Monday Prescriptions – Film Festivals or Film Markets?

Hi Film folk!

This ‘Monday Prescription’ is dedicated to one particular discussion – film festivals vs. film markets. Or, rather, do filmmakers know which one to attend and why?

Festivals are often mentioned as selling point in films’ press packs and coveted as ‘the holy grail of exposure’, but first-time Producers and Directors often forget (or don’t realise at all) that the more profitable gatherings are, in fact, the industry markets.

Why you should aim to attend both and at what stage, The Film Doctor Team discusses below.


Film Festivals

As an industry professional, you can attend a festival either through a shortlisted work of yours (short or feature) or with a festival pass. If you’re sticking to the latter, it is important to have goals and reasons for attending that film festival that stretch beyond the “everyone’s going”.  

Established film festivals have the ‘glam’ factor, which often blinds first-timers – the stars attending, the prestige of being there.  Think it through though – what stage of your film industry career are you at? If you don’t have even one project to show (at least, a completed script), is it really worth desperately squeezing yourself into, e.g. Cannes, no matter what? Unless, you really just want to have fun and not hoping for any work-related meetings.

At the same time, if you’re looking to take your career further and/or move your film beyond your local cinema, show your face at international “grand” festivals, as well as the biggest national ones.  

Exercise some quality control also when submitting films to festivals: not every festival has the same industry recognition and credibility. For instance, having on your poster “Toronto Film Festival Official Selection” is always more impressive (especially for distributors) than “Winner Best Film Old Street Film Fest” – even if you won at that one.


What to expect: All festivals are extremely good for networking. You will meet a lot of peers – filmmakers like yourself,  who you can exchange stories with, forge friendships and future collaborations, have fun at the galas/film premiere after parties/impromptu bar gatherings.

You could also end up ‘socialising’ with a distributor, agent, company exec – but their attendance percentage is significantly lower and they might attend events/screenings you might not necessarily have access to as emerging talent. So, unless your work is actually part of the festival programme, the chances of securing financing or distribution at a film festival are likely to be slim.

Festivals are also great for assessing the industry competition. You’d get to not only mingle with fellow Directors/Producers/Writers, but actually see the work that makes it past the festival’s jury (and programmers) – which is invaluable first-hand information, if you’re planning to submit your film to the same festival next year. Try and meet the festival’s programmer too – s/he’s your “inside man”.

Project stageBest case scenario of attending a film festival is when your film is screening there. So you can see why so may people focus on festivals after the project’s complete. However, you may just as well attend festivals before you’ve got a film ready – see points on ‘assessing the competition’ and making contacts. Just select carefully the festivals you’re going to buy your pass for.


Best for emerging filmmakers: Sundance, Edinburgh Film Festival, Raindance, Palm Springs International Festival, SXSW (South by South West), International Film Festival Rotterdam, Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto Int’l Film Festival
Film Markets

Film markets are where serious people go to make serious deals. That is, if you’re serious about making your film an international success and want more than just a screening at your local cinema, you’d take your project to an established industry market – this is where distributors/buyers/sales agents from around the world gather together to pick their “stock”.

What to expect: Imagine a trade fair and you won’t be far off. Film and TV markets are essentially trade fairs – everyone comes to do business. These are the events where sales agents, production houses and distributors will be scouting for their next acquisition, and where filmmakers like yourself can ‘shop around’ for the right distributor, production exec, etc. 

The markets are not places for ‘boozin & schmoozin’ (well, not entirely), but for moving your industry career further. And as every trade show or expo, film markets are most beneficial for those who a product and set goals.

The markets often run as part of a film festival, e.g. at Berlinale or Cannes, so in fact you could have the networking and the doing business part in one trip.
Project stage: Since film markets are where the deals are made, there is just no point in attending them without having a project on the go.

Aim for: CineMart at International Film Festival Roterdam, Marche du Film at Festival de Cannes,  Co-Production Market and European Market at Berlin Int’l Film Festival, AFM (American Film Market), Dubai Film Connection


‘Monday Prescription’ No.30 – Film festivals are great exposure whereas film markets is where all the business is done. So assess your goals for your own career/project and attend the right event. Don’t be blinded by the glitz & glam.

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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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