My Huge Disappointment in Chris Gore’s Latest Film Festival Guide

Posted On November 30, 2010

I’m stuck in the airport right now due to there being no one who can fly the plane or something. I have one book in my bag (thanks to the versatility of the iPad) – the 3rd Edition of Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide. “3rd?,” you may say, “but the 4th edition is the latest!”

And you would be right, the 4th Edition is the latest and I bought it as soon it came out. I’ve had the 3rd Edition as soon as I started making films and realizing I should be sending them to festivals. I don’t think there’s a book on my shelf that has more highlights, more dog eared pages, or more post-its and flags sticking out. The FFSG is a great directory of festivals, along with a great selection of curated lists and indexes sorting the festivals by date, genre, and location.

It’s a pretty thick book, so I was surprised when the 4th Edition came in that it was nearly half the thickness. It has all the articles written by filmmakers about navigating festivals and distribution – interesting stuff and good articles. But as for the directory and lists of festivals, in the back of the book is a note pointing you to a website, where it says all the festival information is now online.

On the surface this seems like a great idea. Festivals are changing all the time. The information is old as soon as it’s printed. With a website you can keep everything up to date. People can review festivals, lists can be curated, you can search based on different factors.

Great idea – horrible execution. ((I should note this has bothered me for a while, ever since getting the book. It’s resurfacing again since I just sent the first batch of festival submissions for Bots High out and am looking for particular niche festivals.))

So I signed up for an account, put my book’s serial number in, and went to the Fests A-Z directory. Unsurprisingly is a festival directory in alphabetical order. I tried to find lists, like Festivals for Women on the Screen, or Best Documentary Festivals. Nothing. Nor could I search festivals by genre. I could just look at a long list of festivals in no useful order, or search for a festival by location. If I wanted to do that I could just use Withoutabox. I want curated lists and a way to find out about festivals that’s better than Withoutabox. This has none of it.

So that’s why I have a copy of 3rd Edition. I know a lot of the festivals in it have ceased to exist, but it’s worth sorting through it to find niche festivals.

If anyone’s had a similar experience but found the secret tab that I’m missing, please share.

Written by Joey Daoud

Joey Daoud is an award-winning documentary producer. When not filming he likes to climb mountains and brew coffee.

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3 Comments

  1. Jeffy shubooty

    Same situation for me. Loved the 3rd but 4th is terrible. It’s basically curated essays by other people. The great thing about 3rd was the insider/knowledgable info that it had for each fest, 4th edition had none of that, nor does the pathetic website. Huge disappointment.

    • Joey

      Glad it wasn’t me failing to miss something on the site. I’ve seen a few sites pop up that try to review festivals and let people leave comments and ratings, but it doesn’t have enough traction to make it useful.

      The reality is Withoutabox needs to add more social functions to let people rate and write reviews of festivals from the filmmaker’s experience, because they’re pretty much the only game in town.

      • mark pope

        Without a box gets paid too much money from film festivals to ever let us review them

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