Film Festival Strategies For The Expat Thespian


The film festivals have started.  That amazing time of year when we actors can enjoy a smorgasbord of feature, independent, short and experimental films.  You can spend all day in a theater, watch and upwards of 25 films and pay less than $15.  It's the Cinephile playground!  

Yet, with all this fun we must make sure that we are navigating efficiently and effectively.  So today lets learn about 

Film Festival Strategies For The Expat Thespian

Round Up The Usual Suspects:  Quick review, the usual suspects are your website, demo reel, headshot, resume, and business cards.  Make sure your materials are in order, if not it could cost you.  Read about the usual suspects in The Essential Utensils For The Expat Thespian.

Be A Film Festival Scout:  K.Y.A. - Know Your Area.  Go to the festival locations and find out where theaters are located. Nothing is more frustrating than ending a segment at 3:30p.m. while your next film starts at 3:45p.m. but you're a 20 minute walk away with no taxi in sight. If you can't get there a day before then get there an hour or two earlier.   

Research The Festival Website: You should prioritize what films you want to see. Have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice picked because some films you won't get. Also, review the additional sections of the site such as venues, networking events and news for further networking opportunities.  

Location, Location, Location: Choose your films wisely.  I'm not a fan of running back and forth, across a city, between film segments. However you choose to select your films is up to you but convenience is key. So, pay close attention to where the films are being shown. 

Choose Films With Guest Visitors: Kill two birds with one stone and make sure that your films have guest visitors.  Usually a guest visitor means the director of the film. What better opportunity to tell the director how much you enjoyed their work.  Let them know that you're an expat thespian and exchange information.

Be A Ticket Booth Early Worm: Arrive at the ticket booth an 1 or 2 hours before opening.  Earlier if you can! Trust me, other people are doing the same and then some.

Unforgettable Is Key: Make sure you ask memorable questions at your films' Q&A sessions. Filmmakers love questions. They want to know you were engaging with their film. 

Use The Translator: Let the translator know that you're an actor and you wish to introduce yourself to the director/guest.  Be specific on what you want to say so that you aren't wasting the translators time. If there are no translators then learn this statement in your host language:

"Hello, my name is ________________.  I really enjoyed your film.  I've been an actor in _(country)__  for ____ months/years.   When you're in need of an expat actor I'd be happy to audition for you."

Quality Of Cards: When you're handed a business card by a director write down the festival, the date and movie title for future reference. Write it down on the card after you finish speaking with them. When you get home develop an email strategy. Remember, it's not about how many cards you get but about building relationships through the cards you receive. 

Read The Catalog: The festival catalog is filled with information.  It's not just a schedule of all the films being shown.  Take the time and read the catalog. The information you acquire can make the difference in you being an Expat Thespian. 

Film festivals are the best places to learn how to communicate and network with people in the industry. Take advantage of the opportunity and grow Expat Thespian! 

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                                                          Kahlid Elijah Tapia

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Kahlid Elijah Tapia is an award winning actor who built his film career in Seoul, South Korea. He began to flourish in 2010 gaining experience  in film, television, and theater. He is known for Take Point (2018), Jojakdwen Doshi (2017), Haebangchon (2015) & Gamgi (2013).