Rebekah Louisa Smith

Founder of The Film Festival Doctor

Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith, is an Award Winning Film Festival Strategist Published Author and Founder of The Film Festival Doctor. Her work surrounds developing targeted film festival strategies for filmmakers in order to get their films seen by audiences around the world. By developing targeted strategies for her clients, who include filmmakers around the world, she has been able to get their films seen by audiences globally. Rebekah and her team have helped their clients win over 1,000 awards and have secured hundreds of festival screenings including the Sundance, Tribeca, Palm Springs, Locarno, Cinequest, Nashville and BFI London Film Festivals.

Where did the idea for The Film Festival Doctor come from?

Becoming The Film Festival Doctor all happened by accident, and it was a beautiful happy accident. I found studying for my PhD to be quite an isolating and solitary process. My dear friend Gaz Bailey who created the awesome Abertoir Horror Festival had just launched this festival and he asked if I would like to come on board and co-produce the festival with his team. I said yes as I figured it would be a pleasant distraction from the PhD and it turned out that happy distraction was in fact a huge wake-up call showing me that what I really wanted to do for my career was not to work within the world of academia but rather the film industry, specifically within the film festival sector.

When I began working for the Abertoir festival I was in my element, and I loved the energy of film festivals and what brilliant and abundant events they were. I began asking filmmakers who were attending Abertoir what they liked and disliked about film festivals. The most frequently reoccurring answers were that they all loved attending film festivals and seeing their films on the big screen, winning awards, networking, drinking and parties. However, what they disliked was that there appeared to be nobody available who they could consult with, to help them get their films seen in festivals and create a festival strategy for them.

After doing my own research, they were right – there were very few festival strategists so I decided to take a huge leap of faith; I knew deep down that I could do a good job as a festival strategist as I knew a lot about the festival circuit and how it worked shortly after I started working for Abertoir and attending other festivals. Shortly after I made this decision, in August 2010 my brand The Film Festival Doctor was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My days are full on and tend not to calm down until 6pm CST time! I have staff in the UK and USA. Upon waking I’ll have lots of emails, Facebook, what’s app & text messages from my UK team a they’re 6 hours behind. The morning will revolve around responding to them and having meetings with clients whilst they’re still in the office. This will continue for up until 2pm CST, then part 2 of the day begins with USA staff and clients. I do love my morning route as the energy and pace flows really well and I also love waking up to lots of exciting messages as often there are lots of opportunities presented for my business and my clients. I have a great skill of filtering out very quickly what is important, what is not important, what needs to be delegated and what can be deleted.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have a team that share and believe in my vision so I get creative and think of all of the ‘outside the box’ ways to achieve our goals and ultimately create a successful festival strategy for our client’s film that will get it seen on the festival circuit. Each time I create a films festival strategy for my clients, I like to step outside of my comfort zone and take risks, specifically including festivals within the strategy which might be harder to get into but the films strengths could get it selected.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Instagram and Pinterest – I get a ton of ideas and inspiration from these 2 platforms. I love scrolling through Instagram and seeing how other business owners are promoting themselves though video content and posts. I love content creation and finding new ways to present my brand to my industry and ensuring that it is as always unique and stands out in a crowded market. I also love Pinterest as it gives me lots of ideas for my personal branding and how to ensure that I stand out as a business owner when I present myself when I am attending film festivals by wearing the right type of eye-catching outfits, dresses and clothing colors that will elevate myself and my brand.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Discipline. I am extremely disciplined. I work every day and stick to my routine in the mornings by completing all emails, setting daily goals and that we are on schedule to meet all of our deadlines. I always follow things through as well as follow up every meeting that I have had with an email and text message to keep building up good relationships.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Delegate, delegate and delegate. When I first started up my company, I did EVERYTHING myself and I refused to delegate as I didn’t think that anyone else could do a better job than myself. I realized after delegating to other people that they could do the job better than me! And as a team we create magic for our clients.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

FOUR ROOMS is an amazing film which is Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated film. However, it appears that I am on my own with this belief as I’m yet to find anyone else who likes this film!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Put together a sales pipeline and check your pipeline every day. A sales pipeline is an organized, visual way of tracking multiple potential buyers as they progress through different stages in the purchasing process. It is a way to keep a record of the amount of business a company expects to receive in the coming weeks, months or years. Typically, it is used when companies have multiple leads to show when these leads become either confirmed sales or lost opportunities. You’ll find that you will more than likely tweak this pipeline with updating the status of a prospective client and their decision, a new lead, a new client and more than likely a new opportunity for your business.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Without a doubt manifestation, specifically setting very detailed and focused intents. I used to say manifestations which were very general such as ‘I am a strong business leader’ and ‘I am building a brand.’ When I recited those manifestations to my business consultant Nand Harjani, he said they were lacking in specificity, clarity, and focus and that this was the reason why the outcomes were very general, confusing and not as successful as I wanted them to be. He told me I needed to introduce more detail and change the wording as that would change the energy behind my intentions. After doing this and figuring out exactly what I wanted things started to change and come together which hadn’t done so previously.

