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Lightbox: Illuminating Opportunity — February 2023

Original publish date: February 7, 2023

Need a little help getting your project in front of a camera? You’re certainly not the only one. But good news! There are many different programs geared toward getting independent projects going. This month, we shine a light on a few of the more exciting initiatives offering filmmakers and producers a little help in getting the green light. 

1. Decentralized Pictures 

Decentralized Pictures (DCP) is a democratically run film fund founded by American Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola’s production company, that seeks to discover new faces in moviemaking. A growing community of creatives, fans, and working professionals evaluate their peer’s pitches, deciding which projects are most worth the collective’s support. Through this nonprofit web3 experiment, filmmakers in the community are empowered to greenlight pitches and projects they see as valuable.

Cryptocurrency fuels DCP’s economy, and there are several cash prizes available right now, such as the “Depict Short Film Award” of $3,500 and the $1,500 “Screenplay Rent Assistance Grant.” Screenwriting grants and programs run every few months. Past ones from notable filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh and Kevin Smith have reached upwards of $100K. New grants pop up all the time, so bookmark this one! 

Deadlines: Ongoing; “Depict Short Film Award” submissions due by February 27 

On the web: https://decentralized.pictures/ 

2. Fantasia International Film Festival

Running from July 19 to the 23, 2023, Fantasia Festival is a three-week-long celebration of genre fare. Taking place in the heart of Montreal, Canada, it is known for igniting the careers of several filmmakers, many of whom have found representation and distribution deals. In fact, a few projects even resulted in Oscar consideration.

Last year’s festival was held virtually, attracting an audience of 85 thousand viewers for over 100 features and 200 short films. The event is watched closely by entertainment trades like Variety, IndieWire, Vice, and The Hollywood Reporter.

While the fest focuses on fantasy, horror, and action films, many different types of projects will be considered. Even dramas are welcome here! The festival also works in conjunction with Frontières, a genre-focused co-production film market intended to help filmmakers meet international buyers and financiers. This market offers pitch sessions and panels about production, finance, and distribution.  

Deadlines: Submissions due by March 1 

On the web: https://fantasiafestival.com/en/news/submissions-are-now-open 

Frontières Market: https://frontieresmarket.com/en 

3. Sundance Institute: Episodic Lab 

Focused on the needs of episodic writers, this six-day lab takes place at the Sundance Mountain Resort in lovely Utah. It’s an opportunity for these writers to workshop their own pilot and pitch it to a team of showrunners, creative producers, and executives. This kind of exposure can be invaluable, and the experience even includes one-on-one script meetings, workshops, and a simulated writers room experience. Up to 10 projects will be accepted into the lab, and all submissions must be in English. No project that has previously been sold to a studio or network will be eligible. 

Deadlines: Submissions accepted from February 8 through March 8 

On the web: https://www.sundance.org/programs/episodic-storytelling/ 

4. Outfest 

Running from July 13 to 23, 2023, in Los Angeles, Outfest is a prestigious festival focused on the unique needs and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community, awarding both jury prizes and audience awards to those who win in competition. The festival accepts narrative, documentary, and experimental shorts and features, as well as TV episodes, music videos, and performance films.

Importantly, no feature submissions should have been previously exhibited in a commercial arena to be considered. Outfest is proud to host the official debuts of these projects pertaining to the LGBTQIA+ community and is well-known for offering strong networking opportunities and the potential to find distribution deals. 

Deadlines: Regular submission due by February 24; final submissions due by March 17 

On the web: https://filmfreeway.com/OutfestLosAngeles 

5. Venice International Film Festival and Venice Production Bridge 

As one of the five biggest festivals in Europe, the Venice International Film Festival is the world’s oldest, continuously running cinema event. Held on the island of Lido in Venice, the event is a major stop for most independent films seeking a major premiere or distribution deal.

For filmmakers and producers who are looking for an opportunity to meet financiers, executives, book publishers, distributors, and other industry dealmakers, the Venice Production Bridge (VPB) is a market providing such opportunities. Taking place between August 31 and September 9 in Venice, the market is comprised of six sections, including the “Venice Gap-Financing Market,” which offers producers the opportunity to meet directly with financiers, producers, and sales agents, in the hopes of securing final film financing. 

Deadlines: For Venice, submissions accepted from February 1 to May 31; for Venice Production Bridge, submission deadlines vary depending on program. 

La Biennale on the web: https://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/2023/dates-and-deadlines; https://static.labiennale.org/files/cinema/2023/Documenti/vpb-brochure-2023.pdf 

Venice Production Bridge on the web: https://veniceproductionbridge.org/ 

Please note that film festivals and markets are chosen based on Dear Producer’s annual study, which asks distributors from where they acquire films, how many films they distribute in a year, and other factors.

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