Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 27.5 – Breckenridge Film Festival Follow-Up

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 27.5 - Breckenridge Film Festival Follow-Up


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 27.5 – Breckenridge Film Festival Follow-Up

Article by Justin Bowler

This week is an update for Week 24, Specifically, it’s a follow up with the aftermath of my review about the Breckenridge Film Festival.

Okay, here is a quick catch-up… Since this is an update/follow up, I will be briefer than normal. So…previously in my Filmmaker Friendliness Review…

For those of you who don’t know, this is an ongoing review series about my film festival submission experience.

Let me set the scene. I have a short film called OH, THE EFFING HORROR. Check out the trailer HERE.

Oh, the Effing Horror

Clearly, it is a genre picture. 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. So, I send emails to festivals I’m interested in with three specific questions.
– First, do they program horror films?
– Second, do they accept films with nudity?
– Third, do they realistically program seventeen minute films?

Breckenridge Film Festival

My journey began by contacting the festival through the informational email they listed on

To catch up on my interaction with the Breckenridge Film Festival, go HERE.

UPDATE: After I submitted the article to my editor, I was still so frustrated, I sent an email off to the Programming Director.

Sadly, I’m guessing you didn’t read my original email. I asked 3 “yes or no” eligibility questions which you still haven’t answered.

Will I be disqualified for the genre of my film? My short is a horror film.
Will I be disqualified if my film has nudity? My film has nudity.
Will I be disqualified for length? My film is seventeen minutes long. 

I’m surprised, I have sent five emails over the course of four months and I still have not had these questions answered. 

I wonder how many hundreds of filmmakers pay the submission fee to be considered for your festival, but never even have their film watched. I’m guessing a lot. If I can’t even get three “yes or no” questions answered, then why on earth would I think someone would spend seventeen minutes of their time evaluating my film. Your festival appears to be one that doesn’t pay much attention to the details. You have absolutely convinced me not to submit to your festival.

Calvin - mad writing

Clearly, I was a little mad when I sent that. Dianna Nilsson’s response to my email came that same day.


My first reaction from the tone of your e-mail is to get defensive but I am truly sorry you feel this way. The answer to all your questions is “no”.

I have been with the festival for a long time and I have to say you are the first filmmaker to approach me in this aggressive manner.

The Breckenridge Film Festival takes a lot of pride in the fact that we do watch and review every submitted film.

I wish you all the best no matter how you may feel about us (or me).

Dianna Nilsson
Programming Director

While I appreciate her calm tone, I still didn’t feel like it addressed any of my frustrations with the process I had been forced to endure.

My REVIEW was posted a day later.

That same day, this comment was left on site…

The Breck Film Fest regrets that Justin Bowler had a difficult experience with the festival’s submissions process and, by association, its programming director. This represents an anomaly in our relationships with filmmakers, the vast majority of whom enjoy their experience with Breck Film Fest, both in the submissions process and in attending the festival once selected. We welcome filmmakers to read in full our festival submissions requirements and, if questions remain, to inquire with us about submitting their films.

I’ll be honest, this only made me more frustrated. How can you promote welcoming filmmakers to inquire about submitting films, on the heels of my experience? I was not happy at all.

Then, Dianna emailed me again, in response to the article. I’m not posting her entire email as she admitted some personal details to me, addressing why what happened, happened. But she also let me know I had gone too far.

I’m a person with feelings doing the best job I can (a job I love, by the way, mainly because I get to meet and interact with talented, creative filmmakers) and I am shocked and saddened that you would put my name out in print and use my name for the public to see in such a negative article.  

Dianna Nilsson

regret Stormtrooper

Then, I asked myself if I went too far? While I will admit that I fall into the same pitfalls that others do (frustration, anger, confusion, etc), I still try to point out that submitting a film is a very difficult thing to do these days. First, it is expensive. If each film fest charges $50 and you only submit to twenty of them, then that is $1000. Many short films cost $1000. So, literally the budget is doubled. Second, it is frustrating. A sizable amount of festivals don’t even let you know that you HAVEN’T been accepted: not by email, not through the submission website. So, even after you spend $50, that doesn’t even guarantee that a filmmaker gets notified in any way. Third, it is a personal experience. Filmmakers put their blood, sweat and tears into their own projects. Submitting to fests is the first “review” process they go through. Yet, too many fests don’t take any of these aspects into consideration.

So, was I frustrated? Yes. Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Probably. Did I respond too harshly to Dianna? Possibly.

A few days later I received a personal email from Janice, the Executive Director regarding my experience (she has given me permission to post it).

Mr. Bowler,
Greetings. I am writing because it’s been brought to my attention that you’re upset with the Breck Film Fest.

I am writing to apologize for the frustrations you encountered at the end of 2016 and in early 2017. In reading the chain of emails below, it’s clear that Dianna did not respond to your messages adequately, and for that I am sorry. I am not sure what was going on in her world at that time, but her initial response wasn’t up to her usual standards.

We don’t like for that to happen with any of our filmmakers, as we value our track record with a long history of very satisfied industry professionals. This interaction has been addressed with Dianna in the ongoing effort to be an excellent resource for up and coming filmmakers.

I am very sorry you had difficulty getting answers to your questions about submitting to our festival. I want to personally apologize for the frustrations our programming director’s communication caused.
I’d like to offer a 50% off coupon on submission fees to further extend my apologies. I have instructed Dianna to follow up with you with that code information. Please let her know whether you’d prefer to use or

Please, if you’d like to continue the conversation, I am available at ***-***-****. If I don’t answer, please leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I am able.

Thank you,
Janice Kurbjun Miller
Executive Director | Breck Film Fest

It’s amazing how just acknowledgement of one’s frustration can ease the frustration. I felt like I was finally apologized to for the experience I had. Here is my response…

Thank you for reaching out and apologizing. I appreciate that. 

As far as submitting, I’m inclined to say no. As contentious as my relationship with your fest has been, I’m not inclined to think my film will be reviewed favorably (whether it is good or not). Furthermore, I don’t need to spend $25 to find out the festival is not happy with me. You probably noticed Dianna made that very clear in her emails. 

Once again, I appreciate you reaching out.

Janice reached out again.

Thank you for your reply. I understand your position, and understand why you are reluctant to submit. If you change your mind, the offer will be good for the duration of the submissions period. The Breck Film Fest is always growing and changing and if you don’t this year, I welcome you to give us another chance down the road. 

I regret we’re meeting (virtually) this way, and I hope we/the Breck Film Fest can get off on a better foot next time our paths cross. Again, my apologies for your frustrating experience. 

Janice Kurbjun Miller
Executive Director | Breck Film Fest

After my interaction with Janice, I felt much better about the festival. Perhaps, my interaction with the fest was an anomaly. Perhaps Dianna, on any other set of four months, would have responded differently. Perhaps, if I wasn’t writing this series, then I wouldn’t have a chip on my shoulder. While I believe the emails speak for themselves, I also believe that this fest (and specifically it’s Executive Director) is truly trying to be the best they can be. But sometimes things/people fall through the cracks. I guess that can happen to anyone. I’m hoping that my example is one of those rare moments. In addition, I am sure Executive Director Janice is taking steps to keep something like this from happening again. I greatly appreciate her reaching out and offering a discount. It shows a respectability that many people/fests don’t have.

Breckenridge Film Fest

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, I’ll see you next Friday.

Let’s stay positive!

Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART TWENTY-SEVEN – Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Idaho Horror and Kansas City Film Festivals
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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