50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2016

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NFFTY filmmakers connecting with industry professionals during Speed Networking (networking meets speed dating). Photo by Todd Kaumans, NFFTY Program Manager.

NFFTY filmmakers connecting with industry professionals during speed networking. Photograph by Todd Kaumans

NATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR TALENTED YOUTH

Seattle, Washington / April 28 – May 1, 2016 / nffty.org

Are you 24 years old or younger? If yes, NFFTY provides some of the most valuable opportunities available to you. Such as: taking part in the festival’s yearly Speed Networking event alongside 100 industry reps; attending a “How Not to Be a Filmmaker” panel to identify the pitfalls of an early career; and creating original paid content for clients like Expedia and KIND Healthy Snacks under the recently launched NFFTY Creative label.

 

Photo by Kial James.

Eager participation at the Nevada City Film Festival 2015. Photograph by Kial James

NEVADA CITY FILM FESTIVAL

Nevada City, California / Sept. 8-11, 2016 / nevadacityfilmfestival.com

NCFF takes place in a picturesque historic mining town, and while it doesn’t quite rival Sundance and Telluride yet, programming (mostly short films) is nothing to scoff at. It’s an intimate experience, with staff organizing a range of fun activities that include barbeques, hikes and river trips, treasure hunts and even what Festival Director Jesse Locks calls “filmmaker support groups.”

 

Writer/Director Robert Eggers introduces his award-winning feature "The Witch" at the 2015 New Hampshire Film Festival. Photo by Stewart Mellentine.

Writer-director Robert Eggers introduces The Witch at the 2015 New Hampshire Film Festival. Photograph by Stewart Mellentine

NEW HAMPSHIRE FILM FESTIVAL

Portsmouth, New Hampshire / Oct. 13-16, 2016 / nhfilmfestival.com

“David Gordon Green and I have talked often about the kinds of audiences that we like to draw,” says Lisa Muskat, producer of Manglehorn, “and this was our audience.” New Hampshire Film Festival winners leave with a 15-pound, polished granite brick of a trophy—the heaviest in the industry. And two Grand Jury award winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to NYC to meet with Oscilloscope Laboratories or A&E IndieFilms.

 

Opening night New Orleans Film Festival 2015. Photo by Craig Mulcahy.

Opening night festivities at the New Orleans Film Festival 2015. Photograph by Craig Mulcahy

NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL 

New Orleans, Louisiana / Oct. 12-21, 2016 / neworleansfilmfestival.org

Last fall, NOFF launched the NOFF Industry Exchange, a speed-dating-style networking event enabling face time with distributors, financers and other service-providers. Extracurriculars like that, as well as pitch sessions and panels, augment a robust line-up, of which at least 90 percent is curated from submissions (including, in 2015, the U.S. premiere of Ethan Hawke-starring Born to be Blue). Diversity is an important objective for the festival, which manages a mentorship program for filmmakers of color.

 

Courtesy of the Oak Cliff Film Festival.

Festival co-founder and programmer Adam Donaghey screens doc Theory of Obscurity at Oak Cliff 2015. Courtesy of the Oak Cliff Film Festival

OAK CLIFF FILM FESTIVAL

Oak Cliff, Texas / June 16-19, 2016 / oakclifffilmfestival.com

OCFF’s primary venue is the historic Texas Theatre (run by the festival’s founders), the only commercial theater in Dallas with a reel-to-reel 35mm changeover system. “Unlike most fests of our size, we project in 16mm and 35mm when available,” says Festival Director and Co-Founder Barak Epstein. Meeting the organizers themselves is a highlight: They’re “acclaimed filmmakers, film exhibitors, film critics, and players not only in Texas, but on a national level,” says Epstein.

 

Festival signs in front of Santo Domingo Church. Photo by Douglas Favero.

Santo Domingo Church provides a backdrop to Oaxaca FilmFest. Photograph by Douglas Favero

OAXACA FILMFEST

Oaxaca, Mexico / Oct. 7-15, 2016 / oaxacafilmfest.com

Every film that plays OFF gets its own press conference, a means for the lesser-known to stand out amongst titles like 2015’s The Wannabe, Yakuza Apocalypse and The Thin Yellow Line. Moviemakers also get to participate in New Industry, three days of intensive filmmaking and screenwriting training by reps from the Sundance Institute, Kickstarter, VHX and others. Extracurriculars include a field trip to the ancient pyramid complex of Monte Albán.

 

Claire Carre and husband Charles Spano accept narrative feature award for "Embers." Carre also received the first Alice Guy-Blaché Filmmaker Award which includes $1,000 from the Louis M. Rabinowitz Foundation.

Moviemakers Claire Carré and husband Charles Spano accept a narrative feature award for Embers. Photograph by Bill Dabney Photography and Oxford Film Festival

OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL 

Oxford, Mississippi / Feb. 2017 / oxfordfilmfest.com

This year, Oxford Film Festival added a couple of new categories to its generous prize offerings, like the Alice Guy-Blaché award given to a female director, and an audience award whose winner gets a free return trip to, and encore screening at, the next edition of the fest. OFF is tightly knit to the Mississippi film industry, with many locally oriented panels—though out-of-towners can enjoy topics such as getting better reviews and tackling Hollywood’s diversity problem.

 

Opening Night film "Anomalisa" directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman with Philadelphia Film Society Executive Director Andrew Greenblatt and Artistic Director Michael Lerman. Photo by Luke Cloran.

2015 opening night film Anomalisa directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman with Philadelphia Film Society Executive Director Andrew Greenblatt and Artistic Director Michael Lerman. Photograph by Luke Cloran

PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Oct. 20-30, 2016 / filmadelphia.org/festival

Approaching its 25th anniversary, the Philadelphia Film Festival continues to play host to some of cinema’s finest, such as previous guests Todd Haynes, David O. Russell and Mark Duplass. Other frequent visitors: distributors like Paramount, Magnolia and Drafthouse. PFF provides quality programming year after year, a multitude of parties and receptions, and, in 2015, a panel entitled “How to Fest Best” about upping your festival submissions game.

 

A picturesque Provincetown welcome. Photograph by Chuck Anzalone, Courtesy of Provincetown International Film Festival

A picturesque Provincetown welcome. Photograph by Chuck Anzalone, courtesy of Provincetown International Film Festival

PROVINCETOWN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Provincetown, Massachusetts / June 15-19, 2016 / ptownfilmfest.org

Last year, one in five submissions was accepted to PIFF—not bad odds for a festival with consistently excellent programming, that boasts the attendance of distributors like HBO, Magnolia, IFC and more. One annual highlight is the John Waters Presents event, for which the beloved director picks one of his favorite films to screen (“Waters’ provocative and hilarious intros and post-screening conversations are legendary,” says Executive Director Christine Walker.)

 

Photo by Raindance Film Festival.

Moviemakers, celebrated and serenaded in London. Courtesy of Raindance Film Festival

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

London, United Kingdom / Sept. 21 – Oct 2, 2016 / raindancefestival.org

Raindance hosts a wide selection of European and American distributors every year, as well as such useful panels as 2015’s “Hacking The Film Marketing Strategy,” “Monetizing Your B-Roll Footage,” and “International Film and Co-Production Financing.” Alumni stay in touch on the festival’s new digital platform and at its various international hubs. Or, just network on the spot. Says Festival Producer Julian Chapelle: “Our guests leave London having handed out all of their business cards!”

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