Red Flags & Warning Signs

What to look for and what to avoid


From the ashes of COVID-19, the rise of scam festivals has become increasingly apparent. Many of these fraudulent events establish an online presence or host awards ceremonies only. This allows them to cut costs and create a facade of legitimacy. Many have learned the art of employing persuasive tactics. Filmmakers are entice with incredible discounts that are difficult to resist. That said, we want to highlight the Red Flags & Warning Signs you should look for.

Scam film festivals alert sign

Identifying scam festivals is challenging. Many of them manage to appear genuine with impressive logos, fake audience images, and glowing reviews to bolster their credibility. But, what you need to do is understand the objective is to collect fees without delivering public screenings or opportunities. You will find many have secured listings on platforms like IMDb, which further deceives aspiring filmmakers. The largest platform is FILMFREEWAY, where you can get more information about them.


So how do you protect yourself against scammers? – You can start by researching thoroughly before submitting entry fees to any film festival. Be cautious of festivals promising you will reach a wider audience. Look for proof of physical screenings andopportunities for filmmakers to engage in. Empty gestures like ‘Official Selection’ status or PNG laurels without genuine recognition are meaningless. Some festivals demand winners purchase low-quality PDF certificates or Trophies. Therefore, diligence and investigation is your frontline of defence against fraud and it will help preserve the integrity of legitimate festivals.

Red Flags & Warning Signs What to look for and what to avoid

It makes sense to be aware of fraudulent festivals. Certain countries like India and Italy have a higher concentration of such events. With that in mind, here’s a list of red flags and warning signs to help you identify fraudulent festivals. As a note, the significance of each point may differ depending on your situation and may not be applicable in every case.

20 Give Away Signs that a Festival is a Scam or Fake

  1. No public screenings – Festivals that don’t have public screenings and only list themselves as “awards only” or are “online only” should be avoided.
  2. Minimal contact information – Suspicious if the festival’s website doesn’t have easy-to-find contact details of at least one key team member.
  3. Confusing name – Be wary of festivals with names similar to established film festivals as it may create confusion and imply prestige.
  4. Administered from overseas – A festival with its base in a different country is a red flag, especially if the organizers don’t attend the event themselves.
  5. High entry fees – Obscure festivals charging high fees may be a scam. Many festivals require no entry fee at all.
  6. Accepting all films that pay a submission fee – Beware of festivals that automatically accept and select all films that pay a submission fee.
  7. Unfeasibly long Call for Entries window – Beware of festivals that operate with an open call all year. They are set up to collect submission fees only.
  8. Vague selection and judging information – Look for festivals that post details of their selection process and the people judging, including every member of the jury.
  9. No verified winners list – Look for festivals with a verified winners list, as fraudulent festivals may aim to create a false history.
  10. Minimal information about selected films – Look for festivals that provide detailed information about selected films, and no links.
  11. A large number of awards – Legitimate festivals have a limited set of awards. Be wary of festivals with a list of 50 or 60 award categories. They give zero physical awards, as physical awards are costly to produce.
  12. Prizes are limited to a certificate and laurels – Look for festivals that present physical awards to winners not a sent PDF for you to print off and pin on your wall.
  13. Filmmakers must pay for their trophies – Beware of festivals that require filmmakers to pay for their trophies or to attend the event in order to collect them.
  14. No printed festival programme brochure/catalogue – Look for festivals with a printed screening schedule or a comprehensive online catalogue.
  15. Outdated website and social media accounts – Legitimate festivals have staff members administering their website and social media.
  16. No proven sponsors – Look for festivals with relationships with legitimate businesses and film industry organizations.
  17. It’s part of a chain – Be wary of festivals run by the same organizers around the world as it may be a money-making scam. They will accept you and then offer a discount code to each of their other festivals, which are just cloned.
  18. Filmmakers’ travel expenses – Most smaller festivals cannot afford to pay or cover travel expenses or accommodation. But they certainly won’t ask you to pay once you attend. If you have to pay to attend – Don’t go!
  19. A dubious festival’s history – Look at the reviews from past participants, how long it has been going, and who runs it.
  20. Attending a fraudulent festival – Beware of poor venue quality, inaccurate program schedule, and a lack of attendees.

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