First of all, what is Festhome?
Festhome is a film festival services platform that allows filmmakers and festivals to manage their film submissions and events. Festhome was born in 2010 to help directors and festivals use the internet to reach one another for much cheaper than what was available until then and process that allowed the entire process to be easier and faster. Festhome has been steadily growing ever since and adding more features and services to help the film festival industry.
To list a few, Festhome allows filmmakers to submit their films to film festivals all over the world that are on our list or even create secure links of their films to send to other festivals or producers, editors, or press. Festivals are able to manage their entries with their entire teams and even create accounts to give access to press and juries ahead of the event or communicate with all of the submitters quickly.
How, when, and where have Festhome started? What motivated you to begin this startup?
Festhome was born out of necessity as we, the founders Moisés Tuñón (from Spain) and Daniel Fenaux (Belgian), attempted to distribute our short films after attending film school in Madrid. It became very clear to us, very quickly, that this was an extremely extenuating process if you wanted to do it yourself, and extremely costly if you wanted to pay someone to do it for you, with very little information known and having to dig lists and lists of festivals to get anywhere.
Everything was done with postal services and DVDs, which quickly summed up the costs, and while some internet services already existed, they mostly just managed the postal submissions and different entry forms. We decided to build a new service that would create a single entry form for all festivals and where you could avoid sending anything by mail.
How has this project transitioned from being an idea to becoming a live, fully functioning service?
We have iterated a lot over the years, but it requires people to get their hands dirty and work hard like any other business. We have seen many services and ideas come ago at this time, and we believe that the only way for something to actually happen is to have someone who believes in it work hard on it.
What makes Festhome different from the others?
Festhome is the prime innovator in this space, and we have extremely strong moral beliefs that we translate into everything that we do. It is not about making money but about making something that helps people (and if you do, that will have value).
To further explain, we have been creating and have not stopped since the original idea of Festhome. Not all ideas have worked; some ideas did work in their time and moment and then were no longer needed, others simply failed, but when we create something that works, it is quickly replicated by others.
We have also seen and keep seeing all kinds of frauds come and go in all kind of manners and senses, and we try to be responsible from our little corner, as we know that many people look at us and ask us to intervene simply because we have a privileged position to see all of it and act on it. So we do, but like everything in life, if there’s money to be made, there will always be someone out there trying to make a profit from others.
Tell us about some major challenges that Festhome has faced throughout its evolution.
Festhome is a small company with few employees, and in fact, it is important that it is this way because doing everything that we do with a lot of employees for this industry would either make us ask for a lot of money for our services or go out of business.
We have learned to use a lot of automatic processes to help real humans behind the screen see what is happening, be warned, and react. An example of this could be our anti-fraud systems, which are kind of like an AI system which reads a lot of data and (after a lot of trial and error) can understand what is happening and warn a person of our team to take a look at something that may be a fraud, kind of like the advanced credit card fraud prevention systems.
We have had to learn how to keep a small and flexible structure but do all that is necessary to keep a legal business running, from doing accounting, filing taxes, managing dozens of servers, and trying to answer help requests as soon as possible. There’s a lot of going on behind the scenes to make Festhome what it is.
What features of Festhome are most popular among users, and why?
Obviously, submissions to festivals! Having so much information so easily accessible is huge. Our users are especially happy to know that they’re mostly safe when using our website and that we have done a lot of the pre-checks on the festivals listed.
Festivals are especially happy with all of the available configuration that we give them, especially how we allow them to handle the submissions. And in 2020, we have a huge surge in requests for our tools to make online events with Festhome TV, allowing them to set entire events spanning hundreds of films very quickly and with extreme ease and control.
Do you have specific requirements for festival registration? How can they be better at presenting themselves on the site?
We try and catch a lot of frauds, so we do have a lot of requirements, most of them we do not divulge as to keep our tools intelligent enough to keep working, but more than anything, for us to label something as a festival, it must have the purpose to screen films to audiences or promote them.
It is important to show what you are and what you intend to do, so photos and videos of an event are a great way to tell filmmakers what you are and how you will handle their films, and communicating properly and on time with their requests, as there is nothing more frustrating than having to send ten emails to someone only to get an answer two months later, that doesn’t show you as a serious partner for their film.
With so many festivals out there in the world, what are some ways that filmmakers can make better choices about what to submit to?
A filmmaker first has to know what kind of film they have done and who they intend to move with. Not all films are for all audiences, which is obviously important when creating and when you’re out to distribute the film.
Once you know what you have in your hands, look for festivals with the same ideas as you do, and generally, that’s a great way to get somewhere and have success. If what you want, however, is to win an Oscar and believe you have the best film of this year in your hands, you probably want the help of distribution professionals.
What are some other incentives for both festivals and filmmakers that might not be known via the website? Additionally, do you have future incentives planned?
We are building new tools to help filmmakers promote themselves better and in more ways, not just to festivals, but anyone. They already have Festhome TV if they want to rent their film and get some money back, but we also have plans of joining forces with some content purchasers to obtain new material and new projects to help great upcoming films to get the visibility they need with some funding.
Beyond the festival circuit, what other industry areas, without giving away any vital business plan information, do you see Festhome dabbling into?
We do not have any plans at this time to move away from giving services to festivals and filmmakers. We will keep trying to give them new and better ways to reach one another and their audiences, but we believe that our place is creating tools for them so that they can use them to grow.
By the way, can you tell us what other services do you offer to filmmakers besides the submission to festivals?
Filmmakers can also use our services to create secure screening rooms, download links of their films, and share and manage with other professionals such as subtitling or post-production houses. We also give them access to our free Festhome TV platform where they can sell their films however they want to whoever they want, to get back some money to prepare their next project.
As mentioned earlier, festivals are also requesting huge numbers of our Festhome TV platform to host their online events. It is a highly configurable service meant to allow a film festival to take place online, so it is not an OTT service, and there are dozens of those, but this is the online film festival system available meant specifically for that purpose, and the number of options and configurations show that.
Do you remember what was the first film festival to sign up on your website?
It was Puerto Rico’s Cinefiesta, and shortly after Huesca, both great festivals who trusted us from the very beginning without even knowing us before, they just saw two guys who really wanted to work hard and deliver something new, and they decided to jump on the internet era with us.
Are you ever able to attend any of the film festivals that receive their submissions through your site?
Indeed, we attend several events and festivals every year, in Europe mostly. To name a few, and while this year has been special due to pandemic, we attended Chile’s Cinelebu and the Cannes market’s online version. And, of course, the compulsory visit to Clermont-Ferrand’s Short Film market in France.
Where do you see the website in 5 years?
Five years is a lot of time, but hopefully, we will have a lot more tools that make the lives of filmmakers and festivals easier, more connected, and especially less costly.
What is Festhome’s ultimate goal?
To add all cultural and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile.