Best Of: 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2014


Feast your eyes on MovieMaker‘s complete list of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2014.

Despite original plan to publish the list in installments (we had already begun here and here), we’ve decided we couldn’t keep the news to ourselves any longer. We’re happy to present our much-deliberated, comprehensive list, featured in the Spring 2014 issue of MovieMaker, out on newsstands and digitally today!



Ah, those devilish festival entry fees. They never seem like that much—if you’re organized and manage to hit early submission dates, you generally won’t be forking out more than $50 each time you ship your film off to seek its fortune. But pretty soon you’ve raked up significant costs trying to get your baby screened. (Unless you use an third party submission processor, but many festivals don’t accept submissions from them, anyway.)

Hence MovieMaker’s annual list. Once again, we made film festival evaluation as much of a science as possible: Hundreds of festivals around the world were sent a survey encompassing such criteria as travel compensation, value of prizes, acceptance/submissions ratio, alumni relations, press opportunities, distribution and acquisition history, quality of panels, workshops, and parties, and so on. We weighed the answers in a point system (and looked into some helpful testimonials from circuit-weary moviemakers) to arrive at the following 50.

We’ve said it before and it bears repeating—Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, SXSW, Venice, Toronto, Tribeca are not on this list; not because you shouldn’t submit to them (see director Jeremy Saulnier’s article on making Blue Ruin on page 28 of the Spring 2014 issue), but because you don’t necessarily need us spotlighting them. (Of course, the line gets inevitably hazy—we ultimately left out Slamdance, but kept the Los Angeles Film Festival.) These festivals are a little homier, a little edgier, a little more personal—and, we believe, absolutely worth it.



Wroclaw, Poland / Oct/ 21-26 2014 /

If you are an American moviemaker looking for international distribution, look no further. AFF, and their accompanying industry event “U.S. in Progress,” is the only film festival in central Europe focusing on U.S.-made films. Submission is entirely free—so we’d say it’s worth the entry fee.



Ashland, OR / Spring 2015 /

“The best films, the best people, the best time imaginable,” said Lucy Walker (The Crash Reel) of AIFF 2013, and dozens echoed her (seriously—we read their testimonials). The festival does its best to encourage filmmaking, so much so that one attendee said, “Heck, I’ll make a film just to be able to come back!”



 Atlanta, GA / Spring 2015 /

Besides their five-day Creative Conference, the 38-year-old Atlanta Film Festival produces their own self-help guides, podcasts and webinars available for moviemakers to download. These cover topics across all aspects of production, distribution, marketing and festivals.



Austin, TX / Oct. 23-30 2014/

Eight days, 200 films, and 175 panels—the Austin Film Festival sure knows how to pack a lot of fun into a short amount of time. Going into its 21st year, winners of Best Feature and Documentary will each win a $2,500 cash prize, and up to $1,000 for airfare and lodging.



Bend, OR / Oct. 9-12, 2014 /

For this Oregon-based film festival, feedback is key. Each year, the festival enlists the help of industry professionals to provide thorough feedback to accepted moviemakers about their films, and the program manager is prepared to offer those whose films weren’t accepted a thorough explanation.



Missoula, MT / Winter/Spring 2014 /

BSDFF holds an annual “Doc Shop” aiming to help moviemakers further their careers through workshops, work-in-progress presentations, and their annual International Pitch Session. Earlier this year, the fest was named an official Academy Award-qualifying festival in the Documentary Short Form category.

50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee - Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

2013 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival



Brooklyn, NY / May 30-June 8, 2014 /

Brooklyn Film Festival awards a total of $50,000 in prizes and services, plus a one-week theatrical release in NYC. Attendees include distribution agency reps, theater owners, online distributors, and museum and gallery reps, who are personally introduced by festival staff to moviemakers at events.



Chagrin Falls, OH / Oct. 8-12, 2014 /

CDFF staff contacts local special interest groups to notify them of related documentaries: “We had a film from Hungary in 2013. The Cleveland Hungarian club published an article about the filmmaker, subsidized his travel and there was a huge Hungarian contingency at the film screening.”



Silicon Valley, CA / Spring 2015 /

Besides attending fantastic workshops and panels, moviemakers mingle with giants of science and art alike, as Silicon Valley gem Cinequest gives out honorary Maverick Awards to game-changers in technology and culture (this year’s honorees included Neil Gaiman and the inventor of the cellphone).



Washington DC / Sep 11-21, 2014 /

“No one gives feedback like DC Shorts. The festival was created dedicated to this service.” DC Shorts staff is understandably proud of its patented feedback system, which allows all entrants access to individual scores and screening comments, followed by the possibility of speaking personally with programmers for further discussion.


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Profile photo of Alexandra Eide


  1. del snow

    May 1, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Full Frame. Weird omission.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      May 1, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Full Frame is a great festival for sure! Thank you!

  2. Michael Groom

    May 1, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I had the best time ever at the Sedona International Film Festival. They’re very hospitable: providing excellent accommodation for film makers, parties every night, food on tap in the filmmakers lounge, and the location is obviously breathtaking. Every screening I went to was sold out and there was a lot of good opportunity for networking with fellow film makers from all over the world. Once you’re accepted the first time, you can apply as an alumnus for free, forever.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      May 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Michael, Sedona IFF is definitely an excellent fest, and we’re glad you had such a fantastic experience. Thanks for the ringing endorsement!

  3. Holly

    April 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    The Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado Springs, CO was a great festival I attended as a filmmaker! They really take care of you and make you feel special. They have a bunch of events for the filmmakers and the programming is diverse. Check it out!

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 24, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Holly, your experience at Indie Spirit sounds lovely. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Noentryfee

    April 23, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    What about a topic on festivals that still don’t ask for entry fee ? Yes they exist, and some of them are kinda interesting.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Awesome idea, and something we’ll look into adding the next time we publish this list. For now, you’ll note that the American Film Festival in Poland is one such entry-fee-less fest!

  5. Harrah

    April 23, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    The Seattle International Film Festival actually starts on May 15, not the 25th as listed.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 23, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Harrah, thanks for catching that! We’ve made the correction. :)

  6. John R Taylor

    April 23, 2014 at 6:47 am

    The Shortini International Short Film Festival in Augusta, Sicily.
    It is a small city, the festival is a fabulous community of people working together to present a very good festival – divided into ‘Italian’ and ‘International’. The spirit of the place has to be experienced. It is an outdoor festival, with screenings at two locations in adjoining piazzas. Screenings start after dark and go to midnight – three nights.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 23, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      John, that sounds like a wonderful festival (adorable name). Thanks for putting it on our radar. Italian festivals are really fun – there’s a great one in Bologna every summer held in Piazza Maggiore; it’s for classic films, not new ones, but if you’re in Italy in June you should definitely check it out.

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