Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 13 – Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema & Dallas Int’l Film Festival


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 13 – Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema & Dallas Int’l Film Festival

Article by Justin Bowler

‘Twas the post before Christmas, and all through the house…

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.

Submit your film

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.

kevin smith

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.) Check out the trailer HERE.

Oh, the Effing Horror

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 or (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 or 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.

Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema
Submission Price – Up to $75

I first emailed on the informational email listed on WithoutABox. I immediately heard back from Jayson Simba, the Executive Director.

Hi Justin,

Congratulations on your film and your project, and thank you for your interest in our festival. To answer your questions, yes we do program that kind of film.  In fact, we have received some horror comedies, so your submission would fit perfectly. While we don’t have restrictions on content and accept all genres, keep in mind your film will be showcased to the general public and your film will represent you – so we recommend you send us what you believe is the best version of the film.  As far as programming a 17 minute film,  it all comes down to the schedule. I will say, in general,  a 17 min film is easier and more likely to fit into a film festival schedule as opposed to a 50 min short. 
How filmmaker friendly our festival is depends on what your definition of that term and what you are looking to get out of it.  I can tell you we plan to showcase truly independent films that aren’t necessarily backed by major studios. We also plan on having talk back series where invited industry guest will share the stage and talk about their experiences and struggles in the industry. We are currently in talks with several distribution companies to have them attend.  Plus as filmmakers ourselves,  we understand the struggles in financially putting a film together, so we offer exceptionally priced entry fees. (Keep in mind that fees do go up by $15 roughly every 5 weeks). Also, filmmakers whose films are playing will be receiving discounts on merchandise and gala tickets.  
Along with red carpet premiere events of specially selected films, our opening night mixer which allows the filmmakers and festival guest to network and mingle and several after parties (including our awards gala), we plan to give our participating filmmakers and audience a festival to look forward to every year. 

Hope this helps!
For more info you can always visit our site:

All the best,

I submitted immediately.

Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. They responded immediately, answered all of my questions, and inquired if there was anything else I needed. It’s amazing all fests can’t do this.

Dallas International Film Festival

Dallas International Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $90

On October 6th, I emailed the informational email listed on WithoutABox. I did not get a response. I emailed again on 11/13 (5 weeks later). I still did not get a response. I emailed again on 12/18 (5 weeks later). Ten weeks after my initial inquiry, I got the following response from Daniel Laabs, the Programming Director.

What is your question exactly?

Since I received such a welcome response, I asked my questions. The following day I received a response. He apologized for not getting back to me and said he would answer my questions IF I did not quote him. So, I’m paraphrasing here. He was too busy to answer my first emails, and he was catching up on them now (over 2 months later).

At that point, I truly felt like he had given me everything I needed to know about his festival. So, I simply responded with one word.


I believe he misunderstood that word. He sent me a follow-up email answering my questions. Now, all of that being said, let’s take an in-depth look at what transpired.

When I first emailed him, I could have submitted by the earlybird deadline and the earlybird price. By the time he got back to me with his exceptionally welcoming, “What is your question exactly?”, the submission price had gone up significantly. Then, he was only willing to answer questions about eligibility if I promised not to quote him (That’s right, HE WAS ONLY WILLING TO TELL ME IF I QUALIFIED FOR HIS FESTIVAL, IF I DIDN’T TELL ON HIM) (HOLY CRAP!!!) By the time my interaction with him had ended, the submission price had nearly TRIPLED and had reached the maximum. There was NO WAY I WAS GOING TO SUBMIT.

DALLAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL gets a NEGATIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. STAY THE EFF AWAY from them. Through their negligence, it would have cost me THREE TIMES the price to submit. After this interaction, would anyone actually believe they watch cold submissions? EFF NO! SAVE YOUR MONEY. DON’T SUBMIT TO THESE LAZY AMATEURS! THIS IS THE MOST SHADY FESTIVAL I HAVE EVER COME ACROSS!

And on that note…

Yes, only two reviews this week. But, what can I say, I have presents to buy. 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?)


Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART TWELVE – Chhatrapati Shivaji Int’l, Columbus Int’l Film + Video & Newport Beach Film Fests
PART ELEVEN – Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest + Depth of Field Int’l, DC & NYC Independent Film Fests
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

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