Top 100 International Film Festivals + Submission Tips [2019 Update]

Adrian Țofei, August 2016

Latest Update: April 2019

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Seeing the success of my Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals in helping filmmakers around the world, I decided to make a general list as well, for all the international film festivals, regardless of genre. It’s now reaching almost 1,000 monthly visitors on average.

I created the list and I’m constantly updating it based on extensive researches, taking into consideration over 40 other lists (see below), the opportunities the festivals offer to both indie and bigger productions/filmmakers/actors (distribution, publicity, networking, awards, boosting the chances for new festival selections and the Academy Awards, discovering new talents, boosting the chances for getting new projects and roles), the number of years running (till 2018), their status in the film industry, the location, communication, hospitality and safety, the size (the number of films selected and the number of audience, press and film industry members attending), the quality of the selected films, the quality of the information on their websites and social media, the entry fee, submission process and selection process, plus other various recommendations. I only included international film festivals with live screenings.

Submission Tips for Indie Filmmakers:

  • Keep your feature film below 100 minutes if possible and never above 120 minutes. And if you have a genre feature film, keep it below 90 min if possible and never above 100 min. Most festivals are commercially oriented and don’t wanna risk boring their audiences and fade away in popularity.
  • Keep your short film below 10 minutes if possible and never above 15 minutes. Festivals prefer to screen a bigger number of shorter short films instead of a single longer short film. Cannes doesn’t even accept short films above 15 min in the main competition.
  • Some festival programmers won’t watch your feature film entirely and might reject it based on the first 10-20 minutes. Try to have a powerful beginning or one that shows potential for a powerful development and entices the viewer to watch more.
  • Keep the cover letter very short – about three phrases of essential info if possible. Programmers are very busy and might not read long letters. Same for the film’s synopsis – try to synthesise it in one catchy phrase if possible.
  • Include in the short cover letter the best things about your movie and yourself, to catch the programmers’ interest, like known actors, past known films of yours, awards and top festivals, anything else unique or sensational about your film.
  • Ask for fee waivers before submitting. Unfortunately, some festivals view paid submissions mainly as a source of revenue and select/invite most of their films from other sources like contacts, recommendations, other festivals, sales agents etc. Write to festivals, mention the top attributes of your film and yourself (exemplified above), send them the trailer/teaser and ask if they could offer you a fee waiver. If they refuse, they might be either not interested in your film, or interested but principled. Try to find out which case applies and act accordingly, also considering your submission budget and how much you want that festival.
  • Don’t fall for partial discount offers received via email, thinking they are personalised and the festival is interested in your film. Most of the times they are not, those are discount codes listed publicly on the submission platform or mass-sent to filmmakers. When a festival is interested in your film, they offer you a 100% discount code or fee waiver. With a few exceptions, the partial discount is just a marketing strategy.
  • Don’t waste your money on submitting to award events listed on submission platforms. They won’t help you get (more) recognition in the film industry.
  • But do your online research and submit to major competitions like the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the European Film Awards and other regional or national major film awards not listed here. For a chance at the Oscars, don’t miss the Academy Awards Qualifying Festivals for documentary features, documentary shorts, and short films (including animated shorts), and the 5 festivals known to be top Oscar boosters for feature films (Toronto, Venice, Telluride, Sundance, Cannes).
  • For feature films, it’s very important to have the world premiere in a big festival. All the selections after the world premiere will be in smaller or similar festivals, never in bigger festivals. Plan carefully your world premiere, don’t settle for a little-known festival if you think your movie can do more than that.
  • Some of the top 10 festivals have very powerful and popular sections for genre films. But if you don’t get accepted, try my Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals.
  • When you get accepted and/or win an award in an important festival, email the other festivals you are waiting a decision from and inform them about your success (but try not to bother them with too many emails).
  • And finally, if you get into festivals and distributors express interest in your film, don’t accept offers without an advance payment or minimum guarantee (MG). Chances are you will see little to no money later. Always negotiate an advance. Go without an advance only if no other distributor wants your film and that’s your only chance.

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Before starting the top 100, here are the lists that helped me make mine, with codes to identify on which lists each festival is mentioned:

I also compiled the following two lists to help me with making the top:

  • The top 5/12 international festivals that premiered (p) and/or screened right after the premiere (ap) (first two fests after the premiere) the most feature films to get Oscar nominations in top categories in 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019 (according to the IMDb release info): Toronto (9p, 22ap), Venice (15p), Telluride (6p, 9ap), Cannes (8p, 1ap), Sundance (7p), New York (2p, 5ap), Mill Valley (7ap), Zurich (6ap), Berlin (2p, 1ap), SXSW (1p, 1ap), BFI London (3ap), Sydney (3ap) [OsP5/12]
  • The top 4/33 international festivals that premiered (p) and/or screened (s) the most feature films to get Oscar nominations in top categories in 2018 & 2019 (according to the IMDb release info): Toronto (6p, 3p North-American, 11s), Venice (8p), Telluride (3p, 5p North-American), Sundance (4p), New York (2p North-American, 9s), Mill Valley (13s), BFI London (12s), AFI Fest (11s), Chicago (11s), Middleburg (10s), Zurich (10s), Belgrade (9s), San Sebastian (9s), Cannes (2p), Austin (8s), Camerimage (8s), Goteborg (8s), Mar del Plata (8s), PAC (8s), Palm Springs (8s), Philadelphia (8s), Adelaide (7s), Gent (7s), Hamptons (7s), Los Cabos (7s), Rotterdam (7s), Taipei (7s), Berlin (1p, 2s), SXSW (1p, 2s), Denver (6s), Dubai (6s), MoMA Contenders (6s), Stockholm (6s) [OsPS4/33]

For personalised production/submission/distribution advices and/or festival lists made specifically for your film project, contact me at adriantofei@yahoo.com

Both “Top 100 International Film Festivals” and “Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals” require constant updates and a continuous extensive research. It’s a huge amount of work, I’m doing it all alone and nobody pays me, therefore I need your support to continue:

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Top 10 International Film Festivals:

  1. Cannes Film Festival / Festival de Cannes – Cannes, France, 71 years – IW3, IW100, R100, cFIAPF, AASh, RSh5, TG11, wCG10, AADo, G3, OsP5, OsPS33
  2. Sundance Film Festival (focused on films from the US) – Park City, Utah, US, 41 years – IW3, IW100, R100, AASh, AAShDo, RSh5, TG11, usCG10, G3, OsP5, OsPS4
  3. Toronto International Film Festival: TIFF – Toronto, Canada, 43 years – IW3, IW100, R100, nFIAPF, TG11, Ca10, wCG10, HoR10, G3, OsP5, Aw3, OsPS4
  4. Venice International Film Festival (focused on films most likely to get Oscar nominations) – Venice, Italy, 75 years – IW10, IW100, R100, cFIAPF, AASh, TG11, G10, OsP5, Aw3, OsPS4
  5. Berlin International Film Festival / Berlinale (focused on European art films) – Berlin, Germany, 68 years – IW10, IW100, R100, MM25, cFIAPF, AASh, TG11, wCG10, AADo, G10, OsP12, OsPS33
  6. Telluride Film Festival (focused on films most likely to get Oscar nominations) – Telluride, Colorado, US, 45 years – IW10, IW100, R100, MM25, TG11, usCG10, OsP5, Aw3, OsPS4, G50
  7. South by Southwest: SXSW Film Festival (focused on independent films) – Austin, Texas, US, 25 years – IW10, IW100, R100, MM25, AASh, AAShDo, TG11, usCG10, G10, OsP12, OsPS33
  8. Tribeca Film Festival (focused on independent films) – New York City, New York, US, 17 years – IW100, R100, AASh, AAShDo, TG11, usCG10, G10
  9. New York Film Festival (accepts submissions for short films only, features are invitation based) (focused on films most likely to get Oscar nominations) – New York City, New York, US, 56 years – IW10, IW100, R100, OsP12, Aw10, G50, OsPS33
  10. AFI FEST – Los Angeles, California, US, 48 years – IW100, R100, AASh, usCG10, MM25, Aw10, OsPS33, G50

Top 25 International Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 11th to 25th)

Top 50 International Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 26th to 50th)

Top 100 International Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 51st to 100th)

For personalised filmmaking/submission/distribution advices and/or festival lists made specifically for your film project, contact me at adriantofei@yahoo.com

Both “Top 100 International Film Festivals” and “Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals” require constant updates and a continuous extensive research. It’s a huge amount of work, I’m doing it all alone and nobody pays me, therefore I need your support to continue:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

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