This post is designed to help indie filmmakers to decide upon which online platforms to use to send their films to festivals. The list below is based on my experience and may not reflect the full reality.
The idea behind these platforms is to replace the outdated and expensive method of sending films. Traditionally, the only way to submit your film to a festival implied making your own VHS, Dvd or Bluray and then sending them by mail. This was, and still is, a very lucrative business! Which is why many filmmakers and entrepreneurs around the world have sought to find a digital alternative to it. Here below are a few popular ones:
- Withoutabox, founded in 200o in the US by David Strauss and Joe Neulight, was the first online platform. Today, it remains the most conventional way of sending one's film to festivals although they are no longer alone. On the plus side, they have recently made efforts to renovate their interface, and are an effective and safe route for your films to festivals all around the world. However, on top of being very costly, I feel that Withoutabox is too much oriented on major film festivals and doesn't offer many middle range festivals that indie filmmakers thrive on.
- Filmfreeway, created in February 2014 by Canadian Zachary Jones, is today in my opinion the most convenient and altogethercheapest platform. Starting off with a nice interface, Filmfreeway offers a very fast set-up - literally allowing anyone to enter the page and submitting their film within minutes. With a big list of festivals, one of Filmfreeway's strength is to a offer a wide array of festivals, small and big, free and expensive. It is also theonly website that does not take any commission to send films to festivals! Their other advantage is a precise and customizable follow-up regarding submitting status and acceptance status. On the cons, Filmfreeway misses many of the big festivals, and I found that they were mainly concentrated on North American festivals.
- Festhome, created in Spain, is a great alternative, andquite cheap. Although not the cheapest, Festhome boasts a great solution for sending films with their "distribution pass", allowing to send your film unlimitedly for a yearly subscription of 40 euros (not much if you consider some platforms ask 2-3 euros for each submission!). One of the things that makes Festhome an essential in my opinion is their coverage of non-English speaking countries. This is particularly true for Southern European and Latin American festivals. Another plus, is their sophisticated statistics page, that really shows how well your film is doing and where (including countries, costs, time, etc...). Finally, they now have a great time-saving tool which actually prevents you from submitting to the wrong festivals, and by that I mean if the film length is incorrect, or the theme, or the country of residence. And I have nothing particularly bad to say about it!
- Filmfestivallife, other wise known as FFL, was created in Germany and is a trendy platform. In comparison to the other platforms, Filmfestivallife connects with its filmmakers and accompanies them on social media. Moreover, even though individual submissions are quite pricy, they've recently implemented a great payment plan for unlimited submissions to compete with the other platforms above (5 euros per month - 13,50 euros every 3 months - or 48 euros a year). In my opinion, the main strengths of this platform reside in its user interface and how they integrate the filmmaker's side to the festivals and more importantly how they curate festivals and only provide the most legitimate ones. For instance, it's possible to read information about the festivals and give them a rating. Power to the filmmakers!
- Reelport, from Germany, may look a bit outdated but it is still very relevant for shorts. Boasting a small list of festivals, Reelport only offers interesting and/or big festivals. I feel that the platform curates the festivals so as to only offer the best to filmmakers, and that's good because their submission price is costly (2 euros per submission). They are particularly good at finding middle-range North and Eastern European festivals that you will not find everywhere else.
- Uptofest, created in Spain, is a useful platform forEuropean festivals. It boasts a good list of festivals and has a tool that automatically matches your film to specific festivals. On the downside, they do not update the submission status. Also, I've had some bad experiences uploading my film there and even though the team was helpful, I felt there were some issues with their interface. It's only for shorts.
- Shortfilmdepot, created in Europe, is a safe platform just for shorts. It boasts a list of only middle-range towell recognized festivals such as schnit, bogota shorts, trouville as well as more recent festivals like Asiana. You know if your film is selected, it is really good news. On the cons, the platform has a very small list of festivals, making it only a complimentary platform when compared to the others.
- Last but not least, Filmfestplatform from France, is not my cup of tea. I only use it because it is essential for small to middle-range festivals in French speaking countries. Of course, the other platforms above offer French festivals, and renown French festivals such as Cannes and Deauville have their own submitting platforms, but this platform allows you to find festivals from small cities, and some of these festivals don't even have a website! And although it has a nice interface, you'll understand what French bureaucracy means. They're going to say they're for modern filmmakers, professionals and amateurs alike but then most of their festivals will want to receive a dvd as screener and then they usually require one or two DCP, though many of these see themselves as truly "independent". The staff is not particularly helpful and to be honest some of their festivals think they are top-notch but often they are not even famous outside of their own region (not surprising from France I guess). But I will give them credit for giving an opportunity to foreign filmmakers to find access to remote French festivals (there's an English version).
Anyway, that's it for the platforms that I've used. I also know about a few more that seem to be good, especially the Australian Shortfilmcentral or Clickforfestivals. There is also Movibeta and FestivalFocus for you to check!