50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2016
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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 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.