10 Great No-Entry Fee Film Festivals


Independent moviemakers are renowned for having tons of creativity, scads of grit and boatloads of determination, but there’s one crucial element that most of them lack: Cash. If there’s one thing that’s music to a moviemaker’s ears, it’s the simple four-word phrase “No entry fee required.” For a film entered in multiple film festivals, submission fees alone can run into the hundreds of dollars, and it’s important to submit your film to a festival that won’t put you in the poorhouse. With that in mind, join us as we take a look at 10 diverse, cost-effective fests with zero dollar entry fees.

American Conservation Film Festival
Shepherdstown, WV
November 1-4, 2012

This annual event (which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year) champions films that focus on the natural world. ACFF provides a venue for conservation films from around the globe that rarely receive a wide showing. Set in a historic, artistic university town (and featuring special moviemaker forums so that you can discuss your film with an audience), ACFF is a perfect outlet for those whose work explores ever-pertinent environmental issues. Though there is a small fee for non-student submissions (enough to cover costs the festival incurs from Withoutabox), student films are 100 percent free to submit.

Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival
Atlanta, GA

If you’re a deep thinker who makes philosophical, analytical films, then APFF is right up your alley. The fest, now reaching its 4th year, is dedicated to helping shape and define the cinema of philosophy, as well as preserving a collection of films that can serve as a sweeping, textured survey of the great philosophical questions of our time. For those who make movies about the bigger questions in life and are ardent followers of “thinking cinema,” the thought-provoking APFF will surely provide you with both a great environment in which to show your work—Atlanta’s historic Plaza Theatre (the city’s oldest continuously operating cinema)—and a wealth of conversation topics. APFF kindly accepts donations from the film lovers and free thinkers who help keep this soul-searching fest alive.

HorrorQuest Film Festival
Atlanta, GA
October 19-21, 2012

Want to submit your horrifying new film to a freakily fun fest that takes place right around Halloween? Then check out the newly created HorrorQuest, held for a week of terror at the Cinefest Film Theatre in Atlanta. Inspired by TromaDance, HorrorQuest, which started in 2010 and offers a similar schedule of outrageous genre fare, is free to both moviemakers and moviegoers. The independent fest was, in fact, created with the notion that it was becoming entirely too expensive to submit one’s movie to a festival, especially when there were no guarantees of the film being selected or reviewed. In addition to its terrifying mix of features and shorts, the fest hopes to include more live music events, interactive screenings, moviemaking classes and guests from the horror community in order to achieve its goal of becoming the largest free festival in the Southeast.

Insight Film Festival
Manchester, UK

Based in England, Insight is an international short film festival that encourages moviemakers to explore the subject of faith and make films that challenge, explore, critique, reflect, celebrate or question this vital aspect of contemporary life. It is Insight’s mission to promote discussion and community cohesion through these faith-based works. The fourth edition of the Insight Festival will take place in Spring 2013 and will feature opportunities to win some amazing awards and prizes. Previous judges have included producer Gary Kurtz (Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Crystal) and screenwriter David N. Weiss (Shrek 2, The Smurfs).
Margaret Mead Film Festival
New York, NY
November 29-December 2, 2012

This documentary fest, which offers the best in non-fiction film from around the world, has the distinction of taking place in a truly unique environment: New York City’s iconic American Museum of Natural History. Created in 1977, MMFF (which celebrates its 36th anniversary this year) Is the longest-running international documentary film fest in the U.S., encompassing a broad range of docs, from indigenous community media to experimental non-fiction. The movies featured at the fest tackle diverse and challenging subjects and represent a range of issues and perspectives from across the globe. Last year, the jury was headed by acclaimed moviemaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler), and in 2010 the fest implemented the Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award, which recognizes documentary moviemakers who embody the spirit, energy and innovation demonstrated by Margaret Mead in her fieldwork, films and writings.

Milwaukee Film Festival
Milwaukee, WI
September 27-October 11, 2012

Located in the heart of Milwaukee, this eclectic fest features the best in documentary, narrative, experimental and animated films, both short and feature-length. The fest offers a cash award of at least $2,500 to the International Fiction Film competition winner. The winning film is determined by a jury of esteemed industry professionals, which, in past years, has included A.V. Club film editor Scott Tobias, Time Out New York film editor David Fear and legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. MFF also offers a special prize for locally made films in the form of a yearlong filmmaker residency program with Milwaukee Film, which includes $2,500, a mentorship program and a production services package worth more than $20,000, to the winner of the Cream City Cinema Award.

Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival
Portland, OR
November 9-17, 2012

Held at the Northwest Film Center, NFF is the Northwest’s premiere showcase of new work by regional moviemakers. Each year the fest draws more than 400 entries from filmmakers located in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. NFF, which is nearing its 40th anniversary, prides itself on its carefully selected programming and awards critical recognition to top juror and audience-recognized films. The festival also hosts a one-day BarCamp, where moviemakers organize their own conferences and discuss issues important to them. After the fest, NFF lives on in the form of the “Best of the Northwest” touring program, which assembles selected films shown at the festival and circulates them throughout the region to key cultural and educational organizations.

Ottawa International Animation Festival
Ottowa, ON, Canada
September 19-23, 2012

One of the world’s leading animation events, OIAF has been providing screenings, workshops, exhibits and entertainment since 1976. The five-day fest is dedicated to bringing art and industry together to the vibrant hub of Ottawa and attracts more than 28,000 artists, producers and animation fans from around the world yearly. The fest is aimed to foster the development and growth of animation; this year, groundbreaking moviemaker Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, 1978’s The Lord of the Rings) will be in attendance to introduce screenings of his films and participate in a one-on-one discussion. If you’re an animation whiz, then this cutting-edge fest is for you.

Stony Brook Film Festival
Stony Brook, NY
July 19-28, 2012

Now in its 17th year, the renowned SBFF takes place at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center of the Arts, where over 15,000 moviegoers and moviemakers gather for a ten-day celebration of indie moviemaking. With one of the largest screens on the circuit, Stony Brook is a favorite of moviemakers and offers prizes for both shorts and full-length films (including features, documentaries and animation). As for the lack of an entry fee, that’s thanks to the array of high-profile festival sponsors, which includes HBO, JetBlue and the Village Voice.

TromaDance Film Festival
Asbury Park, NJ

Founded in 1999 by Lloyd Kaufman, the co-founder and president of Troma Entertainment (the world’s longest-running independent film studio), TromaDance proudly advertises itself as “the first and only film festival of the people, for the people and by the people.” For ten years the fest was held in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, as an independent alternative to the Sundance Film Festival, but now it makes its home alongside the Jersey shore. TromaDance is primarily funded by donations, and this year the fest is being partially crowd-funded through Kickstarter. Not only is there no entry fee, but at TromaDance, all screenings are free and open to the public, and the festival’s “No VIP Policy” ensures that celebrities and fans are treated equally. This year’s festivities will include an eclectic line-up of quirky, offbeat independent features and shorts, as well as discussion panels with successful indie moviemakers, who will share their wisdom and advice with the audience. Previous panelists include Oscar nominees Karen Black and animator Bill Plympton, as well as producers Steven Paul (Ghost Rider) and Larry Fessenden (The House of the Devil).

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