Film Festivals

Whether you are just starting out in the film industry, or a seasoned veteran, you definitely need to be well-aware of upcoming film festivals related to your genre of choice. Film festivals are a great avenue for filmmakers to showcase their work to a large group of people that appreciate and understand the art of film.

While it’s great to show films to the general public, film festivals attract a large number of film professionals, and also give filmmakers a chance to attach accolades to their projects before they hit the mainstream.

Think about it this way: if you create a film that wins the top prize at the Sundance film festival, it then becomes that much easier to market that film. Even people that are not deeply rooted in the film community recognize the Sundance brand, and they may be more likely to go check out that winning movie in the theater knowing that it won such a prestigious award.

As a film professional, it’s important to know the top film festivals relevant to the film you are trying to promote. It is also a good idea to brush up on some film festivals submission tips, keep up-to-date on a film festivals 2018 calendar, (regularly Googling terms like “film festivals for short films,” “film festivals india,” “animation film festivals” or even “film festivals 2018 los angeles” -- feel free to swap out your desired location and year -- can be very useful in your search) and secure quality music licensing for your project. Read on to learn about all of these topics and more!

Film Festivals Submission Tips

If you are new to film festivals, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible when it comes to submitting a project. If you know absolutely none of the rules of the festival or what the target audience is, then it’s likely your film submission will not be accepted. After all, most film festivals receive far more submissions than they can actually accept. Most of the larger film festivals actually only accept between 1-3% of submissions. So, to help you have a better chance of getting your film to the final round, take some of these tips into consideration:

  1. Read the Festival Rules

This is a super simple rule, but one many people ignore. Unfortunately, sometimes people get so caught up in the excitement of making their film, that they completely forget to learn the rules of the festivals they are submitting to. You cannot just drop your film in a manila envelope, kiss it for good luck and put it in the mailbox. Many film festivals have entry fees, applications, several stages of reviewing scripts before they even look at the film, and the list goes on. Point being -- take some time to know all of the guidelines for submission before entering your film into a festival.

  1. Know your Audience

There are certain film festivals that accept all types of films, and others that are very specialized. Be sure that the type of film you are submitting really speaks to the audience and judges that will be reviewing your film.

  1. Avoid Sending a Rough Cut of your Film

Be sure to put your best foot forward and send a version of your film that is complete. Do not send something you are not 100% proud of because you are trying to hit a deadline. If your film is missing far too many key details for the message to really resonate with viewers, then hit the pause button on submitting and send a fully-formed version to next year’s panel.

  1. Have a Test Audience/Local Screening

If you and your crew are the only people to have ever seen your completed film, wait before submitting to film festivals. Take some time to screen it in your local community, and with people other than friends and family. You will not receive your most insightful opinions from a group of people closely tied to the project. Try screening it at a local theater for free, in exchange for a round table of viewer responses, or comment cards.

  1. Attend Festivals before Submitting to them

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll win a top prize at a film festival if you’ve never attended a film festival. Get to know what is working and not working in film festivals. Are shorter films better? Do you want to lean in to comedy? Are special effects necessary? Learn all you can before committing to submitting your own work.

Film Festivals 2018 Calendar

It’s important to keep film festivals relevant to your production handy on your calendar. If you are unaware of upcoming film festivals, you are likely to miss out on great opportunities to showcase your work. Starting a Google doc and creating an ongoing film festivals list can help you keep track. The fact is that a fully comprehensive film festivals 2018 calendar would be a mile long. Film festivals are very popular throughout the world, so there are multiple options wherever you go. Regularly tracking film festivals most relevant to you is your best option.

A good resource to keep on top of all the upcoming festivals is this incredible list provided by There are several high profile film festivals throughout the year that are important to remember. Here are a few to keep on your radar:

SXSW Film Festival (March 8th - 16th, 2019)

Now this film festival will not begin until 2019, but with as big of a following as SXSW has, it’s important to start learning more about it early. If you are angling to get your project into the SXSW festival, then you are definitely aiming very high. This film festival, taking place in Austin, Texas, is known for taking on very high-level, intelligent films. They cater to multiple genres, but definitely do not accept all of the films that are submitted. If you feel your film is the right caliber for this film festival, you can begin the submission process here.  

