut Or Festival Cut? Don’t Submit The Wrong One. 

For Film Festival programmers, every second counts. Most of our Film Festival Events feature 2-3 hour blocks of short films that are 1-30 minutes in length. Sometimes we screen anywhere from 20-30 films, back-to-back in one session! We do this, in order to provide an opportunity for as many filmmakers as possible. Here are some statistics from the Austin Micro Film Festival Spring 2021, a 6 hour event featuring 100 short films.


  • 49% of the films screened were represented, in person, by 1-4 people.
  • 8% of the films screened were represented, in person, by 5-30 people.
  • 43% of the films screened were not represented, in person.
  • 304 people attended film sessions that did not have a connection to the films that screened.


Based on these statistics, which are typical of our Film Festival events, it should be noted that only 1% or 2% of the audience, watching a film at this festival, were actually a cast, crew or family member associated with a specific film. This is why I recommend making two cuts of your film. “The final cut” and the “festival cut.” Two different edits for two different audiences.


The “Final Cut” of your film is the glorious version of your film that will live out its days on Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, etc ... Or is distributed throughout eternity by a company that has purchased the rights to your film. Every cast member, crew member, extra, producer, production company logo, location, music credit, country of filming, film commission office, funding platform, equipment contributor, film festival laurel, university, inspirational quote, funny out-take, special thanks and dedication to lost souls is included. All of these credits, get an individual frame that lasts for 3-5 seconds, or crawl slowly down the screen, for as long as it takes, to properly recognize the human effort that it took to create your film. You may plan to screen this “Final Cut” for the cast, crew and family. A celebration, release party, or private screening, where each slow moving credit is applauded, whistled at, and cheered endlessly with positive energy. This cut has its purpose and should be enjoyed in the right context in the right venue. For programming reasons, you probably don't want to send the “Final Cut” of your film to fifty different film festivals around the world. Which is why the “Festival Cut” is so important.

What is the "Festival Cut" of a film? With the fat trimmed and the slow parts of the opening and closing credits of your film abbreviated, we are ready to rock and roll. Optimally, your film introduces itself in 15 seconds and keeps the end credits down to a minute or less. The pacing and energy of the overall program remains high for the Film Festival crowd, which probably has four people or less representing your film (based on the statistics above.) For the end credits, make sure that you include the name of your film, as well as, the top contributing cast and crew members.

Also, it is smart to feature a “call to action” that is easy to remember, find, or bookmark. A film-dedicated website, social media link, or a link to learn more about the entire production company is best. Too often, we get 6-10 minute films that have a 1-2 minute intro and 2-3 minutes of slow crawling credits at the end. Sometimes we ask filmmakers to abbreviate their end credits to one minute or less, in order to keep a good pace and make time for other films. Another issue that we see is, several production company intro logos, and 10+ single black cards with white text to open the film. Do the math, if 20 films have 2-3 minutes of intro logos and end credits each, that is 40-60 minutes of time! If every film averaged 1 minute of credits each, that would allow 20-30 more minutes of films. Which could mean 3-8 additional short films that are accepted and screened. 


You may be asking, do shorter films get into more Film Festivals? Not necessarily. We don’t make selections that are only based on runtime. But it can reflect negatively on your film if you waste our time, with credits that are so long, that we fall asleep watching.


Some filmmakers ask the question “A lot of people earned a right to have their name in the credits, why take that away from them?” One minute credits are not a requirement. We sometimes ask filmmakers to shorten them as a courtesy to others. The reality is, when 10-20 films have a very similar rating by the judges of our festivals, “time waste” may factor into our final decision process. If a long list of people and institutions dedicated resources to create your film, I strongly recommend having two different edits. A “Final Cut,” that is not restrained by time. And a leaner “Festival Cut” which could potentially get more acceptance letters on the competitive Film Festival Circuit, because of great pacing and efficient use of time.


In the first chapter of this book, I briefly mentioned that I went back to the drawing board and re-packaged my film. What I did, may be a bit more aggressive than what your film needs. That’s for you to decide, because every film is different.

The first thing I did was to revisit the edit of my 26 minute film. Every frame, every line and every visual choice. I prepared for this fresh new edit, with a little psychological experiment. The way that you measure comedy films is by the audience's laughter right? I invited different groups of my friends over for beer and pizza on a few different occasions. I screened the film for them, but I didn’t watch the film, I watched them.


I took close notes as to what was making them laugh and what parts of the film had them looking at their phones or not paying attention. Afterwards, I asked for constructive criticism. Instead of asking, “Did you like it?” I asked questions without a “yes or no” answer. I asked, “Who was your favorite character?” I also asked if there were any surprises in the film? Were there parts of the film that made it better? Were there parts of the film that could have been left out? I also asked about the dialogue. “Could you hear every word clearly?” “Are there any parts that you found offensive?” I probed, to find out if there were parts of the film that didn’t fit or elements that they didn’t understand. I also noticed that my long, slow crawling, three minutes of end credits turned into a bathroom break for half of my viewers. With my notes in hand, I went back into the edit lab, and reduced my 26 minute epic comedy into a 13 minute short. The cut moved fast, the unfunny parts were sliced out. Even a few scenes that had technical problems were cut, because they simply didn’t move the story along. Trying to fix technical problems for unnecessary scenes was a futile effort.


Also, I brewed a pot of coffee, took some online editing tutorials and added optional English subtitles to my film. I reduced the profanity in the edit, based on feedback from my private screenings. I gave my actors a little too much flexibility on set, and the foul language was negatively affecting some of my viewers. I couldn’t get rid of all the bad words, but reducing them helped.


I’m not suggesting that you remove all of the profanity from your film like I did. You have to make a personal judgement for yourself in this area. In the feedback that I was getting from viewers, it was too much. I even added a “warning, the following content contains mature language” graphic to the beginning of my film. This seemed to “prepare” the audience a bit better at some of the film festivals I was selected to. Can you imagine my embarrassment, after a film festival played a bleeding heart documentary about dying children, then played a profanity filled comedy film afterwards? This happened to me. I wanted to melt away into my chair and disappear. My advice to you is, listen to your feedback. If the same negative things keep coming up, from different people in different screenings, you may need to address them somehow.


New call-to-action

Mikel Fair

Mikel Fair

From 1999-2015 I worked on location in the television and film industry as a location sound mixer, production manager and field producer. I have also worked in post production as an editor, post sound mixer and composer. Today, I am the Director of Film Festival Circuit LLC, a US based company that manages international film festival events in Texas and Oregon. Our team is passionate about showcasing new independent films, videos, series episodes, screenplays and teleplays of all genres.

Topics: Submission Tips

Are you new to the Film Festival submission process?

Film Festival Circuit events have reviewed over 5,000+ submissions since 2008. Our judges see issues repeated daily that weaken the presentation of films, videos and screenplays during the evaluation process. The Film Festival Submitter’s Handbook was written to help filmmakers and screenwriters build a successful strategy and avoid common costly mistakes when submitting to Film Festivals.

Download Now!
$9.99 USD