(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—if you made it in, you made it in!
See the first category winners (Documentary and Horror/Sci-Fi Festivals) here, the second (Short Film and Comedy Festivals) here, the third (Environmental/Social Cause and Women’s Film Festivals) here, the fourth (LGBT and Ethnic/National Film Festivals) here, and the fifth (Experimental/Underground and Out of the Box) here.
Ashland, OR / April 3-7, 2014
There’s a reason they call springtime in Southern Oregon “a dream you’ll never want to leave.”
Austin, TX / October 24-31, 2013
AFF is one of the reasons why the city of Austin was MM’s Top City to Be a Moviemaker in 2013.
Beaufort, SC / February 12-16, 2014
Beaufort has served as the backdrop for more than 20 major motion pictures, including Forrest Gump.
Palatine, IL / Late July 2014
The Blue Whiskey Cinema Series offers beer, 50-cent wings, and a great independent film every first Wednesday of the month. Oh, and their festival is pretty cool, too.
Charleston, SC / April 9-13, 2014
CIFF’s tag line is “five days of fun and film.” Cinema and alliteration at their best.
Coney Island, NY / Late September 2014
You know you’ve wanted to go to Coney Island since you were a kid. Why not catch a film festival while you’re there?
Wilmington, NC / November 13-17, 2013
Not only is this festival cool in virtually every way, it has a horrifyingly cute monster mascot named Izzie. Seriously, check out their website.
Los Angeles, CA / May 29-June 8, 2014
The name Dances with Films was a play on the plethora of “-dance” film festivals that cropped up left and right in the ’90s—Slamdance, Digidance, Nodance, TromaDance.
Maitland, FL / Early to Mid-April 2014
Previous celebrity guests have included Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride. We can only hope that future FFFs will be “as you wish.”
Pepin & Stockholm, WI / October 17-20, 2013
Flyway’s opening night awards ceremony bequeaths talented recipients with the Flyway Ax, a stone sculpture designed by nationally recognized local artist David Culver.
Columbia, SC / Mid-April 2014
Repeat finalist alert! Indie Grits made our 20 Coolest Festivals list back in 2010.
Dubuque, IA / April 24-27, 2014
Known as the “Masterpiece on the Mississippi,” Dubuque is the perfect place to take in movies and sights.
Lewiston and Auburn, ME / April 4-6, 2014
Just as Lewiston and Auburn share a film festival, we hear the cities may merge into one super city in the coming years.
Bellmore, NY / July 9-14, 2014
Steve Buscemi, Billy Baldwin, and Edward Burns have attended past closing night awards ceremonies.
Macon, GA / February 27-March 2, 2014
Thanks to the efforts of the Macon Film Commission, Macon has been seen on the big screen recently in Trouble with the Curve, 42, and Fast & Furious 5.
New York, NY / Late June 2014
Manhattan Film Festival boasts a Filmmaker Revenue Sharing Program, generating thousands of dollars for independent filmmakers.
Portland, OR / November 8-17, 2013
After the festival, the event lives on in the form of the “Best of the Northwest” touring program, presented at key cultural and educational organizations across the Northwest.
Orlando, FL / October 16-20, 2013
With the slogan “This is independent film for everyone,” Orlando opens its doors to moviemakers and movie lovers of all ages.
Phoenix, AZ / April 3-10, 2014
Accompanying events and parties, like Kids’ Day, Industry Night, and Phoenix Comicon, ensure a good time.
San Francisco, CA / Late April-Early May 2014
As one of the longest-running film festivals in the Americas, the organizers of the San Francisco International Film Festival know what they’re doing.
Santa Fe, NM / October 16-20, 2013
Previous guests of honor have included as unlikely a pairing as Wes Studi and Judy Blume.
Wichita, KS / October 16-20, 2013
Tallgrass Film Association: “stubbornly independent since 2003.”
Traverse City, MI / Late July to Early August 2014
Traverse City presents classic movies free of charge on a giant, inflatable outdoor screen overlooking Grand Traverse Bay in the Open Space Park at dusk.
New York, NY/ April 16-27, 2014
Moviemakers can now compete at Tribeca with films they shot on Vine. Talk about a short story!
St. Louis Park, MN / October 17-26, 2013
TCFF hosted comedic actor Justin Long at its closing festivities in 2012.
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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