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50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2017

50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2017


International Festivals

American Film Festival (Wroclaw, Poland)

Wrocław, Poland / October 24-29, 2017 /

For a festival whose submissions are completely free, the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland doesn’t exactly get inundated in entries—so what are you waiting for? The festival is the only event in Central Europe dedicated to American independent film, and is designed to be an avenue toward both European distribution and co-production. Its two-day workshop for feature masterpieces in the making, U.S. in Progress, showcases up to six titles to European buyers and post-production houses.

Black Nights Film Festival

Tallinn, Estonia / November 17 – December 3, 2017 / / S, V, P

Kelly Fremon Craig’s crowd-pleasing The Edge of Seventeen screened at Black Nights Film Festival 2016. Courtesy of STX Entertainment

This Estonian festival is more of a “film market” than our other international picks, with its annual Industry@Tallinn summit: Expect works-in-progress showcases, co-production meetings, a talent lab and panels on how to enter the Russian and Baltic regional markets. This year, a new Storytek Creative Hub explores digital marketing, financing, production and sales in the global industry. Some of the high-caliber American titles to screen last year were Hell or High Water and The Edge of Seventeen.

International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg

Mannheim and Heidelberg, Germany / November 9-19, 2017 /

IFFMH has an unusual newcomer-only policy for its line-up. Courtesy of International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg

Though it’s the second oldest film festival in Germany, this stately affair in the country’s Baden-Württemberg state is a self-proclaimed “newcomer festival,” a platform for up-and-coming voices (many of whom don’t remain unknown for very long—hi, Jim Jarmusch and Atom Egoyan). Its annual Mannheim Meeting Place forum is designed for first- or second-time producers interested in international co-production. Producers lucky enough to be selected receive intensive mentorship from veterans of the industry.

Iris Prize Film Festival

Cardiff, Wales / October 10-15, 2017 / / P

Class photo from Iris Prize Festival 2016. Photograph by Jon Pountney

Eight shorts have been produced to date under the auspices of the Iris Prize (i.e. the £30,000, or US$36,600, cash prize given to the festival’s Best Short Film winner, enabling his or her next short)—two of which were selected for Sundance. This LGBT festival is an Academy- and BAFTA-qualifier; beyond screenings, it holds a low-budget producing forum, youth filmmaking conference and education day, as well as daily brunches, cocktail receptions and themed parties.

Oaxaca FilmFest

Oaxaca, Mexico / October 6-13, 2017/ / S, P

Filmmakers visit the Monte Albán ruins at Oaxaca FilmFest 2016. Photograph by Douglas Favero

The rise of Oaxaca FilmFest, now 8 years old and one of Mexico’s premier indie destinations, has been impressive. Competition to get in is stiff, but the payoff is considerable: The festival treats each film royally, offering every feature its own dedicated press conference. The three-day New Industry program offers directors and screenwriters workshops with distinguished reps, while the recently added Young Industry program does likewise for students. Bonus: On your day off, take in the nearby ruins of Monte Albán. MM

Illustrations by Kate Prior.

Fifty is not enough! As always, we had to leave out dozens of wonderful festivals this year. Feel free to give us an earful in the comments. This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Spring 2017 issue. Curious about past years’ lists? Read our 2016 list here and our 2015 list here.

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  1. Bob Cook says:

    The questioned asked was “Do Film Festivals give a shit about the films or are they just out to make money?”

    As the Executive Director of the Central Florida Film Festival I can say to you that it’s on the filmmaker to research the festivals they are entering. We made the MovieMaker “Top 25 Film Festivals….” in 2012, and continue to do more for the filmmaker in 2017, but somehow dropped off their list which is now the “Top 50”. There are more than 5000 film festivals worth the effort. They all have reviews and they all have a process. Take a look for what festival is good for your film.

    I believe the larger the festival the less personal care is given. The larger festivals have benefactors and large sponsors and an enormous payroll. Many of the smaller festivals are 501c-3 Charities and do not take salaries. All of that research is public domain. If you blindly send in your entry fee it is possible that your film might fall through the cracks.

    For example when a filmmaker sends in copies of their film without entry numbers, titles or even packaging (just a disc) it’s easier to toss them in the trash and move on to the next (it happens…a lot).

    I like to contact the filmmaker and let them know but we have barely three hundred entries. If I had 500 or more entries it would be impossible. Find a niche’ for your film and a festival that might appreciate your film. What’s a good festival fit is on you.

    At the Central Florida Film Festival we give a shit! That might become our new catch phrase (lol). I hope this helped.

  2. I’m a bit surprised that Michael Moore’s baby, the Traverse City Film Festival, is not on this list. I’ve been to the last three and each has offered stellar full length as well as short feature films with a very diverse array of subject matter. “Er, I think ya missed one here.”

  3. Thank you so much for considering us again this year MovieMaker! Added value is our dedicated goal to increasing the number of female directors that play our festival this year so we are providing a 50% discount to submit to female directed projects. Use BlacheOXFF on Film Freeway to get this discount!

  4. Consider the Sacramento International Film Festival (Marty Anaya, Director). Sacramento has been under the radar for over a decade with it vibrant filmmaking community. On any given day there are probably 2 or 3 indie films in production on the streets. Also, there must be over 10 or 12 other film festivals throughout the year with various themes. Our newest… The Food Film Festival, celebrating Sacramento as a Farm-to-Fork capital. This are ramping up in Sacramento!

  5. Jim Parker says:

    Surprised you did not include the Full Frame Festival in Durham, North Carolina in April and the Anchorage (Alaska) International Film Festival in December

  6. Jim Parker says:

    Surprised you didn’t include two very good U.S. festivals: Anchorage (Alaska) International Film Festival in December and the Full Frame Documentary Festival that takes place in Durham, North Carolina.

    • Terry says:

      You missed Dances with Films Festival in Hollywoood, CA which is all about independent Film Makers and showcases hard hitting subject matter from up and coming Film Makers.

  7. Susan Weiss says:

    In International Film festivals youmissed Guanajuato International Film Festival. #GIFF !!!!

  8. Check out the Blackbird Film Festival in Cortland, NY! We’re entering our 5th season now and it just keeps getting better!

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  10. KC says:

    Fresh off the Beaufort International Film Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina, I can tell you that this fest is one of the best curated, best attended small film festivals in the country. It’s listed as a top 100 festival on Film Freeway, and in 2016 breached the top 10. Each screening was packed, and the predominant audience is made of up film lovers, not film makers.

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