Our Film Festival Experiences

by Alyssa Hunt and Kelanie Aragon

After watching the final cut of Phyto, we knew that we had to submit to festivals. So, we sat down and attempted to sift through thousands of festivals found on FilmFreeway. We decided that our out of pocket budget was enough for us to afford to submit to 7 festivals. So, we picked wisely.

TIP #1. When submitting to a festival, read the requirements. Most festivals will tell you exactly what they are looking for. If you have a comedy and the festival says they prefer a drama, don’t waste the money submitting! Find a different festival that fits your films genre, running time and production value. Film Freeway is a great way to do it!

After anxious anticipation, we received our first ‘Not Accepted’. And then, another one. It was a discouraging feeling, especially with the amount of money we put into submission fees. But things began to look up.

TIP#2. There are so many reasons why a film doesn’t make it in a festival. Yes, it might be because it sucks, or it didin’t fit the festival’s audience, too many same-genre films, etc. A “no” shouldn’t discourage you.

Festival 1: The Hollywood Festival of New Cinema or Cinevana

The first festival we were accepted to made us completely forget the pain of our previous rejection. It’s an amazing and rewarding feeling as a filmmaker to have someone appreciate your hard work.

With this festival, because it was local, we were able to attend our screening at the theater and Phyto played on opening night at Los Feliz in Los Angeles.



It was a great experience participating  in the festival. There were some technical difficulties with the film quality, but it was received well and that’s all we really wanted. We were able to network with some great people in the industry and the festival staff and director were very welcoming and engaging.

Festival 2: SONscreen

Shortly after our first acceptance, we were accepted into SONscreen. We were encouraged by a professor of ours to submit and we are glad we did. When we showed up for the festival, we were shocked to learn that we would be conducting a live Q&A after the screening. This brings us to our second piece of festival advice.


TIP #3. Always be prepared to talk about your film. If you can’t talk intelligently about your own creation, people won’t take you seriously. Trust us when we say it looks really unprofessional and tacky.

After it screened, Ryan went up to talk about the film. Despite our last minute preparations, the Q&A went well and Phyto received the most audience interaction. It was an honor to see how engaged the audience was with our 8 minute film.

Festival 3: North Hollywood Cinefest

The last festival that we were accepted to was the North Hollywood Cinefest. This festival was more prestigious than the others. From the parties to the red carpet, everything about this festival was spot on. Oh, and did I mention that Sean Astin from Lord of the Rings was there? Yeah, pretty awesome.


The screening went well and our film played with some other amazing shorts. We felt extremely lucky to be in the same category as them.

TIP #4.  Show up to festivals red carpet ready. Pictures will be taken and people will be watching you, assuming you could be the next big name in the film industry. Dress for the job you want and leave a good first impression when you go to festivals.


We still haven’t heard from the last 2 festivals we submitted to, but expect to hear from them in the fall. But, even if a Phyto doesn’t get accepted, it wouldn’t bother us. Our experiences so far have all been positive and we are motivated to continue with this experiment. We are so fortunate that so many have been able to see Phyto and hope the same happens with future films.



2 thoughts on “Our Film Festival Experiences

  1. Anuraag Talpade says:

    Thank you very much Alyssa for sharing your experience of film festivals with us.It’s a great help.All the BEST for your future journey…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sharpencinema says:

      Thanks Anuraag! We appreciate it! We have more content about film festivals coming up! This was our very first experience. Hope to see you around here more! 🙂


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