If a filmmaker has a documentary short (less than 30 minutes) or feature how should they approach the "festival circuit?"
If the film has a television sale and/or theatrical deal in place:
-they should let the distributor handle it. festivals don't matter.
-they should be certain the film is cleared for Emmy, Oscar, Peabody, Dupont awards.
-they should see if they can coordinate some festival showings at "A" festivals to help with the theatrical release or television marketing. "A" festivals like: Cannes, Berlin, London, New York, Toronto are all excellent.
-Most festivals don't matter.
If the film does not have a television sale and/or theatrical deal in place:
-they should STOP and SHOP the work to find a sale BEFORE doing a festival.
Films are worth more not finished than finished since distributors and networks have different needs, markets, deals for works in process v finished works.
-I would ask the filmmaker why they made the sale without a deal (or deals) in place in the first place.
Trying to sell a show at a festival as a finished work is not a good idea.
The Festival "circuit" does not exist. It's not a business for the filmmaker, it's only a business for the festival.