Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 16 – Dances With Films & Southside Film Festival

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos - Pt. 16


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 16 – Dances With Films & Southside Film Festival

Article by Justin Bowler

Too Many Indies? Actor and Director Kentucker Audley Urges ‘Mediocre’ Filmmakers to Stop Making Films

Sadly, some fests seem to agree.

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, despite multiple inquiries, 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.

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. Some fests only watch the first few minutes of your film, some don’t watch any of your film. Yet, they all accept your submission fee. It is an eye-opening and sad realization.

Oh, the Effing Horror

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.

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.

Dances with Films

Dances with Films
Submission Price – Up to $120

I first emailed on the informational email listed on WithoutABox on 11/3. I got an immediate response from the DWF Submissions Committee, instructing me to contact Co-Founder Leslee Scallon. So, I emailed her and she immediately got back to me.

Will I be inelligible based on the genre?
No – we are not a genre specific festival.
Is your festival against nudity? (I have two versions of my film, one with a topless shot and one without.) 
No.  But it should not be gratuitous.
Is seventeen minutes too long? Realistically, do you program seventeen minute shorts?
We program all lengths.  I like to say we are looking for films that are interesting for as many minutes as they are on the screen.  That said, the longer a film, the more challenging it is to program.  But we would not consider 17 minutes too long as long as it fills those 17 minutes.

I submitted. This festival is probably going to turn down my genre picture, but at least, I honestly believe that someone will watch the film and give it a fair shake.

DANCES WITH FILMS gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Dances with Films is a very big festival with some very big submission prices, but, they are obviously doing things right over there. All I needed were answers to my questions. They quickly supplied those. They are pricey, but definitely not a scam.


Southside Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $50

I first emailed on the informational email listed on WithoutABox on 10/7. I got an immediate response from Glenn Koehler, Director. I’m not sure what he was director of: programming, art, awesomeness… I don’t know. But, here is his response.

Hi Justin,
We’ve shown films that are exactly in the horror comedy genre before, such as Tucker and Dale Vs Evil and are not against nudity or pretty much any sort of content. We’ve definitely done shorts as long as 17 minutes (and longer).  Filmmaker-wise, we’re very friendly. For accepted films all filmmakers are invited to attend the festival with free housing at a local university and we provide the opportunity for talkbacks and discussions following the film’s screening (each accepted film usually screens twice).  We also have opening and closing night parties where film-goers and filmmakers can mingle.  If there’s any other questions you have please let me know!

Glenn Koehler
SouthSide Film Festival

I going to say that he was the Director of Good News and Filmmaker Relations. (That is quite a title by the way.) I submitted.

Southside Film Festival gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. They responded to me immediately, answered all of my questions, and demonstrated they are on the up and up.


Omaha Film Festival

Omaha Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $65

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Omaha Film Festival (12th Annual). To recap what happened… I emailed him my eligibility questions on 9/6. He didn’t get back to me, so I emailed him again on 10/2, 10/24 and 11/13. So, four times I emailed him my questions.

On 1/10/17, approximately 40 days AFTER THE FINAL DEADLINE, and 126 DAYS AFTER I FIRST CONTACTED HIM, the Program Director, Marc LongBrake, finally got back to me regarding my film’s eligibility questions. Boy, he sure was helpful. In all fairness, he answered all of my questions. Unfortunately, it was WAY TOO LATE to submit. So, my review still stands…

Omaha Film Festival gets a NEGATIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. First, they lied to me. Second, if it takes you 126 days to answers 3 “Yes or No” eligibility questions, then you come off as pretty lazy. Third, based on 1st and 2nd, I don’t even remotely believe you watch all of the cold submissions. Save your money people.

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.

Film Festivals

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 FIFTEEN – Int’l Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema & Maryland Int’l Film Festival
PART FOURTEEN – Big Easy Int’l & Omaha Film Festivals and Pacific Coast Premiere
PART THIRTEEN – Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema & Dallas Int’l Film Festival
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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