AN ONGOING SERIES ABOUT ONE SILLY LITTLE MAN’S FILM FESTIVAL SUBMISSION EXPERIENCE
Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 19 – Hoboken Int’l, NYC Downtown & Love Horror Short Film Festivals
Article by Justin Bowler
When complacency occurs often enough, it becomes normal.
Some fests have dismissed accurately reviewing submissions so much, that it doesn’t occur to them to improve their system. That is sad. I’ve literally had high school volunteers answering my email for quotes about their festival. So, a professional filmmaker spends ten thousand dollars on a film, puts in countless hours, and then pays to submit their film to a festival, only to have a high school student evaluate it. I was under the impression that festivals were supposed to celebrate the art of film, but someone who was born the same year as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is going to score that art. Hmmmmm.
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.
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.
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 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.
Hoboken International Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $55
I first emailed the informational email listed on WithoutABox on 1/25. I got an immediate response two days later from Lauren Ide, Associate Producer, Justice For All Productions, and Vice Chair, Hoboken International Film Festival. I asked my three standard questions, in addition to “Can you give me an example of how filmmaker friendly your festival is?” She responded.
We accept many different films so please feel free to submit any genre and any length! As for nudity we do accept it, however sometimes it is best to submit the cleaner version to allow for more of an audience.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Associate Producer, Justice For All Productions
Vice Chair, Hoboken International Film Festival
I thanked her for her time. Then, I took her up on her offer to ask more questions, by asking the question again that she didn’t answer the first time (“Can you give me an example of how filmmaker friendly your festival is?”). In addition, I followed up with “Also, is the festival on IG, Twitter, etc?” She responded.
Yes the festival is on all forms of social media. It is extremely filmmaker friendly and thieves off the filmmakers and the people that they bring to the festival itself.
Associate Producer, Justice For All Productions
Vice Chair, Hoboken International Film Festival
That was odd. Once again, she didn’t give me an example. I asked her point blank twice to give me an example of how filmmaker friendly they are. Twice she didn’t answer. But, she did tell me they “thieve” off the filmmakers (Freudian slip?). In addition, she didn’t tell me where they could be found on social media (Granted, I didn’t ask where they could be found, I only asked if they were on it). However, I think it was implied. Either way, it never occurred to her to take the extra step in the conversation. This worries me.
I am undecided on the HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. She was quick to answer the most important questions for me, but, was evasive with her other answers. I won’t give them a negative review, BUT, I certainly won’t give them a positive review. At $55 for a submission, I’m not submitting. It’s too much money to gamble on whether or not I will get fair shake. Submit at your own risk.
NYC Downtown Short Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $10
I first emailed the informational email listed on WithoutABox on 11/13. I received a response from a nameless respondent…
Hi. How can I help you.
I acknowledged it was from a nameless respondent and asked my questions.
Hehe…nameless. My email addy has DMAC Michelangelo Alasa’. Yes, we accept films with nudity. We do not have a horror category per se but if you say it is a comedy it would fit into the comedy genre. Our length limit for a short film is 30 minutes so 17 minutes is not an issue. I would point you to our film freeway listing which explains our film festival in full. Look forward to receiving you film.
I was happy he had a sense of humor. Confident that I would get a fair shake, I submitted.
NYC DOWNTOWN SHORT FILM FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.
Love Horror Short Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $65
I emailed my eligibility questions on 11/20 to the informational email address listed on WithoutABox. On 11/21, I received this response from Tim Meunier, Founder & Festival Director The Sacramento Horror Film Festival.
Is your festival against nudity? (I have two versions of my film, one with a topless shot and one without.)
Nudity is fine. We’ve had full frontal and then some.
Is 17 minutes too long? Realistically, do you program 17 minute shorts?
I get these questions quite a bit. What i tell people that in general, if your film is outstanding, we will play it regardless of how short or long it is.
I’ve played films as short as 60 seconds and short films as long as 39 minutes.
How filmmaker friendly is your festival? Can you give me an example?
Not sure what you mean exactly. All film festivals should be filmmaker friendly in my view. You are providing us content. Without filmmakers, we’d be promoting a blank silver screen.
If you have no representation for your film in the form of distribution, we can connect you to our various partners that have interest in pushing short films.
If you attend the festival, we provide passes for you and any of your cast/crew up to 10. Anything over 10 we take on a case by case basis.
You also receive the standard on stage Q&A should you attend to talk about your film and field questions from the audience.
A snippet of your film may also be included in our festival commercial/trailer.
Should your film win an award, it would be presented to you at that point during the festival or mailed to you after the event. Cash awards vary from year to year (sponsor dependent).
I loved this response and happily submitted.
LOVE HORROR SHORT FILM FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Submit with confidence.
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?).
Let’s stay positive!
Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART EIGHTEEN – West Chester, Oaxaca and Crimson Screen Horror Film Fests
PART SEVENTEEN – Nashville, Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l & FirstGlance L.A. Film Festivals
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