You’ve shot, edited, and finished your film. You’ve sent it off to the festival circuit, and you’ve been getting accepted. Congratulations. And yet, each festival is asking you for promotional material, on-set stills or behind the scenes (BTS) video. Sadly, all you have is a picture or two from just before you started shooting, and one that the crew sent around—of you, passed out from exhaustion—at the end of the shoot. But getting good on-set stills and BTS video, that’s tough. I know, I’ve been there. It is hard enough just getting the film done, let alone getting that extra material. What could possibly be the value in it, and why does a festival want it?
I interviewed two film festival directors: Debra Markowitz, of the Long Island International Film Expo, and Denise Gosset, of Shriekfest, in hopes of finding an answer.
Steven Gladstone: I know that you both work in the film business, in addition to running your respective festivals, so you have a lot of experience with how the industry works. What I’m trying to find out is what is the benefit of shooting on-set photos and BTS video?
Denise Gosset: I believe BTS photos are very valuable to filmmakers, actors, writers—anyone on a set. These shots can be used in press kits, as promotion on social media, to accompany interviews, on the film's website
Debra Markowitz: As an independent filmmaker, and probably for any filmmaker, BTS footage and still-set photos are a great source for gathering interest for your project. Blasting photos, clips, etc., on your social media channels primes people's interest in your project and, hopefully, will drive them to see it at a festival, theater, or any streaming platforms where it might appear.
SG: Is there an advantage to a filmmaker if their film short or feature has behind the scenes pics/video?
DM: There's an absolute advantage. From a film festival and filmmaker’s perspective, photos and BTS footage can be used for press and other media releases, as well as for material to accompany interviews. I don't send out a press release without at least one photo. Having done PR for my films and the Long Island International Film Expo (LIIFE), the releases with photos are published way more than releases without accompanying materials.
DG: Will they help get you in a festival? No. However, I do love it when films have BTS photos to help us promote their films. I would suggest having a schedule where you roll out certain shots at certain dates... they can also be used to put together a poster, or in packets, to secure the funding for your next film. Distributors can use the shots, as well.
SG: How do festivals use behind the scenes material?
DM: Footage might be useful for a special event screening. For example, if you're having a seminar about the film topic, or if you're highlighting a specific film or name, it could be used.
SG: Do you know if distributors want the material or not?
DM: I've only been asked for set shots and BTS footage for interviews. Three of my films are on Amazon Prime and were on DirecTV (The Last Taxi Driver, Leaving, and By Blood), and they all asked for posters and screenshots, but not set photos or BTS footage. If you're packaging your own DVDs or promoting on your own site, BTS footage could be helpful.
DG: Filmmaking is a business and should be treated like one. I think behind the scenes video is valuable too... that can be used as teasers and for extras on a DVD.
So, will BTS video and on-set shots help you get into a festival? No. But once you are in a festival, in terms of self-promotion, having these materials as opposed to not having any can be invaluable. Not just in terms of self-promotion, but without BTS or on-set stills, the festival or venue has no way to advertise your film except with a written blurb, or perhaps a still pulled from your film. Remember: a picture is worth a thousand words, so getting the best promotional still or video is more powerful than a couple of lines of text. It is just so much easier, and better, to get your film the attention it deserves when you have images and footage that you can use to gain a following, before anyone has even seen your movie.
If you have thoughts on or experience with using on-set photos and BTS and how it helps you as a filmmaker, please feel free to comment below.
Denise Gossett's Bio
Denise Gossett founded the Shriekfest Film Festival in 2001. Shriekfest is now in its 19th year in Los Angeles, and celebrating its third year in Orlando. In addition to running Shriekfest, Gossett has been an actress in mainstream Television and Feature Films for more than 20 Years and has been hosting Shriekfest Radio for more than five years.
Debra Markowitz's Bio
Debra Markowitz is the Director and VP of the Long Island International Film Expo. An enthusiastic filmmaker herself, Markowitz is an award-winning writer and director. Her projects include My Cross to Bear (Producer/Casting Director), which screened at the prestigious Academy Award qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Chosen (Director/Producer/Casting Director), which screened at the Academy Award Qualifying, LA Shorts, as well as many others films.