TQFF’s Statement Regarding the Practice of Film Festivals Charging Entry Fees
At TQFF, one of our top priorities is to support filmmakers. In recent years, the number of films being made has exploded due to the widespread accessibility of high quality video production technologies. Unfortunately, however, in many ways it has never been harder for for filmmakers who make work without the benefit of large budgets or insider connections to get their projects shown at festivals, precisely at this moment when it has become possible for almost everyone to make films. There are huge barriers to entry at almost every stage of most festival submissions process, starting with the first step: submitting your film. Submission fees, the requirement that filmmakers and producers pay amounts ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars in order to have a festival even consider screening a film, have become ubiquitous, even on the LGBT film festival circuit. Festivals offer a range of excuses for charging these entry fees, including “we are a non-profit and by paying submission fees you are supporting our festival” to “we are overwhelmed by the number of entries in recent years and thus rely on the fees to hire programming staff to watch all of the entries”.
Such justifications for charging submission fees indicate additional motivating factors:
- Festivals view themselves as gatekeepers who can demand premiums from artists seeking the recognition and exposure for their work that some festivals offer;
- A prioritization of supporting their institution and the labor of their staff over the work of artists and filmmakers, without whom, in reality, they would be unable to host their festival;
- As the number of films being made and submitted to festivals continues to rise, many festivals want the submission fees to be a barrier to entry, especially since many festivals program very few films submitted through open calls and may already be overwhelmed by the number of entries they get even with the large submission fees.