50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2016

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James Franco takes selfies with Cinequest youth. Courtesy of Cinequest.

James Franco takes selfies with a young festival-goer. Courtesy of Cinequest

CINEQUEST 

San Jose, California / February 28 – March 12, 2017 / cinequest.org

“At previous Cinequest forums,” says Publicity Manager Jessica Gelico, “you would have discovered the technologies that revolutionized filmmaking, Internet distribution and delivery, mobile cinema, 4K cinema and more.” This Silicon Valley stalwart keeps serving up innovation and quality indie film. Filmmakers mix at daily happy hours and meetup parties—not just with each other, but with reps from distributors like Screen Media, Magnolia, Gravitas, Netflix and more.

 

Twin sister folk group Dubb Nubb play at Citizen Jane in 2015 and other years.  Photo courtesy of Matt Schact.  

Twin sister folk group Dubb Nubb play at Citizen Jane in 2015. Photograph by Matt Schact

CITIZEN JANE FILM FESTIVAL

Columbia, Missouri / Nov. 3-6, 2016 / citizenjanefilmfestival.org

Citizen Jane is designed as a retreat for female moviemakers, so expect meals, childcare, massage, local crafts and woman-to-woman bonding during a filmmaker hike. OK, there’s a more serious agenda, too: fighting to improve female opportunity in the industry. The yearly Citizen Jane Summit aims to identify practical solutions; meanwhile, top women-driven films, such as Ayanda and It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, screen here on the way to eventual acquisition.

 

Cucalorus 21 in 2015. Photograph by Jake Rothwell

Cucalorus 21 in 2015. Photograph by Jake Rothwell

CUCALORUS FILM FESTIVAL

Wilmington, North Carolina / Nov. 9-13, 2016 / cucalorus.org

Executive Director Dan Brawley is a big fan of feedback, even for moviemakers who aren’t accepted to Cucalorus: “Those are tough conversations, but I’m completely transparent. If you want to call me up, go for it… dialogue helps to make the process less mysterious.” The fest doesn’t do awards or prizes, but many feel that the first-class bonding is reward enough. There’s also a five-day tech and innovator conference, Cucalorus CONNECT.

 

They are actually actors at the script reading from last year's Screenplay Competition. They were doing the reading for Claus v. Hollywood. Courtesy of DC Shorts.

Actors perform a live-read of the screenplay for Alicia Lomas-Gross’ and Steve D’Arcangelo’s “Claus v. Hollywood” at DC Shorts 2015. Courtesy of DC Shorts

DC SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL

Washington, D.C / Sept. 8-18, 2016 / festival.dcshorts.com

Shorts, done right: DC Shorts screened three Oscar-nominated shorts in 2015—“Shok,” “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” and the U.S. premiere of Live-Action-winner “Stutterer.” The fest has an online edition, by which almost all films can be watched throughout its duration; also, Spotlight Cinema Networks screens two DC Shorts films before features every month. Alumni enjoy submission fee waivers, year-round activities and staff who are always willing to take calls.

 

Opening of the interactive exhibition DOK Neuland:  Visitor experiences the virtual reality Project “Deep (Multiplayer Version)” inside one of two tents placed at Leipziger Marktplatz. In the back of the picture: Owen Harris talking to a visitor.  Courtesy of DOK Leipzig Film Festival.

A DOK Leipzig visitor experiences the VR project “Deep (Multiplayer Version)” inside one of two festival tents at Leipziger Marktplatz. Photograph by Susann Jehnichen

DOK LEIPZIG INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 

Leipzig, Germany / Oct. 31 – Nov. 6, 2016 / dok-leipzig.de

An Academy-qualifier (for documentary and animated shorts), DOK Leipzig handed out €75,500 (US$82,600) last year to 19 winners. Distribution possibilities are explored at the DOK Film Market (every officially selected film gets a spot), and the concurrent International Co-Production Meeting presents projects to potential financiers. Not enough? There’s a three-day hackathon for interactive media; meanwhile, 2015’s panels included the very DIY “How to Make a DCP with Open Source Software.”

 

A full house assembles at the Edmonton International Film Festival, fall 2015 Credit: Courtesy of the Edmonton International Film Festival

A full house assembles at Edmonton, fall 2015. Courtesy of the Edmonton International Film Festival

EDMONTON INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 

Edmonton, Canada / Sept. 29 – Oct. 8, 2016 / edmontonfilmfest.com

“Hospitality and projection”—that’s what EIFF prides itself on, according to Festival Producer and Programmer Kerrie Long. The fest provides airfare, lodging and ground transportation for all feature filmmakers, and the latter two for short filmmakers. And lest you think Edmonton lives in Toronto’s shadow, in 2015, 40 Below and Falling 3D world-premiered at EIFF, going on to win a Lumières award and a Canadian Screen Award nomination.

 

Actress Barbara Crampton, writer-director Ted Geoghegan and Fantasia Co-Director Mitch Davis introduce 2015 feature We Are Still Here. Courtesy of Fantasia Film Festival

FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 

Montreal, Canada / July 14 – Aug. 2, 2016 / fantasiafestival.com

With more than 350 shorts and 140 features accepted into Fantasia’s last edition, your chances of getting into this genre heavyweight aren’t as slim as you might think. In 2015, you would’ve played with premiering titles like Synchronicity, Cash Only and JeruZalem. The staff works tirelessly to start friendships: “We’re happy to make introductions when a filmmaker expresses specific interest in meeting someone,” says Co-Director Mitch Davis.

 

Female Eye Kay Armatage, Best In the Biz Tribute. Inger Whist. Courtesy of Female Eye Film Festival.

Kay Armatage and Inger Whist attend Female Eye 2015’s Best in the Biz Tribute. Courtesy of Female Eye Film Festival

FEMALE EYE FILM FESTIVAL

Toronto, Canada / June 14-19, 2016 / femaleeyefilmfestival.com

FeFF is dedicated to films directed by women—though the festival’s script development program is open to anyone whose script features a female protagonist. There are more panels, workshops, meet-and-greets and pitch sessions than you could shake a stick at during each six-day edition (luckily, the whole fest takes place in one building!). And while travel and lodging isn’t covered for all moviemakers, FeFF does provide screening fees.

 

Striking cinema and scenery in Austria. Courtesy of Kitzbühel Film Festival

FILMFESTIVAL KITZBÜHEL

Kitzbühel, Austria / Aug. 22-28, 2016 / ffkb.at/en

Facilitating face time between moviemakers and press is “the most important thing” at Filmfestival Kitzbühel, says Managing Director Michael Reisch. That, and “young film,” i.e. the work of creators early in their careers. Besides a number of interactive brunches, the fourth day of the festival sees everyone gathering for a sundown event on a mountaintop—in case you forgot this was Austria.

 

Flickers' Rhode Island Film Festival(FRIFF) Walking Tour 2014. Courtesy of FRIFF.

Filmmakers enjoy a Rhode Island walking tour in 2014. Courtesy of Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival

FLICKERS’ RHODE ISLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Providence, Rhode Island / Aug. 9-14, 2016 / riiff.org

Submissions to FRIIFF automatically enter the pool for three other festivals, and even more sidebar presentations, held in Rhode Island throughout the year. The fest hunts down receptive audiences, sometimes partnering with local nonprofits, schools and other organizations to bring niche audiences to screenings. This year launches the Flickers’ Filmmaker Mentorship Program, pairing international filmmakers with students and local filmmakers for individualized teaching.

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