Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 17 – Nashville, Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l & FirstGlance L.A. Film Festivals

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 17 - Nashville, Minneapolis/St. Paul Int'l & FirstGlance Film Festivals


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 17 – Nashville, Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l & FirstGlance L.A. Film Festivals

Article by Justin Bowler

Let’s stay positive!

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.

How to Submit to Film FestivalsFilmmakers 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.

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.

Nashville Film Fest

Nashville Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $85

I first emailed on the informational email listed on WithoutABox on 10/8. I got an immediate response from Maggie, who is “kind of the middle man between filmmakers and the artistic director”.

Hi Justin, 

We are not against nudity. So feel free to submit whichever version you prefer. As for the short lengths, we do program several shorts of that length. Once you start getting any longer than that is when we really question it, but not reject it. For example, last year we programmed a 35 minute short before a feature film because the short was that incredible and needed to be seen. For the horror category, we program 6-8 shorts and 6-8 features. We screen about 275 films (both shorts and features) and receive over 5,000 entries. This year we’re projected to hit 6,000. We are a very filmmaker friendly festival and love it when filmmakers can make it out to the festival. We do q&a’s if your film is being screened, offer free passes, and in some cases, offer a travel stipend for attending filmmakers. 

Hope this helps,
Nashville Film Festival

Though I really didn’t know what her title was, she gave me all of the info I needed. I submitted.

NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. You can submit with confidence.

MSPFilm Fest

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $105

I first emailed the informational email listed on WithoutABox on 10/7. I got an immediate response from Alex Wolf, Programming Coordinator.

Hi Justin,

Our Programming Director, Jesse Bishop, can be reached at However, if you have a question about submitting a film I would be the person to ask.
Alex Wolf
Programming Coordinator
Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

So, I sent my questions to Jesse. Alex responded to that email with…

Hi Justin,
Alex here, I’d be happy to answer your questions. While horror and thrillers tend to be a small portion of our programming, our late-night “Dark Out” series gives us a place to program any genre films we think are a good fit for our festival. Here’s a link to all the films that were included in our Dark Out program last year. Hopefully that gives you a better idea of the type of genre films we’re likely to program.
We have shown both shorts and features with nudity in the past and don’t automatically disqualify submissions that contain nudity. We might program the film in a later slot that children aren’t likely to attend, but will still select the if we see the merit.
There are various challenges to programming longer shorts, but we do our best to find a place for longer shorts we think are exceptional. Last year we had around 110 shorts in the festival, 23 of which were over 15 minutes.
We like to think that we treat filmmakers well. All invited films receive 2 all-access passes and 4 additional tickets for each screening of their film. We also provide a gift bag, which in the past has included free tickets to the fantastic Guthrie Theatre, a short 5 minute walk just across the Mississippi River from our venue. We also have a filmmaker lounge at the festival venue, where visiting filmmakers can relax between films with complimentary food and beverages. These are just some of the highlights.
If there’s anything else I can answer for you just let me know.
Programming Coordinator
Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

Though there was a bit of confusion at the start, I eventually got my answers without any hassle. I submitted.

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.

First Glance LA

FirstGlance Film Festival Los Angeles
Submission Price – Up to $45

I emailed my eligibility questions on 10/30. On 11/1, I received an email back from Bill Ostroff, Festival Director/Founder.

Will I be ineligible based on subject matter? 
No, we accept all genres of indie film
Is your festival against nudity? (I have two versions of my film, one with a topless shot and one without.) 
No, we don’t censor films, we don’t however accept pornography
Is 17 minutes too long? Realistically, do you program 17 minute shorts?
17 mins fits within the shorts requirements. 
Once selected for the film festival, filmmakers hear from us weekly by email with updates and information on the festival .
We promote on social media like no other film festival in the world. We were named by Moviemaker Magazine 5 times as one of the best film festival investments and one of the Top Indie Friendly Companies

Thanks for your inquiry, we hope to see your film submission.

His answers were short, and to the point. I submitted.

FirstGlance Film Festival Los Angeles gets a POSTIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.

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.

Nashville film fest

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?)

Let’s stay positive!

Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART SIXTEEN – Dances With Films & Southside Film Festival
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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