Festival De Cannes (May 14th - 25th, 2019)

One of the most famous film festivals, known throughout the world and held in very high regard is the Festival De Cannes, or the Cannes Film Festival. In 2019, we will enjoy the 71st annual festival. This is definitely one of the most elite film festivals, and very few submissions are actually accepted, so make sure you work your way up to this opportunity.

Woodstock Film Festival (October 10th - 14th, 2018)

This festival is right around the corner, and the deadline for submissions just passed in mid-July. However, it’s a good one to keep an eye on even if you did not get your submission in on time. This New York-based film festival is considered one of the top 50 film festivals worldwide, and has premiered acclaimed films such as “Up in The Air,” “The Imitation Game” and “Loving.”

Austin Film Festival (October 25th - November 1st, 2018)

First of all, it’s clear that the Austin film scene is booming. Some of the best film festivals come out of this area. Known as the “Writer’s Film Festival” this event focuses on storytelling and does its best to highlight films that really focus on this. There are various competitions you can enter for this film festival. Learn more about them here.

Ann Arbor Film Festival (TBD)

The Ann Arbor Film Festival just started accepting entries on July 1st, 2018. This festival started in 1963 and is the longest running avant-garde and experimentally-focused film festival. So, if you’ve been working on an out-of-the box type of film, this might be the best way for you to showcase it in front of the perfect audience.

Music Licensing for Film Festivals

It’s important to secure proper music licensing for any film festivals submissions. This is especially important if you are submitting your film to a major film festival like Sundance or SXSW. The submission process is rigorous, and judges will require documentation that you have the right to use the music in your film. Do not ruin your chance to win a film festival by not following proper procedure when it comes to music licensing. Let’s face it, it just isn’t worth it.

When you are in post production and ready to edit your film together, you may know exactly the type of music you are looking for, but you also may not. It’s always good practice to watch the film as the editing is coming together and start noting ideas regarding the emotions you would like to evoke during each scene. This will help you carefully choose music when the time comes.

Although there is typically an order for how editing a film comes together in post production, do not be afraid to break the rules when it comes to nurturing your creative spark in regard to the soundtrack. Even if you cannot officially add a track to a scene just yet, you can always choose multiple music options ahead of time. And remember, if you are having trouble finding just the right tune for a particular part of your film, you can always consult with a trusted music licensing company to help you make the best decision. Another great way to find music licensing for your film festivals submission is to browse music licensing libraries. TunEdge has a great selection available to help you get started.

Free Music Licensing for Film Festivals

It’s important to talk about free music licensing for film festivals. This option can seem very tempting, especially if you are already over your production budget even before you reach post production. However, you need to remember that it can end up being far more expensive to use “free” music from YouTube.

If down the line your film really picks up speed and gets optioned by large production companies, you may run into issues when it comes to all of the moving parts of the film being vetted. A large production company will have high-priced lawyers making sure that before they buy the rights to any film, the film is not in violation of any laws. If you chose to use free music licensing, you may have to pull that music from the film and then replace it. Last minute music licensing is not cheap, and it may also change the entire vibe of your film if you change the music. This could lead to the film no longer being what the production company wants to buy, and the entire deal could go south.

Even if paying for music licensing upfront may seem expensive, the issues that can arise when you skimp on this and use free music licensing can be ten times as expensive at the very last minute. Once again, it just really is not worth the hassle or stress.


So, now that you know a little more about film festivals, it’s time to take the next steps toward actually entering one. Whether this is your first attempt or just one of many, TunEdge is here to help you with all your music licensing needs for film festivals for short films, animation film festivals or even film festivals in Florida. Contact us now to learn more!