Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 31 – Sidewalk, Nightmares and HorrorHaus Film Festivals

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 31 - Sideways, Nightmares and HorrorHaus Film Festivals


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 31 – Sidewalk, Nightmares and HorrorHaus Film Festivals

Article by Justin Bowler

This is how we do it! (play song riff here)

This is how we do it

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.

Submit your film

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.

Sidewalk Film Festival

Sidewalk Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $70

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 2/8. The following day I received a response back from Rachel Morgan, Creative Director/Lead Programmer of the Sidewalk Film Festival. I sent her my questions the following day. No response. So, I sent them again on 3/2. That same day, I got a response.

Hi Justin! Sorry for any delay, I am quite behind on emails – it has been a crazy season thus far. Regarding getting “some comments about this year’s festival”, what, in particular, would you like for me to comment on… specifically?

Regarding your submission questions:

We accept films of all genres and certainly love horror and comedy… and horror-comedy, so we have no aversion to the genre in the least.
We take no issue with nudity.
Our festival is known for filmmaker hospitality – not sure what you mean by “filmmaker friendly”, if you’ll elaborate I will do my best to respond.
We do, indeed, often program 17 minute shorts. If it’s a great short and should be 17 minutes long we’ll likely program it. 

I hope this mostly answers your questions, pass along specifics as outlined above and I will do my best to fill in any missing answers.

Thanks for you your interest in Sidewalk!


She apologized for being tardy on her emails. I liked her answers and submitted.

SIDEWALK Film Festival gets a Positive review for Filmmaker Friendliness.

Nightmares Film Festival

Nightmares Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $55

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 3/7. That same day I received this response…

Thanks for your interest!
Our motto is “#BetterHorror,” and we play three main categories of film: horror, thriller and midnight. We loosely define those respectively as tales of 1) terror and death, 2) dark suspense, and 3) the weird and bizarre. So team and I are less looking specifically for, say, gore or suspense, and more for great stories that advance horror filmmaking in those three big categories.

From your teaser, looks like you have a horror comedy (sorry if I’ve misread it). We have a dedicated horror comedy block to honor those shorts … and they’re close to my own heart.
Nudity is fine with us. If it helps the comedy, I’d submit the topless version. 

As I’m sure you know, 17 minutes is harder to program than seven, but we programmed plenty of shorts in the 15 to 20 minute range last year. The most important thing is the effectiveness of your short.
Regarding being filmmaker friendly, I like to think it’s one of the things we’re best at. Filmmakers get VIP passes, a dedicated lounge and bar, and private in/out access to VIP balcony seating in our screening auditoriums. All films are presented at the world-renowned Gateway Film Center, named a top-20 art house in North America, and all screenings are overseen by the film center’s dedicated projectionist team — maybe the last one left in the country. 

We’re the top-rated horror festival on FilmFreeway and third overall out of 5000 (or thereabout), which is a judgement specifically by the filmmakers of how much they got from the fest. We had 80 filmmakers attend from all around the world last year, and there’s a genuine camaraderie between the NFF class of ’16. As a genre filmmaker myself, my number one goal is to support our NFF films and the people who make them, and help them become a family that supports one another. 

Jason’s responses were fantastic. I can also say that out of everyone that I have contacted in 31 weeks, he was the fastest to respond to any of my emails. I immediately submitted to the festival.

NIGHTMARES Film Festival gets a Positive review for Filmmaker Friendliness. Submit with absolute confidence! These guys are filmmakers and take care to do it right.

Horrorhaus Film Festival

HorrorHaus Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $55

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 3/7. I immediately received a response form David Lawrence, Festival Director.

Hi Justin,
Thanks for reaching out.  I’m happy to answer your questions.  We are always on the lookout for great films.  We’re all huge fans of horror and filmmakers ourselves.  I’ll include the link below to our recent short, Don’t Let Them In for you to check out.  Pretty much anything goes, horror and subgenre, we actually got our first animated submission recently and loved it.  About the only thing we’re not huge fans of is fantasy, but psychological, slasher, zombies, bring it on!  Last year (our first) we got a lot of great compliments on the quality and variety of films we screened.
As for being against nudity: not at all.  We screened a film called Goddess of Love last year and it had nudity and some pretty intense sex scenes, though there was no frontal.  So if your film has nudity, don’t let that stop you from submitting.  We can absolutely program a 17-minute film.  If we love it, we’ll find a place for it in the lineup.  Your film would actually fall into our Featurette category (films 15 to 40 minutes.)  Below is the HorrorHaus promo trailer from last year to give you an idea of some of the films we programmed.
I’d like to think we’re very filmmaker friendly.  Again, being filmmakers ourselves and having done the festival circuit, we understand the other side of it.  The reason we started HorrorHaus was two-fold – we love horror films and wanted to showcase them and support other filmmakers and because we’ve been to our share of bad festivals.  That can be really disheartening after you’ve paid the fee to enter and spent money to travel, only to feel like the festival doesn’t give a s**t about you.  I can tell you some horror stories.  

Last year at HorrorHaus we had a filmmaker’s reception and an after party and met a lot of really talented people.  We also have some alumni filmmakers that have submitted their new work for consideration this year.   If you take look at our FilmFreeway page you can see the positive reviews we received.  We were voted one of the Top 100 Reviewed festivals.
Your trailer is very intriguing, so if you submit it, we look forward to considering your film for the festival.  Let me know if you have any other questions.
David Lawrence

Boy, oh boy, was he thorough, and expedient. I immediately submitted. On a side note, I know a “David Lawrence”, he is an actor/voiceover friend of mine. He was not this “David Lawrence”. But, it isn’t surprising that I would come across another “David Lawrence”, since my friend is literally “David Lawrence XVII”. No, really…

HorrorHaus Film Festival gets a Positive review for Filmmaker Friendliness.

Submit to these awesome fests with confidence.

If you would like to know more, check out the past articles for this series with the links below. They are not all as happy and positive as this week. 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?).

Until next week, let’s keep it positive, AYYYYY! (That was for you folks that are fans of indy movies AND Happy Days!)

The Fonz

Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART THIRTY – Austin, Monmouth & Atlanta Horror Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-NINE – Cinema at the Edge, Amsterdam International Filmmaker Festival & London Independent and Los Angeles Thriller Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-EIGHT – Crested Butte, NEPA Horror and Norwich Film Festivals
PART TWENTY-SEVEN.5 – Breckenridge Film Festival Follow-Up
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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