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.
AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL POLAND
Wroclaw, Poland / Oct/ 21-26 2014 / americanfilmfestival.pl/index.do
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 INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
Ashland, OR / Spring 2015 / ashlandfilm.org
“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 FILM FESTIVAL
Atlanta, GA / Spring 2015 / atlantafilmfestival.com
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 FILM FESTIVAL
Austin, TX / Oct. 23-30 2014/ austinfilmfestival.com
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 / bendfilm.org
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.
BIG SKY DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Missoula, MT / Winter/Spring 2014 / bigskyfilmfest.org
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.
BROOKLYN FILM FESTIVAL
Brooklyn, NY / May 30-June 8, 2014 / brooklynfilmfestival.org
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 DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Chagrin Falls, OH / Oct. 8-12, 2014 / chagrinfilmfest.org
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.”
CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL
Silicon Valley, CA / Spring 2015 / cinequest.org
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).
DC SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL
Washington DC / Sep 11-21, 2014 / festival.dcshorts.com
“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.