vegas film festival

Vegas Indie Film Fest! (VIFF!), which happens in the spring of each year, programs an impressive showcase of shorts, features, student, LGBT, experimental films, and music videos into its week-long event—which is spread all over Sin City.

Purple Carpet premieres at movie theaters, celebrity hosted parties, industry mixers, and special events make VIFF! an event that any moviemaker looking for a great independent venue in the southwest should consider attending.

Recently we had a chance to sit down with VIFF! Festival Director, Derek Stonebarger, to find out what makes VIFF! worth the schlep to Vegas.

MovieMaker Magazine (MM): What makes VIFF! a unique festival experience

Derek Stonebarger (DS): VIFF! has been called the “premiere” film festival in Las Vegas, not just because we focus on premieres and films without distribution, but because we truly care about the filmmakers and the screenings. We go the extra mile to make sure that the filmmakers, the audience, and the industry professionals see the film the way it was intended: In a movie theater, on the big screen with perfect sound and picture quality.

MM: We’ve heard about your “Golden Bulbs,” which are given out to category winners. Can you tell us about those and where they come from?

DS: Golden Bulbs come from the world famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Every bulb comes with a letter of authenticity, a serial number, and a custom designed VIFF! Trophy case. This year, we’ve added Atomic Bulbs, which come from another world famous sign: the one hanging outside Atomic Liquors, Las Vegas’ oldest bar. Many films and TV shows were shot inside or in front of Atomic, including Martin Scorsese’s Casino, an episode of the “Twilight Zone,” Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet, and even the car crash scene in The Hangover. The Rat Pack, Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, and a bunch of other film and TV legends have hung out at Atomic over the years.

MM: What type of films do you like to program most at VIFF!?

DS: Mostly we like to program truly independent, self-financed or crowd-funded films. We really like to program films that have nothing to do with Nevada, gambling, gangsters, westerns, mobsters, or anything traditionally associated with Vegas and the desert. I guess we just really love to program unique films that can grab an audience’s attention. And, of course, we love premieres!

MM: Speaking of premieres, we’ve heard that you’re opening VIFF! 2013 with the world premiere of Territory 8?

DS: Absolutely! Territory 8, directed by Kelly Schwartze ( makes its world premiere at VIFF!, and is our opening night attraction. We’re also screening Matt’s Chance, starring Edward Furlong, Lee Majors and Gary Busey. Gary will be receiving the VIFF! Lifetime of Acting Award. On top of that, we also have a film featuring Coolio. He’s a Las Vegas resident and will be attending the festival.

MM: When you say “premieres,” do you limit films to world premieres only?

DS: No way! When I say premieres, I simply mean Nevada premieres. As long as your film hasn’t premiered anywhere else in Nevada, we’d love to consider it for VIFF!

MM: When do you start accepting submissions for next year

DS: Submissions start up again June 1, and run for about eight months. We accept submissions and screeners throughout most of the year, so we have enough time to carefully consider each film, and then program the very best in each category.

MM: So, the next time we come to Vegas, will we find you at Atomic Liquors?
DS: Most likely! Actually, if you’re a filmmaker and you’re in Vegas, stop by, ask for me, and if I’m there, I’ll buy you a drink! MM

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