Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 27 – Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Idaho Horror and Kansas City Film Festivals

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 27 – Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Idaho Horror and Kansas City Film Festivals

Article by Justin Bowler

HAT TRICK!!!!! This is the third week of all festival awesomeness!!!

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.

Official Rejection

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 HorrorClearly, 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 (and in some cases Withoutabox). 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.

Idaho Horror Film Fest

Idaho Horror Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $65

I first emailed the informational email listed on on 2/8. A few minutes later I got a response from Ian Brimberry, Programming Director.

Hey Justin, It’s Ian, the programmer for Idaho Horror. What can I do for you, man?

Boom. Now that is nice. The person I need to talk to, who responds in minutes. This is a good omen. I sent Ian my questions immediately. And a few minutes later, I got a response.

Happy to help. 
I primarily program shorts, and comedy horror stuff has been our most popular, so I always welcome that. Last year I didn’t get that many submissions that even attempted to be actual scary movies, ha. 
I am open to all content, nudity is no issue. We have shown some pretty gnarly stuff, so no worries there. 
17 minutes isn’t too bad, its the shorts that are right around the 30 minute mark I am more leery of. We have 5 or six blocks currently set for shorts.

We pride ourselves on being pretty film maker friendly. We usually have a film maker mixer, as well as a dinner, at the very least. Have some lodging accommodations we can talk about it, if you were considering coming. Where are you based out of? 

If you have any more questions, just let me know, man. Thanks.

Ian B.

Ian was awesome! This was easily the quickest complete interaction with anyone thus far. So, I submitted.

IDAHO HORROR FILM FESTIVAL gets a very fast POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness!

Hell's Half Mile

12th Annual Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival
Submission Price – Up to $25

I first emailed the informational email listed on FilmFreeway on 2/8. I got back an immediate response from Don Hessell, Program Manager.

Justin –
Hi there!  I’m the programming director…… may I help you?
– Don

I sent off my questions to him immediately! He responded immediately.

Nice to meet you, Justin.  I love that you’re thoughtfully doing research before directly submitting. That’s the best route to success, and I wish more filmmakers would do their homework. 

Alright, let me get to your questions……..

Yes, we absolutely program (and love) horr-omedy!  Check out the trailer to Killer Friends that we screened last year:

We have no problem with nudity, so send it our way.  We also have no restrictions on genre.

The length of your film has no relation to selection as long as it’s appropriate. If your film is perfect at 17 minutes, that’s all that counts. So yet, we program plenty of 17+ minute shorts. I personally love short programs whenever I attend festivals because it’s an opportunity to see a wide assortment of films in a short amount of time. It’s very satisfying.

We are absolutely a filmmaker friendly festival. As a filmmaker if you attend Hell’s Half Mile you become a festival alumni, and part of the HHM family. We make sure our filmmaker guests enjoy themselves, as well as our audiences. It’s all about creating an experience, and bringing filmmakers into Bay City during the festival adds value for film-goers. Our festival is run by filmmakers, film professors, and film enthusiasts. We are geeky about what we do, and appreciate people who create film. Throughout our 4 day fest filmmakers have a great opportunity to connect with other filmmakers, as well as the audience with Q&As, receptions, panels, and parties. We are the real deal, but don’t take my word for it……….listen to what some of the attending filmmakers had to say at last year’s festival…….. v=jtIUV7gUZCU&t

The quotes in this video weren’t just from filmmakers drinking the magic HHM Kool-Aid. If you track them down they will tell you all about their experience. Long after the festival is over we keep in touch with the filmmakers we met, and support them however possible. Many have become like-long friends. So yes, we are filmmaker friendly.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. We take great pride in what we do here at Hell’s Half Mile, and I am happy to discuss anything and everything.

Please follow us on Twitter , Instagram, and Facebook!

By the way, I just checked out your website and saw your mention of “Official Rejection”. Coincidentally, since we screened that film at HHM back in 2009 it has been a requirement to watch for all over our new programmers and organizers. Given the amount of time, money, and energy that goes into making a film, we truly need to have a great respect for filmmakers. We are lucky to have crossed paths with some amazingly talented people along the way, and we wouldn’t be anything without them. It’s all about building relationships, and working together. 

If you have any other questions, please ask.

Have a great day.


Don Hessell
Program Manager 
Hell’s Half
Mile Film & Music FestivalSeptember
28th – October 1st, 2017

Don’s answers were phenomenal!!!!!! I happily submitted.

12th ANNUAL Hell’s Half Mile FILM and music FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.

Kansas City FF

Kansas City Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $65

I emailed my eligibility questions on 10/8/16 to the informational email address listed on FilmFreeway. One day later, I received a message from Veronica, Elliott Loncar, Executive Director.

Hi Justin,
KC FilmFest is 95% volunteer and we have a committee made up of screeners that work together to review all the films.  Is there something I can help you with- do you have a question or need info?   On a side note: we have received close to 65 requests for fee waivers in the last month, and as stated in the rules, we don’t do fee waivers. We want to support filmmakers by providing them a theater to screen their films on the big screen in front of enthusiastic audiences, and the fees help us pay for that theater rental.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need help.

Veronica Elliott Loncar
Executive Director
Kansas City FilmFest

Sometimes I get responses like this. I get it. There are a lot of filmmakers who ask for waivers. I took no offence and responded, clarifying my questions. Only one day later, she got back to me.

