A festival’s recognition of your film is both an opinion of your work and an investment in it – a willingness to give it space-time and association with the event. Arguably, an official selection or screening is more important than what any one “critic” might target and use for his/her own interests and expression.

*Festivals allow films to speak for themselves.*

Festivals can also be less inhibited or constrained by the business-driven preferences of big industry, its distributors, and friends in the media.

Most are just credible, curious enterprises, free to recognize good work.

To be selected by a quality, moderately-sized film festival, that can manage the load before and during the event, is a meaningful achievement.

However, if big industry continues to creep into the realm, that all changes.

This point moves me to question film festivals, the size and power of Sundance, Cannes, and the like.

I remember filling out a pre-submission profile form just to enter Sundance. My sexual orientation, my ethnic heritage, and any existing “connections” to the Sundance Institute seemed to be of fundamental interest. Right then, I knew I’d probably never make it past the first round of cuts. My film was, no doubt, tossed into a heap without a glance – apparently along with 13,000+ other entries.

These commercial fests have become little more than mutually beneficial PR events for the festival and the famous, raising the profiles of movies, like Solo: A Star Wars Story…and no doubt, the summer blockbuster hopes of Ron Howard, Disney, and Lucasfilm.

My advice: Skip them and save your money, unless you have a known advantage going in. These over-sized, yet oddly narrow enterprises are just too dominated by industry power players and other promotional agendas.

As festivals reach for industry’s authoritative involvement or stamp of approval,
they limit their potential to build a strong, alternative platform for artists
— unknown, unfiltered, and from unlikely places, but no less eye and ear worthy.

They dilute their answer to power cliques, controlled markets, and exhausted norms. For instance…

Dare I say, in the effort to copy Hollywood, to imitate Oscar night extravaganzas,
the festival also gives up its power to treat art, its maker, and its audience differently
– more intelligently, more honestly, and more respectfully?

Does the independent festival have the potential to bring art / film out of our obsession with competition and away from a phony awards culture that constantly tries to make multifarious, complex expression an over-simplified sport?

Can the art / film festival resist being just another way to inculcate the zero-sum “win” and a false dichotomy of superior v. inferior in all things?

Can the festival resist satisfying our craving for objectivity, our need to call one person or one film the best, even if ultimately drawn from subjective opinion, all too often under the influence of matters and desires “beside the point”?

Grace Fury notices that human overdrive – to compete – and her own struggle with it.
She also confronts her love and their creative plans:
“Will it work? Will it last? Keep us together?”

Maybe. We all need a break from our warring natures, and indeed, film production fundamentally brings us – our ideas and skills – together. Why retreat from that place and descend into battle, eager to beat our opponents on awards night? See Will Smith.

Industry executives can vault a chosen few to godly heights, overnight and forever. Yet time and again their celebrities reveal the inauthenticity and pathology of that warped play on competition and greatness. In fact, they’re ever subject – more subject – to insatiable self-indulgence and aggressive insecurity, even after they’ve “won” privilege for a lifetime and an Oscar for the year. Their idol status, ultimately and ironically, holds them down, not just us.

Why use art to break us down and to separate us – especially under false pretenses?

There is a difference between receiving and celebrating shared recognition among experienced peers and pretending that an exclusive film award is an objective statement or some just and pure distinction for idol worship.

This topic warrants more depth and debate, but here’s my belief:

The more we can establish festival solidarity around the substantive, life-affirming art of the filmmaker rather than the shallow, killer instinct business of the conformist, the better our chances of creating a strong, visible counter-culture — a healthy, popular perspective and inclusive, support network from the ground up.

If we can stay on point, together – fearlessly, we can expand the playing field and amplify more voices, but this greatness cannot be achieved alone.

Grace Fury sees both the limits and the power of one.

We need each other “to touch for good”
– to transform lives, even after we leave this planet.

This doesn’t come in the form of obsessively lionizing the disconnected elite and the dead,
but rather giving meaningful support and opportunity to the living.

I believe festivals have a huge role to play and example to set in that aspiration.

Concern aside, my faith and I come full circle. The optimist in me prevails, for now.

Film festival exploration is a worthy trip.

Just be careful. Scams abound in all things everywhere. Be sure a listed festival actually exists, before you pay an entry fee and/or provide access to your work. Outlets, like FilmFreeway, do not necessarily vet or vouch for festivals.

Do your research and take pleasure in your power to strengthen and broaden our film community through these worldwide opportunities to grow, to network, and to feel good about our human potential — for the most part.