Time and time again, I see my fellow filmmakers rushing to meet some Festival deadline. What happens usually is we submit a rough cut and the film gets rejected. What makes filmmakers so special is we all think we are the exception to the rule. The irony of that statement is that mind set essentially makes us the rule.
To the indie film community. I'm begging you. If you're a first time filmmaker with no track record of success please please please please please tame your eagerness and wait until you have completed your film to show it to anyone. As much as programmers and sales agents and distributors say 'we've watched rough cuts before.' Don't listen. It's their job to cull what doesn't fit for their brands and their programs, and they are not here to give us the benefit of the doubt, they are in place to curate, to make judgements based on what they see.
Most of them (programmers, sales agents, distributors) are a wonderful, well intentioned group of people, but a rough cut is exactly that, rough, and it is the onus of the producer and the filmmakers to pump the brakes. They are not in the business of giving you the benefit of the doubt. They are not in the business of using their imagination to see what your film could be. They are in the business of judging. Period.
So stop rushing to meet festival deadlines to submit incomplete work. Be patient. Disciplined. If you miss a Festival deadline, that's fine. There are many more festivals to come, and they happen like clock work every year, so sit on the film, unless you have some one putting a gun to your head...and then I'd suggest using every ounce of diplomacy and reason to explain to them to take their finger off the trigger and be patient too.
And if you're trying to sell your film at a Festival make sure you have a plan B, C, and D to recoup your investment. The only Festival where sales happen overnight are Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, Los Angeles Film Festival Cannes, Tribeca, and sometimes SXSW. If you're not premiering at one of these and wish to sell your film...wait until you get rejected by all of them to consider playing anything else. And for most of us in the current marketplace, the dream of a Festival sale is exactly that...a dream. One that was sold to us in the mid nineties...it's a new day, a new market and the plan Bs, Cs and Ds are the ones I've seen actually bring a filmmaker a greater degree of control, happiness and success with their film's release.
Determine if you're playing poker to create intrigue when it comes times to go to market or determine if you are playing a game of 52 card pick up to build an audience well before you identify your Premiere date...and STICK TO THE STRATEGY!
My favorite 52 card pick up strategy to date - http://www.fastcocreate.com/1679933/portrait-of-a-kickstarter-success-indie-game-the-movie
I've seen too many films struggle to recoup waffling on these key points, and I've seen too many films stumble by rushing to meet a festival deadline...
so in summation - FORGET A FESTIVAL DEADLINE. FINISH YOUR MASTERPIECE, THEN SHOW IT OFF :)