Film Festival Submission Tips #10: The Final Cut vs. The Festival Cut. Do You Know The Difference?

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For 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 20-40 films in one session! We do this to provide an opportunity for as many filmmakers as possible, to showcase their work.

Here are some statistics from the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Fall 2018, a 9 hour event. We scheduled 100 short films for screening.

  • 51% of the films screened were represented, in person, by 1-4 people.
  • 9% of the films screened, were represented, in person, by 5-30 people.
  • 40% of the films screened, were not represented, in person.
  • 345 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, should give you an idea of which edit of your film, you should submit and potentially screen at a film festival. You may be asking yourself “first, this guy wants us to create a trailer for our film and now he wants two different edits of the film too? He is crazy.” I am offering suggestions, not requirements, so please, hear me out.


What Is The "Final Cut" Of A Film?

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 also 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. Unless you plan on using a local film festival to premiere your film and bring a huge crowd of supporters for your film’s first-ever screening, then you probably don't want to send the “Final Cut” of your film to 50 film festivals around the world.


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 (or web series), the top contributing cast and crew members and 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.


Do Shorter Films Get Into More Film Festivals?

Not necessarily. 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, duration may factor in to our final decision process. If a long list of people and institutions dedicated time to create your film, I strongly recommend having two different edits. A “Final Cut,” that is not restrained by time and a leaner “Festival Edit” which could potentially get more acceptance letters on the competitive Film Festival Circuit.


More Film Festival Submission Tips Articles

  1. 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 ...
  2. Choose A Submission Title That Is Memorable. Is your creative work getting lost in the shuffle? Read more ...
  3. Create A Tagline And A Synopsis For Your Submission. Do you know the difference? Read more ...
  4. 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 ...
  5. 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 ...
  6. Create A Poster For Your Submission. Stay ahead of the competition, don't be generic. Read more ...
  7. Create A Trailer For Your Submission. Because video gets more clicks than text. Read more ...
  8. 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. Read more ...
  9. Include A Website Link With Your Submission. All roads lead to a central hub for your submission. Read more ...
  10. The Final Cut vs. The Festival Cut. The edit that you send to festivals matters. Do you know the difference? Read more ...

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About the author
Mikel Fair

Mikel Fair

Mikel Fair My name is Mikel Fair. I am the Director of Film Festival Circuit Inc. First of all, we are a company that manages film festival events in Texas and Oregon. Furthermore, we like to have fun and celebrate independent film. I worked for 15 years in the television and film production as a location sound mixer and production manager. I have also worked in post production as an editor, post sound mixer and composer. Above all, watching independent films and reading creative screenplays is my passion.

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