Why Do Film Festivals Care About My Biography?
This is an item that is often overlooked or omitted by Writers and Directors all the time. Perhaps some people feel that if they don't have enough experience, this isn't important. Sometimes, filmmakers and screenwriters don't want to boast about themselves and let their work do the talking. While this is noble, I feel like it's also a mistake to leave this field black when you submit to Film Festivals.
A Director’s Biography or Writer’s Biography is a basic description of the creator’s background.
This is not an online resume, you’re not applying for a job. I've had filmmakers send us over 1000 words, listing High School plays and fast food customer service experience. It's OK to include these things if they are relevant, brief and have had an impact on your career goals as a filmmaker. A Director's or Writer's Biography is simply giving the public and the judges, an idea of your experience level in creating films or screenplays. 100-200 words is a good range in my opinion. Your biography gives the judges or festival attendees an opportunity to relate with you. People have a general curiosity about about you are. It’s OK to talk about some of your accomplishments, education and previous work, leading up to this submission. Just don’t over-do it. 1000 word bio’s are a turn-off. Trust me.
I just took a look at the 100 submissions from the Oregon Documentary Film Festival 2018 that we received on FilmFreeway. A staggering 40% of submissions didn’t include one word in the biography section. When a film festival is printing a brochure or writing a description of your film or screenplay, it’s important to provide the festival audience information about your creative work. Things like the director’s or writer's name, where they grew up, some film related education, and maybe some info about other creative projects that the filmmaker has been a part of. Including some skills or experiences that filmmaker has, can also be interested.
Two Examples Of A Director's Biography
Here is an example of a good director or writer’s biography. The true identity of this person has been changed for this example.
“John McCartheson is a filmmaker based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. John works part-time as a grip and production assistant on local independent film productions in New Mexico and also is a part-time rideshare driver. John sometimes gets ideas for the characters in his films, from his rideshare driver experience. He is currently a part-time student at Full Shale University and is set to graduate in late 2019. McCartheson directed the micro short comedy film, Living With Billy Black, in 2016, which was selected by seven film festivals and was nominated for Best Editing at the Northwest Short Film Festival. John enjoyed his theater classes in High School and has been hooked ever since. His dream is to direct a comedy film starring Adam Sandler one day and is currently building his body of work as a director.”
The example above is simple, straightforward, honest and brief. Now look at a version of the bio below, which has issues.
“John McCartheson is a director, writer, best boy grip and editor that currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but grew up in Albuquerque. John has several film credits, some of which are on IMDb and others are uncredited. Award winning films like the Vegetable Detective, Gone Boy, the Bizarre Adventures Food Truck Pilot and two days on the new Transformers spin-off "Bumblebee" film as a production assistant for the 4th unit. John has been named to the Dean's list 3 times in his academic career. Once at the University of Southern New Mexico and twice at Full Shale University where he is set to graduate in late 2019. John has scored an A or a B grade in every film related class and his first student film, McCartheson directed the comedy film, Living With Billy Black, in 2016. Billy Black finished 3rd in the audience choice award voting at the San Juan International Film Festival, was an official selection to the Norwich Mountain Goat Film Festival and Screenplay Competition. An official selection to the San Antonio Giggle Fest, but the film did not screen because the projector wasn't working. Billy Black was nominated for Best Editing at the Northwest Short Film Festival for a local film won it, because the one his friends was judge, but whatever. John starred in seven high school plays including McBeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Wonderkin, Free For All and a play that his friend Rachel Marks wrote called Straight From Southshore. These experiences propelled his career in filmmaking to new levels. After meeting Adam Sandler's stunt double at a 2015 festival, John has been preparing a screenplay that will be handed directly to Adam Sandler when it's finished. Hopefully he will get an opportunity to direct a film with his hero.”
If you actually read that, then you get a gold star.. Believe it or not, we get Director's and Writer's Biographies like this all the time submitted to our Festivals. It's better than getting nothing at all. We will typically take time to cut some of this out. But do you really want an unknown Film Festival employee, making changes to your bio? Make sure that you have a few people read your bio before you publish it and try to keep it brief, if possible.
More Tips That Can Strengthen Your Film Festival Submission
- Your Submission Contact Details Must Be Accurate. Do you know how many submitter emails bounce and don't have a phone number listed? Read more ...
- Choose A Submission Title That Is Memorable. Is your creative work getting lost in the shuffle? Read More ...
- Create A Tagline And A Synopsis For Your Submission. Do you know the difference? Read more ...
- Create A Director's or Writer's Biography For Your Submission. Do you think that a Biography and a Job Resume are the same thing? Read more ...
- Create A Director’s or Writer’s Statement. This is an opportunity to explain your personal motivation, inspiration, experiences and challenges that lead to the creation of your submission. Read more ...
- Include A Social Media Link With Your Submission. Social Media is a free marketing tool that Film Festivals use. There are several reasons why you should not ignore this opportunity.