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Film Festivals Pay Unexpected Dividends

For independent filmmakers, applying to film festivals can be a daunting task. After spending years raising money, working long hours filming and editing, and sacrificing time with family and friends - not to mention sleep - to finish your film, the last thing you want to do is possibly encounter more rejections. But if you're able to get your work accepted into festivals, the experience is totally worth it.

I certainly found this to be the case when the documentary I directed, "Lady Wrestler: The Amazing, Untold Story of African-American Women in the Ring" played during the Columbus Black International Film Festival (CBIFF) Aug. 24-25, 2018, at the Gateway Film Center. It was a true honor to be featured in a film festival in my own backyard - my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

CBIFF founder Cristyn Steward and I.

I have to tip my hat to CBIFF founder Cristyn Steward and everyone at the festival for providing an excellent showcase for movies that portray people of African descent in all of our diversity. Here are three main takeaways from the experience of participating in the festival:

* Film festivals help spread word of mouth for your movie. Many of us filmmakers spend most of our time surrounded by friends, family and colleagues whom we've known for years. Getting our work out there in front of people who aren't related to us and getting their genuine reactions help us grow. People who attend festivals tend to be passionate film buffs, so interacting with them is a real treat.

* Film festivals provide an excellent networking experience. At CBIFF, I reconnected with several people I hadn't seen in years. I also met and exchanged business cards with fellow filmmakers, actors and all-around good people I'd never met before and look forward to staying in touch with.

* Film festivals can generate interest in your next project. During the question-and-answer session after the Aug. 24 screening of "Lady Wrestler," several people expressed interest in my next project. It's a narrative movie I'll soon be filming called "Things Are Tough All Over," about a black family struggling to keep their heads above water during the Great Recession of 2008. I even connected with actors and people with technical expertise who could serve as cast and crew.

* Film festivals help you hone your people skills. Whether it's practicing that much-needed skill of networking or participating in a question-and-answer session and refining your public speaking abilities, festivals present you with numerous opportunities to become more comfortable with interacting with all different kinds of people. And, of course, these people skills can be translated to the set when you call "Action!" on your next movie.

Chris Bournea is a writer and filmmaker. He is the co-author of "All Jokes Aside: Comedy Is a Phunny Business" and the novel "The Chloe Chronicles." He also directed the documentary "Lady Wrestler: The Amazing, Untold Story of African-American Women in the Ring."

Connect with Chris on Facebook, Twitter and Stage 32.

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