Monday, February 16, 2015

How to submit your short film to the Cannes Festival - and why

If you have been thinking about entering a short film to the Cannes Festival, the deadline is March 3, 2015. That doesn't leave you much time. So what sort of questions should you be asking? I'll start with the easy one.

What are the criteria for submitting a short film? 

The conditions for entering the Short Corner section of Cannes are very straightforward:
  • Films that have been produced during the 12 months preceding the Festival
  • Films whose distribution is limited to their country of origin
  • Films that have not been presented at any international motion picture event. If the film has been selected for an international section (competitive or not) of a festival, it becomes ineligible for the Festival de Cannes. A selection is international if it presents films from different countries.
  • Films that have not been shown on the Internet
  • Short films that do not exceed 15 minutes in length, including credits
  • The film should not be pornographic or incite hate
  • If the film is not in French or English, it should be subtitled into French or English.
The only one to look out for is n° 4 (not been shown on the Internet). Exposure is a key part of a short film's career these days. I do not know how closely they regard this condition.

But the bigger question is:

Why do you want to show your short at Cannes?

Let's face it, the chances of an award are tiny, and the cost is high. So look deep into your film-maker's soul and ask why you really want to attend. If you live outside of mainland Europe, attending Cannes is complicated and expensive. It is also very complex as a business. Are you willing to spend money promoting the film? Are you willing to be there the whole time?

Ultimately, the big question here is: Who would see it, to what purpose and at what cost?

Luckily, I have an answer of sorts. I do actually recommend attending Cannes if you think the movie or "content" business is something that you foresee as a career. It is where the whole world comes to meet, talk movie business, finance, pitch and distribute movies.

However, they are not there to watch shorts, as there is only a tiny market for them. Producers, agents, distributors and exhibitors are looking for great movies - even though each has their own definition of greatness.

The only reason to attend is to meet these people if - AND ONLY IF - you have a great idea for a movie. In this context, your short is only useful as a stepping stone. You can meet people saying, "I'm attending with a short at the Short Film Corner and I'm working on this other great project."

Just make sure the idea is a great one. For writers, this means that if the script has not been written, you have re-written the synopsis or treatment at least four times. You could also get a script reader involved. For directors, you need to be able to answer a question I just love: "Why do this story now, and why should I do it?" Think carefully, and if necessary change your idea to make it waterproof when the tough questions come (they will, believe me!).

For more ideas, visit Cannes or Bust.

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