Dear Justin,

Thank you for your email and your interest in the KC FilmFest.  In regards to your questions:

Listed on our website, and call for entry platforms Film Freeway/Withoutabox, our festival guidelines specify KCFF accepts films in the following categories from anywhere in the world:

Short Narrative –  Narrative films of less than 40 minutes in length from any filmmaker produced anywhere in the world are accepted for entry.

Short Documentary – Documentary films of 40 minutes or less from any filmmaker produced anywhere in the world are accepted for entry.

Feature Narrative –  Narrative films of more than 40 minutes in length from any filmmaker produced anywhere in the world are accepted for entry.

Feature Documentary – Documentary films more than 40 minutes in length from any filmmaker produced anywhere in the world are accepted for entry.

On our website, the KCFF 2016 festival program is posted with films and programs from last year.  There you will see a great variety of genres and lengths.  KCFF screens short films ranging in length of 5, 12, 17, 20 minutes and more!

We are open to multiple genres.  We don’t have rules against nudity.  KCFF often screens a collection of short films that could qualify as “R” rated at a later evening screening time for adults.   If you are concerned about nudity affecting your chances, we would be happy to review both versions. In order to avoid paying two entry fees to enter both versions, you can enter one version and email me the link to the alternate version if you would like. 

Kanas City FilmFest is very filmmaker friendly!  This will be our 21st year of bringing inspiring, thought-provoking, and entertaining films to Kansas City audiences and a hallmark of our festival is to offer opportunities for artists and filmmakers to network, and develop their craft and art.  KCFF was started in 1997 to support and promote independent filmmakers in KC and quickly expanded to include filmmakers from around the country and the world.  Filmmakers who plan to attend, are asked to notify us one month before the festival, so they can be listed in the program as attending, and a festival host will introduce your film to the audience, and conduct a Q&A with you and the audience after your film screens.   

Additionally, KC FilmFest brings in Jurors and film industry guests to host seminars and panels.  Again check out our guests from last year in our program as an example:  Filmmakers have the opportunity to attend these events for free and after-parties where they can speak with our guests.    We’re not large enough to pay for filmmakers hotel and travel, but we will provide ground transportation to and from the airport to your hotel.  We work with hotels within walking distance of the theatre to offer discount packages for visiting filmmakers. The Director of each film receives a Gold Pass good for all movies, seminars, panels and parties and two free tickets to their own film to share. The Producer and Writer of each film receives a Blue Badge allowing them free access to their own film,  to the filmmaker panels and badges and parties.

KC FilmFest also hosts a “Uniquely Kansas City Tour” for visiting filmmakers, which includes a hosted tour of the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and a fantastic Kansas City BBQ lunch.  KCFF also hosts one event each day to provide a free meal for visiting filmmakers.  The Director of each film also receives a SWAG bag of cool gifts from KC.

KC FilmFest 2-16 had approximately 7k people attend and celebrate our films and filmmakers.  Every year, our visiting filmmakers not only enjoy their screening experience, they meet and build relationships with fellow filmmakers and people who work at other festivals, in the media, at distribution companies and more.  KCFF is not a big festival, but our audiences and volunteers have a big heart for our filmmakers!

Thank you again for your interest and best wishes,


Veronica’s responses were fantastic and exactly what I was looking for. I happily submitted and thanked Veronica. She responded once more.

Hi Justin,

I’m glad it helped!   It’s good that you are writing festivals, no two festivals are a like.  It’s also good that you wrote now, as the months go on, it gets pretty hectic and it’s harder to write to all the filmmakers that write us.   In fact, the number of entry fee waiver requests have gotten to be so many, that we listed on-line and in our rules that we don’t do them and please don’t ask 🙂   
We definitely sympathize with entry fee costs(years ago I worked on and submitted short films and it adds up quick).  Very smart to do research. (Awesome website you have, definitely full of movie lovers!)

Thank you again for your interest and best wishes!


Once again, I completely understood why she assumed I was going to ask for a waiver, but, I never did, nor have I anywhere (I’m not famous enough to be part of the problem, yet). I’m happy to pay the entry fees as long as I get fair treatment. Veronica was just wonderful. And I was sure I would get fair treatment.

KANSAS CITY FILM FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Submit with confidence.

For the past three weeks, we have seen the world’s finest responses from festivals that were on the level. I happily submitted to them, knowing if I didn’t get it, at least I would get a fair chance. Kudos to the people putting on these fantastic fests. I wish more festivals would follow their example. Feel free to submit to these 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 @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!

Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART TWENTY-SIX – Sick ‘N’ Wrong, Woods Hole & CayFilm International Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-FIVE – Overlook, Milledgeville and Provincetown Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-FOUR – Breckenridge Film Festival
PART TWENTY-THREE – Indie Horror, FAMEUS Int’l & Atlanta Underground Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-TWO – Brooklyn Short Film, Buddha Int’l & Sun Valley Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-ONE – Festival Reviews REVIEW!
PART TWENTY – Lake George Film Festival and Lisbon, NY State & Illinios Int’l Film Festivals
PART NINETEEN – Hoboken Int’l, NYC Downtown & Love Horror Short Film Festivals
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

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