(The following introduction opens the full article in the Fall 2013 issue.)
What makes a film festival the Coolest? Is it a combination of quality cinema, great parties, and free swag? Or is it an alluring mix of hip, alternative venues and shoestring-budget, hyper-indie films you might not get to see anywhere else? What about the opportunity to gawk at celebrities, connect with fellow moviemakers, and take advantage of free travel perks? These are just some of the many factors we pondered before we could even begin to quantify the coolest film festivals on the planet this year. On top of all that, the MovieMaker team couldn’t possibly attend all the festivals in the Los Angeles area, much less the world—the territory this list’s title so ambitiously encompasses. So we decided to solicit a little help from our friends.
It dawned on us that the best way to create this list was to ask our readers to offer up their experience and opinions. After all, we know the collective MovieMaker readership has the goods on almost every festival out there. So instead of choosing 25 festivals ourselves as we’ve done in the past, we asked our readers to nominate and vote for what they see as the coolest. We also broke our list down into categories to reflect the increasing diversity on today’s festival circuit. While still naming 25 coolest “General” Festivals—all-encompassing fests that don’t discern their selections by genre—we also named the five coolest fests in 10 new genre-specific categories. Running the gamut from “Horror/Sci-Fi” to “Documentary” and “Shorts” and the smorgasbord that became the “Other” category (including animation fests, sports fests, 3D fests, you name it), just about every conceivable kind of festival is represented. Over four months, we received more than 15,000 votes and enlisted the help of Hone, a visual survey platform that simplified our crowd-sourcing efforts (check them out at gohone.com). It’s important to note that the following 76 festivals are presented without any particular hierarchy or order, save alphabetically—if you made it in, you made it in!
Top Five Coolest Documentary Film Festivals (Full list of nominees here)
Palm Springs, CA / March 27-31, 2014
Past special guests include Oliver Stone, Peter Coyote, and Dionne Warwick.
Camden, ME / Late September 2014
With an estimated population of 4,847, CIFF is one of the best small-town festivals in the world.
New York, NY / November 14-21, 2013
DOC NYC’s board of directors boasts such notable members as Michael Moore and Barbara Kopple.
Sheffield, UK / June 7-12, 2014
The self-proclaimed home of talent and cheek, freaks and stories.
Columbia, MO / February 27-March 2, 2014
In 2012, with the help of a generous matching grant from the Bertha Foundation, T/F audiences raised $30,000 for the five brave families featured in Lee Hirsch’s doc Bully.
Top Five Coolest Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festivals (Full list of nominees here)
Austin, TX / Mid to Late September 2014
FF’s guest roster has included such talent as Mel Gibson, Bill Murray, Bill Pullman, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau, George Romero, Darren Aronofsky, and evidently anyone who has ever made a film.
Ljutomer, Slovenia / Mid-July 2014
In addition to screening the best of unconventional horror films, the Grossmann Film Festival also incorporates the wine culture of the Priekija region.
Denver, CO / October 3-6, 2013
Mile High Horror Fest: taking a fear of heights to the next level.
Sacramento, CA / October 11-13, 2013
SHFF screens more films over fewer days than any other horror film festival in the nation, so you can spend your entire weekend in a non-stop state of trauma.
Los Angeles, CA / October 3-6, 2013
2012’s “Blood List” (the top unproduced dark genre screenplays of the year) included four past Shriekfest winners.
Sincerest thanks from the MovieMaker team to everyone who participated in the compilation of this list. To the runners up that didn’t make the final five in each category, we send our condolences, and thank you for your voting. There’s always next year. Glad to see your favorite film festival on this year’s list? Think you have a cooler festival than these up your sleeve? Tweet at @moviemakermag, tag us on Facebook (MovieMaker Magazine) or leave a comment! MM
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