How to Write a Cover Letter
How to Write a Cover Letter
5 tips on writing a letter that will help draw the attention of selectors to the film
The cover letter is an effective tool for promoting a film at film festivals. It makes it possible, while staying within the framework of business etiquette, to present your project as profitably as possible, to highlight its most important strengths and to justify why it is your film that deserves a place in the program.
Be consistent, accurate and competent
Do not misuse the cover letter in any way and do not confuse it with the director's statement. It should be written briefly, in simple language and on the case. The shorter it is, the higher the chances that it will be read. 5-6 sentences are enough. The letter should include only the information that really matters for selectors and emphasizes the merits of your film.

If when submitting a film to the festival your application was assigned a tracking number, be sure to include it. This will allow the organizing committee to navigate quickly.

Pay special attention to grammar and text formatting. The letter should look neat. Before sending, check it again for typos, spelling, punctuation and stylistic errors.

Do not make mass mailings. Everyone appreciates a personal appeal. On the festival website, find the name and contacts of the person responsible for the program in which you submitted your film. The letter should be addressed to him.

Consider the difference in time zones. Do not write at night or on Friday night. Over the weekend, up to hundreds of letters can come to the address of the festival, it is likely that yours will be lost among them. Mail services have the function of deferred sending letters, adjust the time for each individual festival.
Emphasize those film features that will interest a particular festival
Before writing a cover letter, examine the specifics of the show and analyze which films it prefers and which works there never appear. In the letter, it is important to demonstrate how your film can be interesting exactly for the festival you are writing.

All selectors pay attention to the film language and the artistic component of the film. Many people appreciate experiments with genres and formats. For example, your project is shot with one plan (like Beata Bubunets's film "The Flight of a Bullet"), or more than 50 cameramen from around the world worked on the film (as in the film "Praise to Nothing" by Serbian director Boris Mitic) or a film is completely assembled from shot on a DVR and uploaded to YouTube (like Dmitry Kalashnikov's "The Road") is worth mentioning.
If your film includes rare shots that have never been seen before, or your film was shot in unusual locations: under water, in the mountains, in a mine, on a ship or any remote or little-known place, mention it.

There is a huge number of niche festivals that specialize in films of a particular subject: human rights, LGBT, ecology, music, anthropology, etc. Some major festivals also have separate thematic sections. For example, at the Krakow Film Festival, IDFA and ZagrebDox festivals there are programs for music documentaries. At the Sheffield DoC / Fest festival, the Environmental Award is awarded to the best film on the environmental problems of the modern world. Biennale Berlinale presents a non-competitive program Native - films about indigenous peoples. But even for special programs, thematic focus may change from year to year. For example, in 2017, films from the Arctic were presented in this section of Native, including 4 Russian films shot in Yakutia. And in 2019, the focus will be on films from countries and islands of the Pacific Ocean. In general, if you know that your film is thematically suited to the festival or one of the sections stated in the regulations, emphasize this.
Remind of an acquaintance, declare your readiness to be present in person and find connections
It is known that the festivals with special curiosity following up the professional growth and, if possible, try to support those authors whose works they have already shown in previous editions. Any program director is interested in seeing a new film by a director who once participated in his film festival. In such cases, festivals often free the author from the submission fee. If you or someone from your film crew have already represented the film at the festival, feel free to remind this.

Also each film festival is interested, so that the director can personally communicate with the audience. If there is a high probability that you will be able to attend the screening, or maybe the festival takes place in your hometown, let the addressee know it. Some festivals have special programs for films by local authors and may even receive grants for their selection.
Connection with the country or city where the festival takes place is the most intriguing information about the film for the selector, do not hide it. If you shot a story about dancing in Italy, prostitution in India or music in the UK, then most likely the festivals of these countries will be interested in your film.

If you have not found any connection with the festival, then the best way to make an impression on the film is to demonstrate your knowledge of it. Study the program of past years. Perhaps you will find a picture similar to yours, then notice the festival for similarities. For example, "I know that the Grand Prix of the last festival took a film made in the genre of documentary satire. My picture is made in the same genre ... ". If your movie really looks like the movie you are writing about, aim at the festivals where it was shown.
Tell us about the participation in other festivals and won awards
The project's festival history is an important point of the cover letter. If your film already had festivals' screenings, report it to the addressee. If there are negotiations about a show with this or that film, you should also write about it. The selectors watch films with special attention, which have already been approved by reputable colleagues.

It will be interesting for the selection commissions of small foreign festivals to find out how the film develops relations with screenshots within the country of production: how many participations have there been and on what venues.

When writing a letter, it is necessary to take into account that large and top festivals give preference to world and international premieres, carefully check the premiere status of paintings that are taken into the program. We recommend to study the festival rules and get acquainted with the point about the premiere policy. Although in the total mass of festivals with a strict demand for premiere is not so much. Even large film screenings have several types of premieres: from world and international to national and city. For example, for participation in the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the premieres in North America are sufficient, and for DOC NYC - the premieres in New York and its metropolitan areas.
Refer to the support of famous people and film industry experts
Feel free to mention well-known names that are directly related to your movie. For example, if the voice-over to your picture read Iggy Pop, or the artistic director of your debut project was Viktor Kosakovsky, tell about it. If you received a praise from the nominee for the European Film Awards or the program director of a well-known and serious film festival, then this can be mentioned. The main thing is to coordinate with the person to whom you refer.

If you received a comment from well-known representatives of the profession within the framework of workshops or work-in-progress, where you were given feedback on duty, you should not write about it.
What not to do
Write "Sorry to bother you"
Such a beginning may be appropriate only when you send a personal letter to a well-known selector and are confident that it is now heavily loaded. In all other cases, we do not recommend this, because both parties are interested in negotiations: it is important for the director to show his film at the festival, and for the festival to find a strong and competitive film in the program.

The covering letter is the official tool of the festival promotion of the film and the established form of communication between authors and film screening representatives. By sending it, you do not impose on anyone, but place accents. Processing received questionnaires and reading cover letters is part of the work of the festival organizing committee.
Report production difficulties
In the cover letter it will be superfluous to say how hard you had at the production or post-production stage of the film, how much passion you put into the picture or how much this story reflects your personal experience. Remember that the letter is designed to help you stand out. This is not the place for words that every author can say about his project. The story about the difficulties and your impressions is better reserved for the director's statement or the Q&A press kit. There just should write about everything that is of great importance to you in creating a picture.
Optional attach media files
Do not send along with the letter a link to the film itself and all the available materials: frames, a photo of the director, a biography and filmography, a full list of the crew. The mailboxes of many festivals only allow the lightest letters, the rest are returned to senders. It is permissible to add one frame to the cover letter in a resolution of *.jpg up to 300 kb in size, which will convey the aesthetics of your picture, and a link to the trailer or movie site.
October 22, 2018

Text: Ekaterina Rusakovich
For an illustration of the article used footage from the film Bruce Almighty (2003)