Do non-artistic factors affect film selecting?


Are inspiration and virtuosity enough for a filmmaker to be heard in the field of contemporary art? We are eager to find out. We’ve selected such “non-artistic factors” as CATEGORY, GENRE, LENGTH, and BUDGET to find out how they relate to the success of films at festivals. 

About film festivals acceptance rate … <

Hey friends! You will see the charts and numbers. But it can also be an illusion of impact. We calculated an average rate of short film selection. But what is the price of the average in art?

Nevertheless, such surveys help to find some common factors between very different phenomena. It would be correct to say that our conclusions have an aspect of probability only. For example, if you cross the street against the traffic lights, there is a risk of an accident. Just the same, a bigger budget and more thoroughly scripted narration may enhance a film’s chance to be selected in a festival. Still, if you have a zero budget it does not mean that your success will be zero. Huge sums of money can only double your chances comparing with zero budgets. Look below! The diagrams speak for themselves.

We got 130 completed questionnaires on film submitting from all over the world. Twenty of them were rejected because of our doubts regarding their credibility. Also, the data was verified with our outside expert Dave Lojek who has the incredible experience of film submitting. And yes, we didn’t take into account that sufficient part of short film festivals is so-called pseudo-festivals and fake festivals. Nevertheless, the survey participants attributed festivals to a particular group of its own. I aware of this research lack thanks to Dave Lojek our reviewer. But we will try to overcome this with new studies regarded both values of filmmakers and festivals’ classification.

Thus an average number of film submissions is almost 200. Average festival acceptance rate is 13% (one in seven submissions). Every 65th submission (1,54%) was accepted at the most prestigious film festivals like FIAPF, Academy Award-Qualifying.

In the first chart, we see that a big budget of a short film is a gate to a more intense festival circuit run.

film selecting at film festivals

But does it enhance the chances of expensive short films? The findings are a bit unexpected and lead us to some further contemplation.

The red trend line shows acceptance rate of smaller festivals and the blue one reflects participation in prestige Academy Award-Qualifying and FIAPF festivals. As for the red trend line, it looks like an optimistic exponent for investors.  

As you can see from this chart, a peak of success at prestigious festivals (3.6%) is 10.000 USD of the film budget approximately. And the chance to be part of the most desirable festivals comes less and less despite of stepping up investments. Thus things are not so obvious as it has seemed before. But it can’t prove that big money (more than 20K) spend impact less. As the amount of acceptances at the less prestigious festivals grows up to 22%.

I can make a hypothesis that a smart programming committee of the FIAPF or Academy Award-Qualifying festival is seeking for new talents in cinematography, directing, screenwriting, acting, or music and animation. And this talent hunting does not depend on the film budget to a greater extent. On the other hand, smaller festivals can probably try to draw a mass audience by cinema attractions that cost more to produce as a rule.

The same conflict is seen in preference of film genre or category. For example, sci-fi is good for ordinary short film festivals but is not for those that can make an impact on filmmaker’s career. Also be aware that even though humor is the way to one’s heart but this rule does not always work with comedies on the festival circuit. Documentary and animation are favored at the most prestigious film festivals. Such preference can be explained by the fact that far from every small short film festival has a documentary or animation section.

As for a correlation between the movie running time and its acceptance to short film festivals, I would quote the ancient truth that brevity is the soul of wit. A film under 5 minutes is selected by festivals more often!

Several important factors were not taken into account (review from Dave Lojek):

  1. Submission fees of festivals. If a filmmaker has a small budget, high submission fees are too expensive to pay, thus only festivals with low or no submission fees will be chosen for submission. Thus also the acceptance rate in prestige festival will be lower or nil.
  2. There are many more short film genres now than the ones we proposed. Data about the other genres might be different.
  3. Most of the 5.000 to 10.000 film festivals, contests, etc. that exist nowadays have only a regional impact, small to no prestige or relevance when compared to the big players in the commercial festival world. Our study has only 2 different kinds of prestige levels (small and big), where in reality there must be many more.
  4. We have also not differentiated between filmmakers who submit by themselves and those who pay distribution companies and services to submit their films for them. This dividing line makes a huge impact. Many filmmakers are totally ignorant of the world of distribution and thus easy prey for the greedy distributors. Very few festivals have understood this logic and reject “catalogue films” on principle. Most festivals want quality, diversity, entertainment, emotions, innovation. They don’t care a lot about HOW a film is made.

Reply from the author (Aliaksandr Martyniuk)

Thanks, Dave, for the very useful review and comments!

As for submission fees of festivals. Yes, it is the key factor. Meanwhile, we know prestigious festivals without entry fee, as ZINEBI… But you are right that most of the festivals have a fee.

Also, you are right that my list of genres is not comprehensive. I tried to compass most basic ones. I will add the rest in the future.

And as for incompleteness of festivals’ calibration, it is very important. I aware. I want to figure out a classification of the festivals. But it deals with values and psychology of filmmakers too. And the next survey will be dedicated to the related issues.

If you have read to end I want to suggest our calculators that are based on this survey.

Aliaksandr Martyniuk (author)

director of the Short Movie Club.

Also columnist, producer, filmmaker, baron of the Nomadic Film Club


Dave Lojek (expert and reviewer)

Film Producer, Award-Winning Director, Distributor, Festival Director

Director of Apeiron-Films

President – (Film Association)
Member of AG Kurzfilm and BDFA – Bundesverband Deutscher Film-Autoren

My gratitude for important pieces of advice from Dave Lojek, Michael Flores, Kirienos Papadimatos, and Stephen Follows

Aliaksandr Martyniuk