50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2015
CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
Jackson, Mississippi / April 9-12, 2015 / crossroadsfilmfestival.com
Jackson is “home to some real quirky and creative folks, fried catfish, sweet tea, and a film festival to rival the best of them,” says festival coordinator Michele Baker. Each winning film receives a piece of original glass art and a cash prize. Crossroads grants alumni free submissions and places on future panels.
CUCALORUS FILM FESTIVAL
Wilmington, North Carolina / Nov. 11-15, 2015 / cucalorus.org
“Many filmmakers feel like they’ve joined a family of fierce revolutionaries when they leave,” says Cucalorus director Dan Brawley. It might be due to the fest’s non-competitive spirit: despite superb programming, it hands out no awards (“an awkward end to a great experience”). But it does channel 85 percent of ticket sales into filmmaker financial support—and boasts a lounge with “free moonshine, comfy couches and pimento cheese.”
DC SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL
Washington, D.C. / Sept. 10-20, 2015 / festival.dcshorts.com
DC Shorts has arguably the best feedback system on the circuit—and with 30 percent of accepted shorts picked up for commercial distribution last year, festival screeners seem to know what they’re doing. The 11-day fest produces pre-film bumpers for each screening, allowing even absent filmmakers the opportunity to introduce themselves to their audiences.
deadCENTER FILM FESTIVAL
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma / June 10-14, 2015 / deadcenterfilm.org
deadCENTER hosts an annual Distribution Forum where filmmakers meet one-on-one with distributors like IFC and Gathr Films. Buyers who sign deals at the festival retain their spots for the next edition, while the other distributors rotate each year. Also on rotation? Oklahoma City itself. This year, locals will lead daytrips for an insider tour of the “dead center” of America.
EDMONTON INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Edmonton, Canada / Oct. 1-10, 2015 / edmontonfilmfest.com
Festival producer Kerrie Long says, “We know exactly what it’s like to arrive in a new city, trusting that your cinematic baby will be screened in-focus to a welcoming audience.” Long and staff bring warmth to the northernmost city in Canada—they might take you to “an Edmonton Oilers or Edmonton Eskimos football game.” Whiplash, Foxcatcher, and Leviathan all played in 2014.
FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Montreal, Canada / July 16-Aug. 4, 2015 / fantasiafestival.com
Fantasia remains one of the most prominent genre festivals in the world, visited by all manner of distribution bigwigs and featuring a co-production market dubbed the Fantasia Industry Rendez-Vous. In addition to making every effort to connect filmmakers, press, and industry guests, the fest runs three weeks, so you’re guaranteed multiple screenings.
FEMALE EYE FILM FESTIVAL
Toronto, Canada / June 16-21, 2015 / femaleeyefilmfestival.com
“Mainstream festivals think of women as a separate, and lesser, class of creator,” says Jen Frankel, writer of Alien House Party. “Here at last is a festival that doesn’t make that short-sighted and limiting mistake.” FEFF places special emphasis on writing: “We received enough professional feedback in a few short days to take our script to the next level,” says filmmaker Daniela Saioni.
Kitzbühel, Austria / Aug. 25-30, 2015 / ffkb.at/en
Late summer, the Austrian Alps—it sounds more fantasy than festival, but Filmfestival Kitzbühel is now in its third year. Kitzbühel has had quick success matching its films with European distributors. And in addition to prizes from sponsor Canon, the festival hands out airfare, lodging and meal compensation.
Salt Lake City, Utah / June 18-27, 2015 / filmquestfestival.com
A partnership with FantasyCon allows this genre-based festival—which had its inaugural edition in 2014—to put on genuinely fun events. (Last year, Elijah Wood DJ’ed!) The festival gives out a total of $30,000 in cash and in-kind prizes—and with 30 awards categories, there’s a good chance you’ll get in on some of that.
FULL FRAME DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Durham, North Carolina / April 9-12, 2015 / fullframefest.org
With its emphasis on art over industry, Full Frame’s reputation as a premier doc stop is well deserved. The festival puts on an enticing, well-rounded schedule of panels and workshops; cash prizes run up to $10,000; and its Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant gives a first-time documentarian travel, lodging, access to master classes and mentorship.