Paris // Fall 2022
“The best experimental film festival in France,” says filmmaker Valentin Noujaïm of the festival organized by the Collectif Jeune Cinéma (CJC) or “Young Cinema Collective” — an organization founded in 1971. The CJC maintains a robust film archive, and a large portion of its programmed films are projected on 16mm. Others are digitally projected from scanned 16mm film stock.
The CJC website notes that it stands in “the service of filmmakers, programmers researchers, film lovers, students,” including the “young, old, employees, workers, peasants, executives…” Let us know if they’ve left anyone out.
While the festival has programmed a feature here and there, it emphasizes short-form experimental cinema that allows filmmakers to take risks without dire financial consequences.
Los Angeles // Fall 2022
Los Angeles-based moviemaker Kate Chamuris calls HollyShorts her favorite “local” shorts festival. She adds that a key part of making any festival run is balance noting that HollyShorts “is more of a networking festival.” This is partly due to its location “in the heart of Hollywood” at the TCL Chinese Theatres on Hollywood Boulevard — a location easily accessible by public transit. (Yes, there are subways in L.A.) A screenplay competition allows those with unproduced projects to co-mingle with both financiers and the programmed shorts moviemakers. Shorts submissions are capped at 40 minutes, which allows breathing room for some longer pieces that aren’t quite feature-ready.
This year’s fall festival was a mix of in-person screenings at the Chinese and virtual screenings via the platform Bitpix. Festival co-director Theo Dumont points out that 2020’s virtual-only edition “saw a record-breaking seven Oscar nominees and two winning alumni films.”
Indianapolis // July 2022
The 2021 edition of Indy Shorts was a combination of indoor, outdoor and virtual screenings, and included outdoor picnic-style screenings with a giant LED screen and free pizza. Other shorts played in the Living Room Theaters, part of a small chain with other locations in Boca Raton, Florida and Portland, Oregon. The boutique chain was given a recent shout out in TIME’s World’s Greatest Places 2021.
Indy Shorts marketing director Jessica Chapman highlights the Midwest’s “signature hospitality” as well as the fest’s “innovative festival atmosphere, significant cash prizes, and their quirky shorts spokesgnome, Iggy.”
While cash and gnome statues are undoubtedly coveted prizes, the biggest benefit might be the opportunity to return a few months later for the Heartland International Film Festival in October. You get two festivals for one.
Kiev, Ukraine // August 2022
Good things are happening in the Ukrainian art scene, and we’re ascribing some of that to the Kyiv International Short Film Festival, now in its 10th year. The festival’s mission statement describes it as a meeting point for filmmakers, and a source of “inspiration and new knowledge for experts, students and cinema lovers.”
Another key tenet: “Informal education.” The festival encourages casual discourse between artists and attendees, and experimentation to keep things fresh.
Leuven, Belgium // December 3-11
This Academy, European Film Award and BAFTA-qualifying short film festival is one of the region’s best spots for discovering new talent. “Three screening venues, two lively festival bars and one lounge on the same location establish a unique and cosy atmosphere; the perfect place for filmmakers, professionals and audience to meet each other,” writes festival director Vincent Langouche. This winter’s festival will be a 100 percent in person event.
Leuven includes special European and Flemish categories, but it’s not all regionally focused — its 2020 program drew from 32 countries. Last year’s virtual edition led to the introduction of the innovative Peer Award, where the filmmakers voted on each others’ shorts. The final winner is awarded the prestigious honor of a spot on the following year’s jury.
Shreveport, LA // October 2022
The setup is a little different than that of other festivals: Twenty shorts are selected from the Louisiana-shot submissions, and through a combination of jury voting and audience participation, the top winner is granted a massive cash prize. It was $50,000 in the past, but halved to $25,000 due to the pandemic, and will go back to $50,000 in 2022.
The festival “occurs under the larger umbrella of Prize Fest, a celebration of film, food, music, fashion and comedy, so our top 20 filmmakers also have the opportunity to mix and mingle with all sorts of other creative entrepreneurs while in attendance,” says executive director Gregory Kallenberg.
