I have a very simple tell for spotting amateur filmmakers. It’s if they say, “we’re going to premiere at Sundance.”
Not “we’ve gotten into the Sundance,” but “we’re going to premiere at Sundance.”
Sundance Film Festival gets 4000 feature film submissions a year. They accept 100-120. Many of the films they select are chosen before they even watch the open submissions, which means that if you submit blindly, your odds are actually even lower than that.
If you haven’t finished the film yet, and you’re already saying you’ll beat those odds, you’re either deluded or naive. Yet it’s surprising how many I’ve heard make this claim.
Also – why Sundance? Why not the Berlin, Venice, or Toronto International Film Festival? Why is Sundance important to your release strategy? There are niche film festivals for documentary, horror, LGBT films etc. Why not a festival for your niche, where the audience might be more receptive to your film? In fact, why do you even need a festival release at all? Why not limited theatrical or straight to DVD/VOD?
When amateur filmmakers say they’re going to premiere at Sundance what they are trying to communicate is that their film will be great, and making it into Sundance is the only symbol they have for conveying that, because it’s one of the few film festivals non-filmmakers know. However, the fact they don’t have any other symbol of success should tell you their level of experience.
This tactic sometimes works on non-filmmakers, because most people are very bad at visualizing what a final product will look like from work-in-progress. If you tell a non-filmmaker your brilliant release plan, expect their eyes to glaze over. If you tell them “we’re going to premiere at Sundance!” – hey, they have an image for that. It’s probably a misconception, but whatever – that image of Hollywood success will stick with them much more than any truthful plans.
The problem is that for the people who know film, they’ve just outed themselves as an amateur.
Read More: Empathy is The Ultimate Persuasion Tool
You might want to check out my movie, because we’re going to premiere at Sundance in your imagination.