Best Of: 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2014


San Luis Obispo, CA / Spring 2015 /

This idyllic town’s community gets involved in their annual film celebration: Screenings (held in venues from cozy Downtown SLO to nearby Avila Beach and Hearst Castle) are bustling, and the festival programs a selection of films from the Central Californian Coast. ”It is a labor of love, and I think that is evident,” says artistic director Wendy Eidson.



Tacoma, WA / Oct. 9-16, 2014 /

Located in scenic Tacoma, WA, TFF’s objective is to nurture moviemakers in the Pacific Northwest. To do so, they offer $500 prizes in eight different categories, including Best Short Film, Best Feature Film and Best Regional Film.



Wichita, KS / Oct. 15-19, 2014 /

Tallgrass’ special categories including Grasscendo (music-themed films), Greengrass (environmentally-themed films), Grassroots (featuring films about social issues) and Smallgrass (family films). Most events and parties take place at museums, galleries, and other arts venues in Wichita, KS, allowing participants a taste of local culture.



Taos, NM / Spring 2015 /

Located in the high desert, but centered in a walkable area of town, Taos Shortz is exactly what they advertize – “quaint, casual and intimate.” The only short film festival in a state booming with moviemaking creativity, TSFF continues to bring quality independent shorts to New Mexico.



Columbia, MO / Winter/Spring 2015 /

This documentary festival covers moviemakers’ travel and lodging, and offers a sizeable daily stipend (which, we are told, is “going up”). Hard to argue with that. We also admire the staff’s attitude: “We want to celebrate cinema in all its expansive and wild diversity and, if that celebration goes until 4 a.m. and features a party with a homemade firehouse pole, so be it.”



Dallas, TX / Spring 2015 /

Founded in ’71, the USAFF was the first festival in the U.S. to exclusively showcase “The American Filmmaker,” and ever since then they have been a virtual who’s who of the U.S. moviemaking world.  Just ask Roger Ebert, who once said about the USAFF: “They do everything right.”



Vancouver, British Columbia / Winter 2015 /

As one of the largest film festivals in North America, VIFF concerns itself with building the right audience for accepted moviemakers, with an extensive target-marketing department that is focused on finding audiences for specific films. The festival offers a total of $25,000 across five prizes.



South Haven, MI / June 12-15, 2014 /

Held at a beachfront resort town on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, WFF styles itself as a three day vacation. This non-competitive festival attracts heavy coverage from Midwestern press, with moviemakers frequently appearing on television to promote their films.



Cape Cod, MA / July 26-Aug. 2, 2014 /

WHFF shows alumni some loving: “We offer them discounts on workshops and master classes, fee waivers on their next entry, and participation as panelists and teachers of master classes. They can also join our year-round screenings series, for which they are paid.” MM

Fifty is a lot of festivals, but it’s still not enough! Did we overlook any really kick-ass festivals this year? Tell us about them in the comments, and who knows, they might well make the cut next time around. Also, curious about last year’s list? Check it out here.

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  1. del snow

    May 1, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Full Frame. Weird omission.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      May 1, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Full Frame is a great festival for sure! Thank you!

  2. Michael Groom

    May 1, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I had the best time ever at the Sedona International Film Festival. They’re very hospitable: providing excellent accommodation for film makers, parties every night, food on tap in the filmmakers lounge, and the location is obviously breathtaking. Every screening I went to was sold out and there was a lot of good opportunity for networking with fellow film makers from all over the world. Once you’re accepted the first time, you can apply as an alumnus for free, forever.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      May 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Michael, Sedona IFF is definitely an excellent fest, and we’re glad you had such a fantastic experience. Thanks for the ringing endorsement!

  3. Holly

    April 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    The Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado Springs, CO was a great festival I attended as a filmmaker! They really take care of you and make you feel special. They have a bunch of events for the filmmakers and the programming is diverse. Check it out!

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 24, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Holly, your experience at Indie Spirit sounds lovely. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Noentryfee

    April 23, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    What about a topic on festivals that still don’t ask for entry fee ? Yes they exist, and some of them are kinda interesting.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Awesome idea, and something we’ll look into adding the next time we publish this list. For now, you’ll note that the American Film Festival in Poland is one such entry-fee-less fest!

  5. Harrah

    April 23, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    The Seattle International Film Festival actually starts on May 15, not the 25th as listed.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 23, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Harrah, thanks for catching that! We’ve made the correction. 🙂

  6. John R Taylor

    April 23, 2014 at 6:47 am

    The Shortini International Short Film Festival in Augusta, Sicily.
    It is a small city, the festival is a fabulous community of people working together to present a very good festival – divided into ‘Italian’ and ‘International’. The spirit of the place has to be experienced. It is an outdoor festival, with screenings at two locations in adjoining piazzas. Screenings start after dark and go to midnight – three nights.

    • MovieMaker Magazine

      April 23, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      John, that sounds like a wonderful festival (adorable name). Thanks for putting it on our radar. Italian festivals are really fun – there’s a great one in Bologna every summer held in Piazza Maggiore; it’s for classic films, not new ones, but if you’re in Italy in June you should definitely check it out.

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