Brooklyn // March 2-6, 2022
“Nitehawk Shorts was the first festival to program my work, so I’ll always have a soft spot for them,” says filmmaker Doron Max Hagay, who won the cinematography award for his short film “Vape,” which included a Panavision grant of $7,000. “It’s a small festival, so the programmers knew who I was and which film I made when I showed up to my screening, which felt sweet and cool.”
Nitehawk tries to create interconnected feelings among the films to “prioritize conversations between the films over categorical listings,” according to its mission statement. It is also devoted to gender parity, inclusion and servicing the local film community. The pandemic sadly meant no 2020 festival, but there is a return set for March of next year.
Palm Springs, CA // June 21-27, 2022
Palm Springs has always been a favorite getaway for the film industry, which is just one reason this is one of the best-known fests on this list. Moviemaker Christine Haroutounian describes the festival as “a big production that manages to make filmmakers feel very welcomed and appreciated.” She adds: “I’ll never forget how thoughtfully my film was introduced by the co-director of programming.”
She also notes a good audience mix “of locals who love film and industry people.” When she attended with a short in 2019, she was “surprised by how many international filmmakers visited. It was fun to connect with so many different people.”
“Of course the drive east is iconic too, with the wind farms and towering San Jacinto Mountains,” she adds.
Kate Chamuris praises PSISF’s “eclectic film programming” and a Filmmaker Forum that includes computers where you can catch films you may have missed. “It allows you to fest on your own schedule,” she says, “just in case you fell asleep in the pool during that one screening.”
Denver, CO // May 5-11 2022
We’re cheating here a bit. SeriesFest is devoted to… well, series. But since episodes are typically short-film length, and because this fest highlights such inspiring work, we’re including it.
Kate Chamuris explains her thought process in nominating SeriesFest: “With streaming services dominating the distribution avenues for shorts, SeriesFest gives a platform for shorts intended for ‘television.’”
Director of programming Claire Taylor adds that “the focus on episodic content is not the only thing that makes SeriesFest unique; we are also a non-profit organization that champions and empowers artists at the forefront of storytelling by providing year-round opportunities for creators and industry experts to connect, collaborate, and share stories, which inspire and impact global audiences.”
The opportunities include a “Women Directing Mentorship in partnership with Shondaland, Writers’ Rooms, pitch opportunities, and networking events.” A short plane ride from L.A. means SeriesFest attracts top Hollywood talent.
Chamuris adds: “They have a very selective and inclusive programming slate and year-round filmmaker initiatives. Filmmakers get to know each other well and meet the executives the festival brings in on a colleague-to-colleague level. The screenings and happy hours take place in the centralized place of the Denver Film Society’s theater, and networking events are held around town, including the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. You can feel the care and individual attention the festival programmers give to each filmmaker during their stay.”
Klosterneuburg, Austria // August 16-20, 2022
Run by the jovial award-winning moviemaker Christoph Rainer and Katharina Schrimpf, Shortynale wrapped its 13th edition over five days in late August. The first of two Austrian festivals on our list, it is set in Klosterneuburg, a small town north of the capital of Vienna, on the Danube. Nearby is a 900-year-old monastery that overlooks the great river.
Schrimpf says Shortynale’s “main focus is to not only show films on the big screen, but to also take an almost similar amount of time to discuss and debate them.” To achieve this friendly discussion-based atmosphere, the festival creates a “living room” screening environment full of couches and fauteuils. COVID prevented this in the last two editions, but the hope is for this unique element to return in 2022. When “accomplished filmmakers like Ulrich Seidl or Academy Award-winner Stefan Ruzowitzky share their work and talk with the audience, it is as if we were in their living room chatting with them,” Schrimpf says.
It can’t all be debates and discussions, and Shortynale also includes a “VR corner, an interactive scavenger hunt, as well as a laser-tag arena that has a strong movie theme.”
Continue for more of the Best Short Film Festivals in the World