Finding the Right Festival Strategy for Your Film: Katie McCullough

With more than 10 years of festival submission experience for an array of clients, Festival Formula’s Katie McCullough will shed light on the film festival landscape in detail. McCullough will offer useful hints, tips and strategies to focus on the strengths of your unique work and to maximise your budget for festival submissions, as well as advice on how to develop and enhance your profile on the festival circuit – an intrinsic element to promoting your film. We catch up with her to discuss festival submissions and the future of the film industry.

ASFF: Through your experience of festival submissions with Festival Formula, what have you noticed as being some of the key characteristics to a film that enable it to be successful once submitted?
KM: A clear idea of what the story sets out to achieve and the journey to get there, story is everything. From the simplest to the more complex – an interesting story or new take on an idea is what makes a short stand out and memorable. Production values aren’t everything but sound is absolutely key.

ASFF: Festival Formula works with a range of clients from student projects to BAFTA affiliation and Academy Award eligibility – how does the approach differ when designing strategies for these films?
KM: It comes down to the strength of the film and the budget the client has. We’re making sure that the films are reaching as many suitable festivals as possible and that’s sometimes guided by the assets within them – a student short can be submitted to places that a horror comedy cannot, and an experimental documentary can travel far in Europe but not so much in Australia and so on. Each film has its own bespoke journey and no one festival route fits all.

ASFF: Do you think we will see a rise in the number of film festivals in the UK? – is there an exciting future for the industry?
KM: I think we will and we welcome it. As long as festivals are being born because of the love and nurture they’re prepared to give filmmakers and cinema, then it’s something to champion. The very ethos of festivals are about rekindling the collaborative notion of watching a film in the dark and also giving a platform for creative voices.

ASFF: For those at ASFF today looking ahead to a future in film, what important advice can you give in making their films as successful as possible?
KM: Know what you’re good at, also know what you’re not so good at… And get collaborating. Remember that it’s a different route for everyone and that goes for the festival circuit – don’t just hit the festival lists that have been done for you, look at your strengths and weaknesses of your film and aim for your audience; get your film seen and submit where you should do and not where you want to.

Finding the Right Festival Strategy for Your Film will be hosted by Katie McCullough at BAFTA qualifying ASFF 2016. Find out more about the masterclasses for this year’s festival:

Keep up to date with the latest Aesthetica Short Film Festival updates @ASFFest.

1. Jim Poyner.