AN ONGOING SERIES ABOUT ONE SILLY LITTLE MAN’S FILM FESTIVAL SUBMISSION EXPERIENCE
Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 11 – Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest + Depth of Field Int’l, DC & NYC Independent Film Fests
Article by Justin Bowler
Since it is the Lord’s day, I thought I would wait two days after this was due to submit to my editor! Happy Holidays everyone!
For those of you who don’t know, this is an ongoing review series about my film festival submission experience. These festival reviews are not based on whether or not I was accepted to their festival, it is based merely on my interaction with them as a filmmaker, inquiring about their festival and if my genre film is the right fit. I send them three questions, and they are “Yes or No”. It’s pretty easy. Yet, for some reason, some fests, can’t/don’t/won’t respond.
Filmmakers submit their films online to festivals. They can pay upwards of $100 just to be considered. Yet, they never get confirmation that their film was actually watched. They never speak with anyone from the fest. They don’t know who is judging the film. It could be someone well versed in cinematic theory, who has studied film for years, dissected scenes for hidden nuances, and has a few degrees in writing, film studies and art. OR it could be some random guy who “really likes” going to movies, sees a lot of Hollywood blockbusters, and has opinions on which Transformers movie is the best of Michael Bay’s work. Sadly, filmmakers are forced to “trust the system”. It can be very sketchy. Some festivals take the time to make sure it isn’t, whereas others just don’t want and/or care to make it otherwise.
Check out my friend Paul Osborne’s documentary Official Rejection. It will give you some real insight into how unfriendly some fests are to filmmakers. Sadly, it will blow your mind.
Let me set the scene. I have a short film called OH, THE EFFING HORROR. (That’s right, the title is meant to be shouted.)
Clearly, it is a genre picture. It’s a horror/comedy, or “Horr-omedy”. In addition to the gore and general subject matter, it contains nudity. Finally, with a run time of almost seventeen minutes, it may be too long for some festivals to program. All three of these points give rise to questions I have for festivals.
– First, do they program horror films? (The majority of the fests out there are NOT horror fests, so I would like to know if they even consider the genre in their short film competition.)
– Second, do they accept films with nudity? (Plenty of festivals have to keep it family friendly. I don’t have a problem with that, but, I would like to know that before I shell out my $45.)
– Third, is a seventeen minute run time too long? (Many fests have time limits for their shorts, but don’t always post that info on WithoutaBox.com or FilmFreeway.com.) (For you newcomers, these are the two websites used for the majority of festival submissions.)
My journey began by contacting festivals through the informational email they listed on WithoutaBox.com or FilmFreeway.com. In my email, I stated who I was, the answers I was seeking and inquired who could answer. Typically, I was referred to the Artistic Director or Programming Director.
Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest
Submission Price – Up to $80
As always, I emailed the informational email listed on WithoutABox. At first, they did not respond. So, I resent my email. Then, Larry Rosen, Festival Director, sent me this email.
I hope to be able to answer your questions.
As Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest is starting to gear up for this year’s festival, there isn’t a specific sub-genre within horror that we focus on. We have had horror-comedy, some mild gore, thriller, suspense, etc… I personally am more of a fan of the suspense elements of horror, often the ones with more dramatic elements that focus on the story rather that the shock or gore. Although, we have a selection committee, who are all open minded to the range of horror films, which is why we group films together within the screening blocks.
We have no stance or opinion either way about nudity within the film, as long as it isn’t pornographic.
17 minutes is an ideal length. Last year, we programed 1 feature and 13 short films. The range of length was 4-30 minutes. The average film length was between 11-15 minutes (so 17 is right in that ballpark). This year, the festival is 2 days, so we will have a larger lineup.
Festival Director, Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest
Though they did not get back to me immediately the first time, it didn’t bother me. Sometimes an email can get lost. I completely understand that. The festival director got back to me and answered all of my questions. I submitted.
Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Even though their price is on the higher side of the average festival, I felt like I was going to get a fair shake. So, I happily submitted.
Depth of Field International Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $40
As always, I emailed the informational email listed on WithoutABox. I received an email from Sharon Carpenter-Rose, Founder and EP of the festival.
Yes, we will be happy to provide some information for you.
We would like to point out, however, that the fact that you have announced that you are writing an article about film festivals, but also asking to submit a film to that same film festival, begets conflict of interest. We are not sure how you would obtain an objective outcome for the article or for your film submission, if you are contacting festivals regarding both items at the same time. We will be happy to give you an ‘interview’ per se, but it would be prudent for you to abstain from submitting a film to a festival that you will be including in an article. Or, if the article is to be written by someone besides yourself, we would be happy to accept your film submission. Per our rules and regulations, we cannot accept submissions from filmmakers with whom we maintain personal relationships.
Thank you for contacting us, and as soon as our distributors demands have been met, we will compile your information and send it along. In the meantime, you may visit our FilmFreeway page if you would like to get a feel for our mission and values, as well as filmmaker reviews (i.e., ‘filmmaker-friendly’ factor), and a statement of rules and regulations. Thanks again.
Founder, Executive Producer | Depth Of Field International Film Festival
All of her questions were valid and, oddly enough, she was the first person to ask me about a conflict of interest. Below is my response.
Thank you for returning my email.
In regards to the conflict of interest, I am confused as to your assumption; perhaps, I did not explain myself well. Yes, I am writing about my film festival submission experience. Think of it as an online journal. I am relaying to other filmmakers my experience submitting to festivals. If you believe that is a conflict of interest, I would ask “Do you ask everyone who submits to your festival to ‘keep quiet’?” I’m sure the answer to that question is “Of course not.” So, how could one conclude that this is any different? I’m not trying to be instigative or combative, I truly do not understand. However, if you don’t want to answer the questions I contacted you about previously, then that is fine. The only one that I absolutely need answered is regarding nudity. Does it automatically disqualify my short?
Thank you so much for your time,
Nor is it our intent to be instigative or combative: We have never had a filmmaker preface their submission with an announcement that they are writing an article. That is a first. Thank you for explaining your intent. We have no issues with nudity, nor sexual content, as long it is tastefully done (not graphic) and lends purpose to the storyline (no pornography).
We have a multitude of Horror submissions: a foreign feature film won Best Of Show in the Horror category this fall. That filmmaker will be receiving a distributors option, as will all Best Of Show and Outstanding Excellence award winners. We are an online festival and do not host a physical venue unless it is dictated by our distribution associates to further test the market (so far their preference has been to follow the modern trend of ‘shopping’ for films for their catalog through virtual festival perusal, thereby saving them the time and expense of traveling to physical venues).
Rejected films receive free feedback and free resubmission upon completion of suggested fixes by the acceptance panel (usually sound issues: easily corrected). While we enjoy helping top tier winners receive distributor attention, we feel it is even more important to help new filmmakers understand why their films may be receiving festival rejections, and helping them to do something about it so that they can grow and improve their marketability, which in turn boosts the indie film scene in general to a higher level. We’ve received thank you letters from rejected films, stating that they have never received help from a festival before, and never knew what they were doing wrong because no one would tell them. Sending out rejection letters with no explanation (as most festivals do), does nothing to help the filmmaker or the industry.
Please let us know if you need anything else.
I think my interaction with Sharon says it all. She was inquisitive, upstanding, interested, and receptive: everything I want from a festival. I happily submitted.
Depth of Field International Film Festival gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.
Washington DC Independent Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $40.
I sent my initial email on 10/8. At that time, the submission price was $25. I received no response. So, I inquired again on 11/13. No response. So, I inquired again on 12/2/16. I received a reply on 12/4 which was same date as the final deadline. By then, the submission price had increased to the maximum.
