How To Start Your Own Film Festival

An exclusive Q&A with Sandra Lipski about the start of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

By Sandra Lipski, Founder of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival (EMIFF). Photo courtesy of Silvia Acedo.

Founder of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival Sandra Lipski talks about the film festival's inception in 2012, as well as what continues to drive its mission today in an exclusive interview with ProductionHUB. 

PH: You started your own film festival in 2012, what gave you the idea to create one? And how did you go about building it?

Sandra Lipski: This answer needs a little bit of a backstory. I was born in Berlin, Germany, and at nine years old my parents and I moved to Mallorca, Spain. After high school, I moved to the United States — first New York, then L.A. 

The idea to start EMIFF evolved after I graduated film school in 2011. My thesis film was accepted to a bunch of fests and while attending them I thought it would be so cool to screen the film in Mallorca together with my friends and family. Then, I quickly realized: Mallorca did not have a film festival. I was quite shocked and disappointed. So I did my research and found out about various film festival attempts that never happened. At the time, I was young, eager and naïve enough to say, “Well, then I’ll just have to start my own!” 

PH: Running your own festival for eight years must be pretty difficult; what are the biggest challenges and how do the various challenges change as you grow year after year? 

Sandra Lipski: In the beginning, the challenge is to spark people’s interest so they help you. After a few years, once you build up a reputation and portfolio, that part gets a little bit easier. Funding is always an ongoing challenge. We are lucky that the public administration liked what we created, and after our 4th edition, they started a grant for Film Festivals, which has now developed into a major portion of our budget. 

Getting private sponsors is also challenging, but the more we grow the festival every year with great films, networking and guests, the more brands are interested in collaborating with us. These relationships don’t happen overnight -- they take years to build. I’ve learned to be more patient and focused, two qualities that have helped me a lot throughout the last eight years. 

PH: The EMIFF team looks like a tight-knit group, how’d you go about building your ‘Fest Team’?

Sandra Lipski: Building the Fest Team is an ongoing process. During most of the year, the team consists of two junior programmers, my Managing Director Pau (who writes the grant applications and builds the budget), and myself. 

I oversee everything from marketing, social media, programming, locations, sponsors and guest invites. Two months before the festival the team expands to approximately eight people plus an additional twenty volunteers. It’s a very diverse group (mostly filmmakers) from all around the world. We use a lot of video conference calls for team meetings -- it’s not always easy to get everyone on the same schedule, but this way the festival benefits from an incredibly international and diverse spirit, which I believe is one of the reasons EMIFF is so special. We always look for new, interesting and creative film lovers to join our Evolution family!

PH: What is the EMIFF mission and how has that also evolved?

Sandra Lipski: The EMIFF mission is "Bridging Cultures – Bridging People". My idea since the beginning is to create a festival that will bring people together no matter their race, religion or culture. Cinema is a global language, the only one everybody equally understands. Our mission is the foundation that EMIFF is built on, and every year we expand on it, by curating the best new independent films, panelists and special guests to share their stories — and therefore bridge their cultures with the audience.  

PH: Your festival’s programming is a very unique mix of national and international indie films — how many programmers are on your team?

Sandra Lipski: EMIFF has a team of two junior programmers, a documentary programmer and myself as head of programming. It’s my very favorite job to do; the number of films we can select is limited, making the process incredibly hard but also very rewarding. Each year the final film selection creates the soul for the individual festival edition when it all aligns — it’s magical. 

PH: I see you’ve awarded some amazing filmmakers at previous festivals, including Mr. Danny DeVito, Melissa Leo and Mads Mikkelsen! How does one go about getting huge talent to attend, and who might be coming this year? 

Sandra Lipski: Getting huge name talent to attend the festival has to do with three components: a great network, endless tenacity paired with patience and a huge dose of luck. Each special guest we have welcomed at EMIFF is the result of years of hard work and relationship-building. 

It’s like building a tower; you cannot start at the top, you have to carefully place one block on top of the other to slowly reach higher. When guests confirm their attendance, we do everything in our power to show them the best time in Mallorca. Our goal is for them to want to come back in the future and bring their friends. We currently have a couple of invites out to agents; simultaneously we try to build personal connections that can encourage a guest to say ‘yes’. It’s all very exciting! 


PH: You've earned a coveted spot on MovieMaker’s “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” list two years in a row and looks like you're listed as one of the 100 Best-Reviewed Festivals on FilmFreeway. We have to ask — what are your marketing strategy secrets?

Sandra Lipski: At EMIFF, everything is about and for the filmmakers. They are our client, our audience and our fan. It’s our priority to listen closely to what they’re looking for in a film festival. Apart from getting your movie screened, making great contacts and hopefully drinking some free booze, I want to know; how can we really help you get your next project made? Is it a panel about international co-production, learning about the casting process from a director’s point-of-view or how to find the best crew in the most remote places in Europe? We deliver the knowledge they really want and need in an environment that encourages creative freedom and builds new relationships. 

PH: What advice do you have for filmmakers when submitting to festivals?

Sandra Lipski: Do your research. There is a festival for every film, but not every film is for every festival. 

Don’t ask for “Fee Waivers,” instead, search the festival’s social media, follow them everywhere and 99% chance you’ll find a discount code on their Twitter or Instagram. 

Be ready and present only a completely finished product (including editing, sound, and color.) You only have one first impression, make it count. 

Keep your synopsis informative and your director’s statement short (2 sentences max). Include a Director’s pic and bio, but don’t start it with ”John is an award-winning Director…”. Simply mention the actual award and where and when you won it once. Comment on the festival’s social media after submitting — it shows that you’re engaged and it's the beginning of building that relationship. 

PH: What advice do you have for anyone who might be looking to start their own festival?

Sandra Lipski: Do a ton of research. Be incredibly passionate about it (all the time) and tell everyone about it, filmmakers and non-filmmakers — you need all the support you can get! 

Submit your film to EMIFF on FilmFreewayVisit our website to learn more about the festival. 

Follow EMIFF:

Final Deadline August 4th: use special ProductionHUB discount code PHUB19 via 

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