50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2015
SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
Park City, Utah / Jan. 22-28, 2016 / slamdance.com
Sure—Slamdance accepts something like two percent of submissions (all watched by alumni, not staff programmers). But get in and you’ll climb Slamdance’s many branches—like VOD distribution imprint Slamdance Studios, Slamdance On the Road (showcasing titles around the U.S.), the Slamdance Hulu channel, and Slamdance Cinema Club (which began a new partnership in 2015 to screen alumni films at ArcLight Cinemas).
SOUTHERN CIRCUIT TOUR OF INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS
Various locations, United States / southarts.org/touring-arts/southern-circuit
Southern Circuit has a different format than your typical festival—participating filmmakers go on a screening roadshow across the South, earning honorariums of $2,400-$3,200 per tour. In addition to lodging and a per diem, Southern Circuit develops promotional materials for partnering venues to attract audiences at every stop.
TACOMA FILM FESTIVAL
Tacoma, Washington / Oct. 8-15, 2015 / tacomafilmfestival.com
After a banner year in 2014 screening indie standouts like Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, and hosting film critic Leonard Maltin as a special guest, Tacoma Film Festival ups its game in 2015, expanding its award categories as well as its line-up of panels and events.
TALLGRASS FILM FESTIVAL
Wichita, Kansas / Oct. 14-18, 2015/ tallgrassfilmfest.com
“Tallgrass showed me that they were ready to challenge the Wichita audiences,” says director John Wildman of “out-there” The Ladies of the House. Tallgrass certainly fosters an interesting community, hosting a Stubbornly Independent Gala presentation for a selected film each year, and (as of 2015) inviting alumni to become year-long filmmakers-in-residence. Also, we’ve heard the filmmakers’ lounge provides massages.
TAOS SHORTZ FILM FESTIVAL
Taos, New Mexico / Spring 2016 / taosshortz.com
Taos Shortz Film Festival looks beyond its (funky, artistic) New Mexico borders, partnering with many international festivals for film exchanges that send shorts to India, Russia, Spain and more. Collaboration rules—founder/organizer Anna Cosentine recalls a short created at last year’s edition, written on a napkin. “People are still talking about it!”
UNITED NATIONS ASSOCIATION FILM FESTIVAL
Palo Alto, California / Oct. 15-25, 2015 / unaff.org
Documentary fest UNAFF was founded to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—so it’s a great stop for social issue filmmakers. In 2014, the festival presented seven panels on world issues like climate change and hate crimes. Post-fest, many films are brought on the road for the ensuing UNAFF Traveling Film Festival.
VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Vancouver, Canada / Sept. 24 – Oct. 9, 2015 / viff.org
With generous prizes and a history of strong programming, VIFF often sees alumni films acquired post-fest—such as, in 2014, the Safdie brothers’ Heaven Knows What and Tom Hammock’s The Well. Its four-day Industry Conference featured luminaries such as Jay Duplass and Ondi Timoner in 2014, as well as representatives from HBO and FX.
VICTORIA FILM FESTIVAL
Victoria, Canada / Feb. 2016 / victoriafilmfestival.com
This year, Victoria Film Festival recreated a 1940s cocktail club for opening night, and set its guest lounge in a refurbished double-decker bus equipped with a giant projector—enjoyed by filmmakers like Damián Szifron (Wild Tales) and Joshua Oppenheimer (The Look of Silence). The fest’s series of industry events focuses on setting filmmakers up to adapt to media trends.
VICTORIA TX INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
Victoria, Texas / March 2016 / vtxiff.com
“We are a top-notch second-tier fest that programs some of the best films on the circuit,” says Anthony Pedone of VTXIFF. “We offer films that don’t get into the major fests the opportunity to get a great premiere and a first-class experience.” VTXIFF is the hub for the Crossroads Awards, which pools 21 films from the Film Exchange network of fests to compete for a cash prize.
WOODS HOLE FILM FESTIVAL
Woods Hole, Massachusetts / July 25-Aug. 1, 2015 / woodsholefilmfestival.org
What does WHFF do for alumni? “We have a year-round screening series which offers the opportunity to receive a screening fee,” says executive director Judy Laster. “We advocate for them with distributors, offer the opportunity to submit to future festivals without paying a fee, provide recommendations to other festivals looking for content, and provide advice about other screening options.” Sold! MM