A beginners guide to disability film distribution
It is a good time to be a disabled filmmaker, scriptwriter or disability arts company making films. It also a good time to make a film with a disability-based theme and with disabled actors.
This is because there is a demand for genuine voices from disabled people and for films exploring disability.
In many countries around the world disabled people are becoming more visible and disabled voices are being heard more.
Some governments support film festivals that highlight disability, as it looks good from an outsider’s perspective.
It shows that the country is progressive, even though many of the films can be critical of access and disability rights in their own country.
Also, as society recognises the many different kinds of disability that are part of all communities, more issues, themes and viewpoints are opened up.
Most importantly, a film needs to tell a story. It needs to be a story that you want to tell and feel passionate about. I’d almost go as far to say ‘a story that will not let go until you have shared it.’
If you have gone to the trouble of making a film about disability, it is important that you share it with as many people as possible.
It is also important that you can share it with a range of people, sometimes meeting them, hearing audience responses in person, the breathing of an audience watching your film, the laughs, sighs and the quality of silence. It is your child; you want to hear compliments and sometimes criticism, so you become a better maker of films.
Film Distribution happens in a number of ways:
- through selling dvds/downloads;
- through showing the work at festivals;
- through sharing the work free online;
- through selling the work to broadcasting or cinema organisations.
I am going to focus on how to show your film globally, at international film festivals.
My most recent production, Bastion, has been shown at 25 film festivals worldwide in 15 different countries, including Africa, India, Russia, Australia, Canada, Europe and America. It has won seven awards.
I have probably entered it into at least 150 film festivals. So I hear No No No No No Yes ! Five times No followed by a Yes.
Entry into Film Festivals
- a) Through reading about the festival and sending the film on DVD, with press kit.
b) Through online film festival submission sites.
c) Through festivals hearing about your film and requesting a link to watch it.
Submitting films through online film festivals is by far the most popular method. The main film distribution sites are:
When you submit your film you will need:
1) to download your film onto the site. Preferably a hd version.
2) a title and synopsis (storyline of your film) short (25 words) and long (100 words)
3) a clear idea of what category your film is, i.e. Comedy; Drama; Horror; Documentary; Fiction etc.
4) a list of all your film credits, everyone who has worked on the film or has an input.
5) permissions for all music /script used in the film.
6) stills, either of the film footage or taken during production.
7) ideally, a trailer.
8) a film poster.
Sometimes you may be asked for a subtitled version or a list of the dialogue or an audio description for visually impaired viewers.
9) Last but not least you will need an entrance fee ranging from free (hooray) to about £50 (gulp).
What film festivals should I submit to ?
There are thousands of film festivals worldwide; they make their money almost entirely from submissions from filmmakers. I will focus on disability film festivals.
The disability film festival sector tends to get funding from elsewhere so submission charges are free or very cheap.
Here is a list of what I consider as the current the top international disability film festivals.
Many of the festival submission sites have a search engine through which you can find niche festivals. If you type in ‘Disability’ or ‘Health’ a fair few should come up.
The chances of being selected
– are always fairly small. Do not take it personally if your film is not selected. Judges will select the films that appeal to them. Their mood when they watch and the themes that are present in their own lives, are bound to have a bearing on whether they like the film or not. Just keep submitting and keep submitting some more!
If your film is selected, the festival will email you and ask for accompanying information like credits, synopsis, etc.
A festival will want to know if you can attend. Festivals like the prize-winners present, so it gives your film more chance of being nominated for an award if you can definitely be there. If you cannot attend but can put together an acceptance film or recording, that will help as well.
Attending a Festival.
Attending a festival is an excellent experience. You get to see lots of other good films and your own film on a big screen. You also get a better idea of the kind of film you would like to make next. You get to chat with other filmmakers and feel proud about what you have made.
In most cases you will be contacted beforehand if your film has been nominated for a prize. This gives you some notice to buy a nice suit!
In some cases, if you do not attend, the prize is given to someone who is there in person.
A few dos and don’ts
A website just for your film is a very good idea, you then have plenty of space to write about your film, yourself as a filmmaker and show photos of the production.
A Facebook page just for your film is also a good idea, so you can share news about your film to your heart’s content, only to those people who have liked your film and want notifications. A active social network presence will also impress film festivals and may influence judging decisions – they want their festival noticed.
It is not always a good idea to show your whole film on social media: if you did, why would anyone watch it at a cinema. Make a trailer and share that instead!
Read the small print of all festivals or you might be giving away your rights to the film without even knowing it.
Okay make that film and start sharing it with the world !