My short and sweet “I believe and trust the Universe” manifestation changed to “It is my intent to have no fear and self-doubt within me and to completely trust the direction the Universe is guiding me through for the sake of continuously enchanting and growing my relationships, my business and myself.” And that works all the time!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

This is something that I discuss in detail in my book; BORN TO DO IT in the chapter ‘HOW AN EPIC FAIL CAN BECOME ONE OF YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL SERVICES’ As I previously mentioned I never used to be good at delegating. I thought I had found a way to resolve a persistent and frequently occurring problem for my filmmaker clientele. In addition to getting their films seen in festivals filmmakers also wanted to get their films sold to distribution companies (such as Netflix etc.) so they could make money on their film and/or pay back their investors.

Despite having no previous experience with film sales and selling films I decided that I would take on the task of helping them sell their film and become a sales agent. Little did I know how horrific this was going to be. It taught me a lesson that when a job you are doing feels like horrendously hard work and you are not enjoying it to the point where it is becoming a problem to your wellbeing, stop and go back to what you should be doing – what you’re good at.

As I was trying to sell films, I realized I had no idea how to close a sales deal and absolutely no experience within this area of the film business whatsoever. The more time I spent within this world, the more I learnt that it was a very tricky part of the industry to navigate. There were no hard and fast rules; you just needed a lot of experience of negotiation and closing deals to get a decent one. I had no idea what you needed to be careful of or what the process involved from start to finish.

It wasn’t until a few years later at the Berlin Film Festival that I came to realize the value of that epic fail. Although it was stressful, the experience helped me to identify another gap in the market and, simultaneously, solve the problem I was trying to resolve several years earlier outlined above. I met a sales consultant named Billy who helps filmmakers find the right sales agent for their film. He had over 30 years worth of film sales experience behind him, and knew exactly how the sales arena worked – he was in fact the missing piece of my business puzzle! When a client of mine wanted to find a sales agent to sell their film instead of me trying to sell the film for them Billy could find the right type of sales agent for them! He’s been doing this for my clients now since 2016 and always finds them the right type of agent to sell their film.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there should be a Film Festival App which in my eyes would be an encyclopedic directory of the key film festivals around the world which filmmakers can research to get all of the key statistics of each festival that they’re interested in, including for example how long it has been running for, audience numbers, previous films they’ve screened and the type of films that they look for and how to submit their films.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It cost $100.00 for an introductory session with a chiropractor who was recommended to me to help untangle my nervous system and Vegas nerve which had been severely damaged due to PTSD. I was very skeptical about this treatment as I had no idea how a chiropractor was going to do this since I was under the impression that these types of therapists clicked your body back into place. However, when I met the awesome Dr Levi he told me he’d be using a different form of chiropractor methods and wow after 1 session I was impressed – I’ve been going back there frequently ever since and my nervous system is now so much better.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

The Calm meditation app – I love this app I try to use it as often as possible before I go to bed to meditate productively as it offers brilliant guided meditations – there are all sorts of types of meditations on this app for example rising rituals and even managing anxiety. It helps me be productive in terms of my overall wellbeing and staying grounded.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This was the first book which helped me to learn to never take things personally. The whole book pin points the root cause of so many common self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. I lived my life for many years when I was at High School dwelling on these self-sabotaging issues and when a friend of mine recommended this book to me it provoked several ‘ah-ha’ moments and helped me on the road to recovery.

What is your favorite quote?

A quitter never wins and a winner never quits – this was actually a lyric from a song by Pharrell Williams! As soon as I heard it which was around 4 years ago it has stuck in my mind ever since and this is so spot on. It always pops into my head and I meditate on it.

Key Learnings:

  • Always delegate
  • Create a sales pipeline to successfully operate & grow your business
  • Try something new that you had a limiting belief about
  • Open your mind to the abundant world of manifestation