Learning filmmaking will only get you so far. Putting your knowledge into action and creating an actual product is the true demonstration of mastering the craft. Film festivals offer students the opportunity to showcase their work in front of other students and professionals in the field.
Not only are film festivals an excellent way for students to interact with other aspiring filmmakers and network with professionals in the field.
Most festivals offer participants a chance to compete against other students in their field and receive monetary prizes if chosen for an award. Festivals can range from a specific type of film or area of filmmaking, such as screenwriting and producing, or many film festivals include competitions on all aspects of filmmaking. Categories often include cinematography, documentary, writing, editing, sound, directing and producing. Students are invited to submit their work in multiple categories. In some festivals, students submit their films competing against professionals in the field as well. They receive criticism on their final product and can use this experience as a learning opportunity on what to do for the next project they produce.
Film festivals are offered continuously throughout the year, and many are sponsored by schools while others are sponsored by film companies or associations. The beauty of film festivals is you can always find one occurring in your area at any given time. Even if you do not submit a film into the festival, you are encouraged by faculty to still attend the festivals as a way to learn from other students and professionals in their work submitted.
Some of the best learning can be done from watching work from your fellow students. Each student has something to offer in the learning experience, and watching their finished product in the festival, you can gain knowledge and different understanding of aspects in the industry.
Are film festivals worth it? Absolutely! Not only will you have an opportunity to debut your own work in front of an audience, but you will gain immeasurable experience from colleagues and professionals in the industry, having fun in the process.
USC Cinematic Arts: http://cinema.usc.edu/production/firstlook.cfm#sthash.O04rZjFu.dpuf