How to Break Into the Film Festival Scene

Lily Cedarbaum

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV.

The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!
Lily Cedarbaum

For anyone in the entertainment industry, the mention of a festival will often pique their interest. And, no, I am not referring to Renaissance fairs, though those can be quite entertaining in their own right.

Film festivals, more specifically, draw glamour, celebrities, financing, and top executives—all ideal elements for hungry newbies looking to break into the business. There really is no excuse not to get involved. Whether you’re interested in writing, directing, producing, or public relations, there are unlimited benefits to breaking into the festival scene, as long as you do it correctly. Below are some options for how to open the right doors without breaking any windows.

Join Withoutabox.com
As a past festival intern who currently works with independent film producers, I have a fond respect for this now ubiquitous institution. Owned by IMDB, and by extension Amazon, signing onto its email listserv can act as a detailed introduction to the over 5,000 international film and television festivals counted as its members. If you’ve always wanted to submit, but felt too green, this site is a great way of finding smaller festivals that would be more open to unknown talent.

Additionally, this is a great tool for finding festivals close to you, in case you would like to attend or…

Volunteer
Not only can volunteering at festivals be an exhilarating and wild experience, but it also gets you into incredibly worthwhile screenings, talk-backs, and meetings you may not get to witness otherwise. Sure, we can’t all be Ryan Gosling’s press escort (you know who you are); you will more possibly have ticket collecting and information booth shifts, but at any well-run festival you will be rewarded with useful lessons from those who’ve paved the way.

You also will get to meet many of the festival staff and other volunteers, just one of many opportunities at a festival to…

Network
If you can afford to, make business cards, no matter how new you are to the scene. While it’s important to maintain an air of professionalism—especially if you are a volunteer—there are certain, more schmoozy alcohol-sponsored hours of festivals in which networking is more accepted. Are you interested in film PR? Get to know a festival PR coordinator or maybe compliment the creator of a smaller film you really enjoyed and follow up with a discussion of their media campaign. Interested in production? Offer yourself as a PA on a novice director’s next project. The key, as with all networking, is to know the appropriate boundaries and to follow up after your contact has returned to the real world.

As long as you follow these guidelines and know your limits on freebies you should be fine. Don’t let the never-ending tote bags tempt you, and you will succeed at making the festival a perfect first step into the creative and cutting-edge elements of the industry we all love.

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV. The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!

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