How Film Festivals Work

Celebrities walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. See more movie making pictures.
Photo courtesy Cannes - A Festival Virgin's Guide

Fledgling filmmakers practice their craft far from the glitter of Hollywood. In backyards, in small studios or on local sets they transform their vision into a film that they hope will one day be seen by thousands or even millions of people around the world. What they may lack in budget and star power they more than make up for in raw ambition.

Independent filmmakers might remain forever in obscurity were it not for film festivals. These annual events, where films are screened and professionally judged, are held around the world. At film festivals, cinema fans can see the new -- and sometimes daring -- films they would never be able to find in their local movie theaters.

Film festivals give new talent an opportunity to shine, while also showcasing the work of already well-known and respected filmmakers. Festivals can range from huge, star-studded events, such as the Cannes festival in France or the Sundance Film Festival in the United States, to small, independent, local awards that garner just a few hundred attendees. But all festivals have something in common: They celebrate the art of film and they champion the artists who produce it.

In this article, we'll visit some of the world's biggest, smallest and quirkiest film festivals. We'll describe how you can attend an event, how you can enter a film in a festival, how the films are judged and what the rewards are for those filmmakers who win.