When we were putting together this year’s edition of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, we decided to get some input from you, the readers—a sprawling community of indie moviemakers of all stripes.

After all, the concept of “worth it” is a highly subjective one, contingent upon more factors than even our honed-to-a-science festival evaluation formula can take into account.

So we put out a survey and asked for your opinions on everything we could think of: from where you’re submitting your films geographically, to the importance of factors such as industry attendance, awards and prizes, alumni benefits and the sheer quality of a fest’s line-up. Many of your answers confirmed what we’d already believed (hey, moviemakers really like it when their movies are seen by engaged audiences!) but they were all nonetheless illuminating, and extremely helpful to us during our agonizing deliberation process.

We thought we’d share some of our favorite responses. Huge thanks to everyone who weighed in! – MM Editors

To Me, “Worth the Entry Fee” Means…

Festivals that are not overcrowded or have everything on at the same time.” —Marie-Therese Garvey, Ireland

“Festivals that curate a set of events throughout the city that work together on a theme.” —Bobby Purks, Portland, OR

“Developing community among filmmakers and people in the industry—the most important factor by far.” —Kai Carlson-Wee, San Francisco, CA

“Being able to field questions about my work after the screening. Also, when there is a screenplay contest, what’s in it for me? Do they just list my name on their website, or is there a conference where I can chat with industry writers?” —Benjamin Adams, Chicago, IL

Connecting with audiences. We make movies to share with people. If judges are squirreled away and making decisions in a living room instead of with an audience, then what are we doing this for? —Chris Lyon, Shreveport, LA

“A staff that is familiar with all of the films and screenplays submitted.” —Dan Sullivan, Brooklyn, NY

“A strong presence on social media. If I can’t make the trip, but a festival has its act together, I can network and promote my film anyway. There was a film festival in Spain where I did just that and they ended up inviting me the next year as a judge.” —Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Los Angeles, CA

“An effort to screen quality films that aren’t recycled from Sundance, TIFF, etc. For an indie filmmaker just starting out, it’s tough to break in if you don’t grab a coveted premiere spot at a top festival.” —Victoria Negri, Brooklyn, NY

Quality of projection. There are basically two types of festivals: those that ask for DCPs and those that don’t. I think this is a very important distinction.” —Manfred Lopez Grem, Mexico and the U.S. MM

Read the full 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee 2017 list here. Illustration by Kate Prior.