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.
“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.
deadCENTER is located in the geographic middle of the Unites States, but it wants moviemakers to be the center of attention. With an entire committee devoted to guests’ needs during the festival, filmmakers go on coordinated daytrips with locals by day, and attend raging parties with free Stella by night.
Quentin Tarantino once called Fantasia “the most important and prestigious genre film festival on this continent.” Yet despite its high-profile premieres and top distributor attendance, your film won’t get lost in the shuffle. The three-week event runs that long so every film gets a fair chance of being viewed—there are never more than three screenings at once.
The female perspective reigns at this Canadian fest, though over 40 percent of attendees are men. Their archives boast the debut efforts of many an indie queen, including Anita Doron, Sarah Polley, and Ingrid Veninger. The festival is currently establishing its own distribution arm to further promote films directed by women.
The 23-year-old Florida Film Festival takes place at Enzian, a beloved art house theater with in-theater table service and cabaret style seating. Last year’s event was attended by distributors like Magnolia Pictures, IFC, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Variance Films, hunting for new films to acquire—perhaps yours next year!
Satisfied alumni spread the word about GIFF. “We have doubled our attendance the last couple years,” a festival representative said. “Several alumni go on our advisory board, and some have come back and made films in our city. This year at least a quarter of our accepted films were recommended by alumni.”
Why not submit to the Hamptons International Film Festival? Accepted moviemakers experience the perfect blend of a beautiful seaside community and top-quality films. The winner of the Golden Starfish Award wins a prize package of in-kind services of a $145,000 value. Cash awards are offered in other categories as well.
Short film fest HollyShorts packs a punch in the prizes department, with a total of $100,000 in production and post-production services, a $40,000 film school scholarship for winners of the Youth category, and all-expenses-paid trips to New Zealand and Noci, Italy.
Last year’s Indie Memphis held a filmmaking/brewing panel with Joe Swanberg, a party in a former bordello, and (of course) concerts galore. “Is this heaven? No, it’s Indie Memphis,” raved attendee Justin Doherty. They take film seriously, too: “We take particular pride in our jury, which features folks on par with Sundance.”
IPFF’s claim to fame is being one of the best LGBT film festivals in Europe. Rather uniquely, the fest’s Iris Prize provides the funding, support and guidance (valued at £25,000) for its winner to make a new project. Talk about not resting on your laurels!
Check back next Tuesday for the remainder of the list. If you missed A through C last week, don’t forget to check those out. To read the list in its entirety, 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.