Provo, Utah / September 8-16, 2017 / filmquestfest.com / S
Genre fest FilmQuest has done much in its three years of existence, but its proudest accomplishment might be its growing community of alumni who reunite at parties held throughout the year. Last year’s edition featured a number of interesting panels, such as “Minorities in Genre: Past, Present, Future,” “Practical Effects in the 21st Century” and “Worlds That Don’t Exist: Writing for Genre.” This year, says Festival Director Jonathan Martin, look forward to “a live symphony playing the music of great genre film scores,” among other events.
Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival
Providence, Rhode Island / August 8-13, 2017 / film-festival.org / A, S, P, V
This BAFTA-, Canadian Screen Awards- and Academy-qualifying festival hosts a slew of smaller fests and sidebar presentations that submissions automatically enter, as well. Education is something that RIIFF takes seriously: This year, the festival is expanding its Flickers’ Filmmaker Mentorship Program, which matches local filmmakers and students with international filmmaker mentors during the run of the festival. It will also partner with University of Rhode Island on a course immersing students in festival operations and activities.
Heartland Film Festival
Indianapolis, Indiana / October 12-22, 2017 / heartlandfilm.org / A
Alumni praise Heartland Film Festival’s engaged audiences—who get to interact with visiting moviemakers beyond October through encore screenings, masterclasses and other roadshow events. Fest participants gets cozy at a newly expanded Premiere Pavilion party area, where Q&As, live music and other festivities take place. All accepted shorts are offered non-exclusive distribution on ShortsHD, and if that deal isn’t sweet enough for you, the generous cash prizes ($100,000 will be given out this year) probably are.
HollyShorts Film Festival
Los Angeles, California / August 10-19, 2017 / hollyshorts.com / A, V, S
This year, the newly Academy-qualifying HollyShorts adds a VR category to its line-up. Those projects will join a bonanza of quality short films, many of which can be screened on streaming site Bitpix during the 10-day festival, for moviemakers curious about their new friends’ work. Competition is stiff for the prizes, which include Kodak film stock and partial funding for your next project. 2016 attendees enjoyed panels ranging from an intellectual property primer to a proof-of-concept how-to, all in the heart of Hollywood.
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Toronto, Ontario, Canada / April 27 – May 7, 2017 / hotdocs.ca /A, V, P
Hot Docs is a documentary giant with major industry attendance and knockout programming (2016 hosted the international premieres of O.J.: Made in America, Cameraperson and Life, Animated). Haven’t got a film to show yet? Next to the festival runs a huge industry conference and forum—billed as “North America’s most effective international documentary market”—which puts heavy focus on international co-producing. Consider attending some of its workshops and town hall sessions and getting schooled.
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Hot Springs, Arkansas / October 6-15, 2017 / hsdfi.org / A
Last year, Lara Stolman’s feature doc Swim Team world-premiered at HSDFF and went on to a robust and prestigious tour of the circuit—one of the festival’s many success stories. Hot Springs attendees party in some creative venues—think historic bathhouses, the Gangster Museum of America and the majestic Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa—that give the whole affair its fantastic local color. Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit.
Indie Memphis Film Festival
Memphis, Tennessee / November 1-6, 2017 / indiememphis.com
Indie Memphis keeps evolving. Last year, the fest acquired Amazon Studios as a marquee sponsor, becoming the first festival outside of Sundance, Tribeca and Seattle International Film Festival to receive the honor. “They cited our commitment to diversity as a key factor,” says Executive Director Ryan Watt, and—after a strong line-up of African-American titles in 2016—civil rights will continue to be a programming focus. Get ready for live music before every film… and copious barbecue, too.
Julien Dubuque Film Festival
Dubuque, Iowa / April 20 – 23, 2017 / julienfilmfest.com
Communication is a big strength of this burgeoning Iowa festival. Staff provide intensive publicity assistance, from placing interviews on local radio to connecting filmmakers with the surrounding schools. “I also personally write to filmmakers who don’t make it as official selections,” says Executive Director Susan Gorrell. “Yes, it takes a lot of time, but it’s a personal touch that I think is very important.” Another nice touch? Films screen up to four times over the four-day festival.
Mammoth Lakes Film Festival
Mammoth Lakes, California / May 24-28, 2017 / mammothlakesfilmfestival.com
Expect prime bonding with your fellow moviemakers at Mammoth Lakes. We’ll let Festival Director Shira Dubrovner count the ways: “We take over a student housing facility and put filmmakers all in one place. We take them on a field trip to the ghost town of Bodie, one of the top five ghost towns in America. We treat them to a night of bowling. There are also informal nightly visits to the local hot springs where filmmakers can have a warm, relaxing soak, under the moon and stars.”
Maryland International Film Festival
Hagerstown, Maryland / March 2018 / marylandiff.com / P
Director Joe Carnahan (The A-Team, The Grey) is Maryland International Film Festival’s creative director, and his presence during opening night festivities makes for a great networking opportunity. This six-year-old festival’s line-up is very indie, with the occasional festival circuit darling (for example, Kamala Lopez’s documentary Equal Meets Equal this year). Beyond the screen, the festival features extracurriculars like speed pitching and acting classes. Students submit for free to its high school shorts contest.