50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2016
NATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR TALENTED YOUTH
Seattle, Washington / April 28 – May 1, 2016 / nffty.org
Are you 24 years old or younger? If yes, NFFTY provides some of the most valuable opportunities available to you. Such as: taking part in the festival’s yearly Speed Networking event alongside 100 industry reps; attending a “How Not to Be a Filmmaker” panel to identify the pitfalls of an early career; and creating original paid content for clients like Expedia and KIND Healthy Snacks under the recently launched NFFTY Creative label.
NEVADA CITY FILM FESTIVAL
Nevada City, California / Sept. 8-11, 2016 / nevadacityfilmfestival.com
NCFF takes place in a picturesque historic mining town, and while it doesn’t quite rival Sundance and Telluride yet, programming (mostly short films) is nothing to scoff at. It’s an intimate experience, with staff organizing a range of fun activities that include barbeques, hikes and river trips, treasure hunts and even what Festival Director Jesse Locks calls “filmmaker support groups.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE FILM FESTIVAL
Portsmouth, New Hampshire / Oct. 13-16, 2016 / nhfilmfestival.com
“David Gordon Green and I have talked often about the kinds of audiences that we like to draw,” says Lisa Muskat, producer of Manglehorn, “and this was our audience.” New Hampshire Film Festival winners leave with a 15-pound, polished granite brick of a trophy—the heaviest in the industry. And two Grand Jury award winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to NYC to meet with Oscilloscope Laboratories or A&E IndieFilms.
NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL
New Orleans, Louisiana / Oct. 12-21, 2016 / neworleansfilmfestival.org
Last fall, NOFF launched the NOFF Industry Exchange, a speed-dating-style networking event enabling face time with distributors, financers and other service-providers. Extracurriculars like that, as well as pitch sessions and panels, augment a robust line-up, of which at least 90 percent is curated from submissions (including, in 2015, the U.S. premiere of Ethan Hawke-starring Born to be Blue). Diversity is an important objective for the festival, which manages a mentorship program for filmmakers of color.
OAK CLIFF FILM FESTIVAL
Oak Cliff, Texas / June 16-19, 2016 / oakclifffilmfestival.com
OCFF’s primary venue is the historic Texas Theatre (run by the festival’s founders), the only commercial theater in Dallas with a reel-to-reel 35mm changeover system. “Unlike most fests of our size, we project in 16mm and 35mm when available,” says Festival Director and Co-Founder Barak Epstein. Meeting the organizers themselves is a highlight: They’re “acclaimed filmmakers, film exhibitors, film critics, and players not only in Texas, but on a national level,” says Epstein.
Oaxaca, Mexico / Oct. 7-15, 2016 / oaxacafilmfest.com
Every film that plays OFF gets its own press conference, a means for the lesser-known to stand out amongst titles like 2015’s The Wannabe, Yakuza Apocalypse and The Thin Yellow Line. Moviemakers also get to participate in New Industry, three days of intensive filmmaking and screenwriting training by reps from the Sundance Institute, Kickstarter, VHX and others. Extracurriculars include a field trip to the ancient pyramid complex of Monte Albán.
OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
Oxford, Mississippi / Feb. 2017 / oxfordfilmfest.com
This year, Oxford Film Festival added a couple of new categories to its generous prize offerings, like the Alice Guy-Blaché award given to a female director, and an audience award whose winner gets a free return trip to, and encore screening at, the next edition of the fest. OFF is tightly knit to the Mississippi film industry, with many locally oriented panels—though out-of-towners can enjoy topics such as getting better reviews and tackling Hollywood’s diversity problem.
PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Oct. 20-30, 2016 / filmadelphia.org/festival
Approaching its 25th anniversary, the Philadelphia Film Festival continues to play host to some of cinema’s finest, such as previous guests Todd Haynes, David O. Russell and Mark Duplass. Other frequent visitors: distributors like Paramount, Magnolia and Drafthouse. PFF provides quality programming year after year, a multitude of parties and receptions, and, in 2015, a panel entitled “How to Fest Best” about upping your festival submissions game.
PROVINCETOWN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Provincetown, Massachusetts / June 15-19, 2016 / ptownfilmfest.org
Last year, one in five submissions was accepted to PIFF—not bad odds for a festival with consistently excellent programming, that boasts the attendance of distributors like HBO, Magnolia, IFC and more. One annual highlight is the John Waters Presents event, for which the beloved director picks one of his favorite films to screen (“Waters’ provocative and hilarious intros and post-screening conversations are legendary,” says Executive Director Christine Walker.)
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
London, United Kingdom / Sept. 21 – Oct 2, 2016 / raindancefestival.org
Raindance hosts a wide selection of European and American distributors every year, as well as such useful panels as 2015’s “Hacking The Film Marketing Strategy,” “Monetizing Your B-Roll Footage,” and “International Film and Co-Production Financing.” Alumni stay in touch on the festival’s new digital platform and at its various international hubs. Or, just network on the spot. Says Festival Producer Julian Chapelle: “Our guests leave London having handed out all of their business cards!”