It sounds like a moviemaker’s version of Big Rock Candy Mountain, I know: There’s a festival out there, somewhere, where being selected carries weight, the screenings are packed, the lineup is a who’s-who—and the festival director treats you like a star and the other attendees welcome you with open arms. A pipe dream, right?

Well, you guys: I found it. Y’all should come, too.

I flew in for Austin Revolution Film Festival (September 19-23) in Austin, Texas with our latest short film, “Born Again.” And I came away convinced that, if this fest were in any other American city but Austin—where South by Southwest, Austin Film Festival, and Fantastic Fest soak up all the coverage—it’d be circled on all our calendars every year.

Here are five reasons to put ARFF on your must-submit, must-attend list:

It’s a heavyweight with a small-town feel. This year, the festival played 150 films chosen from 1,500 submissions. Being selected to screen, or making the finals with a screenplay, from among that many entries is a meaningful accomplishment. And yet, thanks to the Texan hospitality underlying it, the atmosphere is laid back, supportive, and celebratory. Volunteers are plentiful, operations run like clockwork, and it generally feels as intimate as a one-screen fest in a one-stoplight town.

Filmmakers, filmmakers, filmmakers. No special awards for mid-level actors or flown-in producers holding grip and grins that cost the festival most of its budget. Instead, ARFF goes all out to make screening filmmakers and selected writers the stars, from live-streamed interviews on the red carpet running all fest long to generous Q&As, swag bags with fest gear, multiple press outlets competing for coverage, and free all-access badges.

There’s networking to rival the biggies. In my unscientific research, I saw about 80 percent of projects represented by their creators. That gathering of talent is a gold mine that savvy folks can convert into connections to future collaborations, bookings, screenings, and distribution.

Venues you’ll love around the city. At ARFF, even the venues are a thrill: screenings at a brand-new Alamo Drafthouse venue; a drive-in night where genre filmmakers (like me!) can see their films in the ultimate environment; and dedicated screening houses right at the host hotel.

It’s a movement for us. ARFF promotes “blue-collar filmmaking,” which the staff represented with super-cool insignia trucker hats and bowling shirts this year. This is a fest with a mission: They’re building a family and a movement to support, promote, and nurture true indie filmmaking at the roots.

SXSW is overcrowded, Austin Film Fest too focused on writers, and Fantastic Fest has made some decisions I can’t support. For me, there’s only one Austin festival: ARFF. MM

Austin Revolution Film Festival 2017 ran from September 19-23, 2017. For more information, visit their website here. Featured image courtesy of Austin Revolution Film Festival.

Director Jason Tostevin’s genre shorts have played around the world. This spring, film site Cinema Runner named him “indie horror’s most influential short filmmaker.”