Festival Spotlight Friday: The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
by Alexandra Eide

Attention all moviemakers! If you thought being paid to travel around the South and screen your movie sounded too good to be true, think again. The South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is just that – a tour that gives you the opportunity to travel to small communities around the South, earning money every time you screen your film.

Southern Circuit

The Southern Circuit Tour was first introduced as a South Carolina Arts Commission program, and since has evolved into a truly unique roadshow-esque exhibition model. The tour is comprised of three separate circuits with six moviemakers in each (for a total of 18 participants). They travel for 10-12 days throughout the South, screening their film at approximately eight different venues along the way. Each moviemaker is given a $400 dollar honorarium each time they screen their film (earning up to $3,200), as well as all of their travel and living expenses paid. They also attend program-related events such as private dinners, public receptions, and a Q&A session after they show their film. John Beck (Harvest), a past participant in the tour, commented that “I have traveled with feature films all over this country (and one even played in France), but this is by far the most rewarding trip I’ve ever taken with a film. Hands down. No comparison.”

The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is accepting submissions for the 2014-2015 tour here. We spoke with Teresa Hollingsworth, Senior Director of Film and Traditional Arts for South Arts, to get more information on this year’s rendition – in case you’re still on the fence about submitting!

Alexandra Eide (MM): Tell us a little bit more about the Southern Circuit Tour and what a filmmaker can expect from this experience.

Teresa Hollingsworth (TH): Southern Circuit films often screen to audiences who would never have the opportunity to see these films, let alone meet the filmmaker. Community engagement is critical to the success of Southern Circuit. Our audiences are not typical film festival crowds, but folks who are interested in discovering new independent film, without having to travel to New York, Toronto or Park City. Filmmakers also experience our legendary Southern hospitality!

Harvest

MM: Your website says that this is the “nation’s first regional tour of independent filmmakers.” How did you come up with this model?

TH: Southern Circuit was previously a South Carolina Arts Commission program. The model was developed to take great films (and filmmakers) to small communities and to not depend on audiences to attend a film festival outside of their community.

The Circuit provides filmmakers with the paid opportunity to tour with their films, screening to new audiences, and engaging audiences in discussions about the content of their film and the art of filmmaking. Festivals (which we love) typically program concurrent screenings, thus films are competing for audiences members. Our filmmakers and their work are the featured event at their screening. Also, our audiences are generally composed of folks who don’t attend film festivals.

MM: How do you pick the cities and venues you travel to?

TH: Screening partner communities are located in the nine-partner state region of South Arts (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee). No community is too small. Screenings occur in a variety of venues — churches, performing arts centers, museums, universities, indie movie houses, and historic and commercial theatres. Film is the most democratic of art forms. Why shouldn’t screening opportunities be?

MM: Describe your submission process, and the choices you make as programmers.

TH: Filmmakers apply via Withoutabox. Films are first reviewed by Southern Circuit staff and invited film industry experts (festival programmers, filmmakers, etc.). We’re different than a festival because our screening partners actually select the final films that will tour and screen in their communities. They know their audiences better than we do. Screening partners make the final selections.

MM: What notable films have played at the Circuit in the past?

TH: Children of Invention; Reporter; The Glass House; GMO OMG; Woodpecker; A Man Named Pearl; The Winding Stream; Louder Than a Bomb; Finding Hillywood.

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MM: The Southern Circuit Tour helps get movies out to smaller communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. Is there an educational aim to the tour as well?

TH: Education is at the heart of Southern Circuit. All screenings are followed by a Q&A and reception. Audience members have the opportunity to mix and mingle with filmmakers, who speak to high school and university students about their process and stories.

MM: The model you’ve developed seems almost too good to be true for the filmmakers who are selected. Are there any challenges in working with this unique model?

TH: We don’t provide roadies or entourages. You have to carry your own bag!

MM: Is the tour doing anything different or special this year? How is the festival evolving?

TH: We’ve reached new audiences in communities where we’ve never previously screened. This season we added eight new communities. We are growing!

MM: What would you say to someone who might still be on the fence about submitting?

TH: Southern Circuit is not a festival, but a tour! Individual film screenings allow our filmmakers and their work to be the center of attention; they are not competing with other films or filmmakers at their screening. Theirs is the featured work! Filmmakers receive artist honoraria. In other words — they get paid to tour with their film! Screen your film. Get paid. See the South. Join the Circuit! MM

Click here more information on how to submit your film. Follow the Southern Circuit Blog here.`

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