Washington DC Independent Film Festival gets a NEGATIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Did I finally get answers to my questions? Yes, BUT it took THREE emails and the submission price increased almost 50% because of their lack of response. That does not encourage me to believe that every cold submission is fairly screened in its entirety. Save you submission money for another festival that isn’t as shaky.
New York City Independent Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $90.
I sent my initial email on 11/19 to the email listed on WithoutaBox. A response came back on 11/22.
Good morning Justin,
Any questions made to the Programming Director must be sent to this email and it will be forwarded to them accordingly.
NYC Independent Film Festival team
I’m always a little leery when it isn’t a person who responds. Was I to believe this was from the ENTIRE “NYC Independent Film Festival Team”? I didn’t. Salutations as such lead me to believe that the responder does not want to be held accountable for their actions. That worries me. I sent my questions off to the nameless respondent. I got a response back.
1-Yes, Hoor-omedy films are eligible!
2- The NYC Indie Film Fest is not against nudity, if you submit your film and topless shot is in the original version, it is still eligible.
3 – The Festival’s categories range from feature length films, to shorts (10-59mins), and super shorts (10 mins and under). Short films are typically programmed in a 2 hour block or screened with an accompanying feature length film. No, 17 minutes is not too long. 4 – The NYC Indie Film Fest prides itself on being filmmaker-friendly! Check out our Facebook albums of past Festivals.
We hope this helps. Please let us know if you have additional questions. We look forward to your film submission!
Sincerely,NYC Independent Film Festival team
At this point, I was relatively satisfied, but I still didn’t know who I was talking to.
Great, can I get your name and festival affiliation for the article please?
Good afternoon Justin,
If this information will be published, please notify this where it will be made public. Thank you.
NYC Independent Film Festival team
The salutation at the bottom of every email I send says
So, I responded with…
As I listed in my previous emails, it will be published at www.TheMovieGuys.net and any additional aggregate sites that pick up the series.
I got their final response on December 5th: five days after a 20% submission price increase.
Good morning Justin,
You may list Maria Akay, Festival Director. Please let us know if you have any additional questions!
Why was it worded like that? “You may list”. Most people respond with “This is…” Something doesn’t smell right. I didn’t submit. Not sure who I was conversing with. Maybe it was Maria, maybe it wasn’t.
New York City Independent Film Festival gets a NEGATIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. They took their time and did the bare minimum to answer me. With an entry fee up to $90, I don’t trust that I will get a fair shake. Do they actually watch cold submissions? How many times? Once? Twice? How would I know if they didn’t at all? And how many emails would it take to get those questions answered?
Two positives and two negatives this week. If you would like to know more, check out the past articles for this series with the links below. If you would like to find out more info about my genre film, follow it on Instagram @OhTheEffingHorror for instant updates.
Once again, I’d like to hear your stories about festival submitting. If you think there is more to be said about any of the festivals I have reviewed, then I would love to hear it.
Thanks for joining me, check back Friday to find which fests are fab and which fests are effed. (See what I did there?)
Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART TEN – Dawson City & San Louis Obispo Int’l Film Festivals + Zed & Short. Sweet. Film Fests.
PART NINE – CISF, Cinemagic London, Atlanta & Liverpool Independent Film Festivals.
PART EIGHT – Julien Dubuque, IHSFF, Atlanta Shortsfest, Austin Revolution & Media Film Fests
PART SEVEN – Dam Short, ICE & River Run International Film Festivals
PART SIX – Tampa Bay Underground, CinePlay Film Awards and more
PART FIVE – Fic Autor, Long Beach Int’l & Green Bay Film Festivals
PART FOUR – Los Angeles Film & Script, Fantastic Planet & Tally Shorts Festivals
PART THREE – Die Laughing Film Festival, Slamdance & SIFF
PART TWO – Cheyenne ZombieFest & MiSciFi
PART ONE – SoCal Clips Indie Fest & Brightside Tavern