Ah, those devilish 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 to ship your film off to seek its fortune, but pretty soon that adds up to significant costs trying to get your baby screened. (And even third-party submission sites aren’t free.) Hence this list. Once again, we made film festival evaluation as much of a science as possible: Festivals around the world were sent a survey encompassing such criteria as travel compensation, value of prizes, acceptance/submissions ratio, alumni relations, networking and press opportunities, quality of panels, workshops, even parties. We ranked the answers on a point system (and looked into some helpful testimonials from circuit-weary moviemakers) to arrive at these 50. We’ve said it before and it bears repeating—Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, SXSW, Venice, Toronto are not on this list—not because you shouldn’t submit to them (see Jeremy Saulnier’s article on Blue Ruin, on page 28 in the Spring 2014 issue), but because you don’t need us spotlighting them. (Of course, lines are rarely absolute—we ultimately left out Slamdance, but kept the LA Film Festival.) Most of these festivals are a bit homier, edgier, more personal and, we believe, absolutely worth it.
Attention, American moviemakers looking for international distribution! 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 it!
“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 fest 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!”
Besides their highly educational five-day Creative Conference, the 38-year-old Atlanta Film Festival produces their own moviemaking self-help guides, podcasts and webinars available for download.
Eight days, 200 films, and 175 panels—the Austin Film Festival sure packs 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.
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.
BSDFF holds an annual “Doc Shop” with 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 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.
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.”
Besides attending stellar 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.
Check back next Wednesday for the list of festivals from D through I. To read the entire list, buy the Spring 2014 Issue of MovieMaker Magazine on physical and digital stands on April 22, 2014. What festivals do you think are worth the entry fee? Let us know what we’ve missed out in the comments. Curious about last year’s 50? Read our 2013 list. To subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine, click here.