A seaside village on the armpit of Cape Cod, Woods Hole, Massachusetts is world-renowned for its marine science institutions.

But over the past 25 years, the Woods Hole Film Festival has raised the village’s profile in another way. Where else can emerging and established filmmakers come dripping from the beach to screen their work, rub elbows with top-notch players, and dance to booming live music, all on the same day?

You’ll be plotting to shoot your next film at each ridiculously picturesque corner the minute you get to town. Festival venues range from the intimate Old Woods Hole Firehouse to the 500-person auditorium at the Marine Biological Laboratory. With new state-of-the-art screens and sound systems at the larger venues, the festival goes to great lengths to ensure a technically flawless screening.

Most of the action taking place along the aptly named Water Street; the festival arranges free or deeply discounted noshes at many throughout the week, in addition to nearly nightly parties. And yes, there’s some sponsorship going on in your welcome bag, but you’ll never feel bombarded by advertisements or endorsements. (You simply feel grateful for the subtle support.)

The rush line: Crowds descend upon the Woods Hole Film Festival in Cape Cod. Photograph by E. Gene Chambers

The rush line: Crowds descend upon the Woods Hole Film Festival in Cape Cod. Photograph by E. Gene Chambers

Woods Hole’s programming is a combination of that cutting-edge doc you didn’t have the chance to catch at Full Frame, and that about-to-blow-up-online short from a moviemaker fresh out of film school. Music-oriented documentaries always play well at this fest, but environmentally focused and family-friendly films also feature prominently, beckoning a dedicated following of locals and tourists. While you inhale a steady line-up of awesome films by night, by day you should take advantage of all the cool things within reach: a 45-minute ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, a 12-mile bike ride up the famous Shining Sea Bikeway, or the local beaches, for starters.

Masterclasses from the festival’s filmmakers in residence, from Barbara Kopple to Richard Ray Perez, are worth the trip alone; they’re a rare chance to learn from industry experts and ask those burning questions. The festival also lines up special workshops (this year featured one on drones and storyboarding, plus a hands-on with new Red cameras) and in the past it has arranged one-on-ones with the distributor monterey media.

In short, Woods Hole Film Festival represents all that a film fest should be: relaxation, reward, and ripe potential for connection with a colleague, audience member—or heck, yourself. MM

Elise Hugus is a science documentary producer with UnderCurrent Productions (and a former teenage volunteer at Woods Hole Film Festival).

Featured image courtesy of Kris Marie Photo.