Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 32 – Killer Valley Horror, Los Angeles Reel & Halloween International Film Festivals

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 32 - Killer Valley Horror, Los Angeles Reel & Halloween International Film Festivals


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 32 – Killer Valley Horror, Los Angeles Reel & Halloween International Film Festivals

Article by Justin Bowler

(Yes, I have been watching Luke Cage on Netflix.)

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 RejectionCheck 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.

Killer Valley Horror Film Festival

Killer Valley Horror Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $20

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 3/7. The same day I received a response back from Ross Williams, Director of Killer Valley Horror Film Festival.

Hi Justin,
I’m the Programmer for KVHFF, I can try to answer any questions you have.  
We should be opening our entries on April 1st, maybe a week or two earlier if we can get our s*** together soon.    Enter here: festival/ KillerValleyFilmFestival

– Ross Williams
Director, XRATS

I immediately sent off my questions.

Hi Justin,

Sure, happy to help.

As far as themes go, we’re not looking for anything in particular, just good and/or entertaining films.  We showed a wide variety of sub-genres last year, a lot of horror-comedies, some animation, a couple of thrillers that didn’t really have anything supernatural about them, some weird gore experiment, some super short one jump scare kind of films and probably a few other things.

We rejected a couple really well made films that were close because they were so well made, but ultimately didn’t feel “horror” enough to show.  And we accepted a couple of really low-budget, pretty poorly made films, because they had a lot of spirit and I knew they’d play well.

It’s an 18+ audience, so we certainly don’t mind nudity.

We do like to cap our shorts at 15 minutes because we’re a one night festival and we’re trying to show as many films as we can in a short period of time.  So we picked a lot more stuff in the 5 – 10 min range. But if it’s something really good, than we might make an exception.  Your trailer looked intriguing, by the way.

We’re all filmmakers, so we’d love to treat them like gods, but just because we have no money to spend on them we can’t do much. Our founder has lost money every year he’s ran it.  We came close to breaking even last year and this year plan on for the first time charging a submission fee, just to hopefully put ourselves in the black for the first time.  Our local filmmakers will continue to submit for free, and they have a much better chance of getting in, as we want to help promote local work.  But there’s not a ton of horror filmmakers in the area.  If somebody gets in from out of the area, and they want to come, we can’t pay for travel or lodging, but might be able to find a free place to stay and take them out for a dinner, just so we can get to know them.  They’d get into the fest for free and however many friends they want to bring, they’re welcome to do a Q&A at the end of the night and we give out trophies to 5 different categories, but no cash prizes yet. 

Basically we’re just horror filmmakers ourselves and lovers of the genre and want to promote it and have one really fun night every year that we can get together with all our horror friends. Every year it gets a little bigger and better and hopefully we’ll be able to expand it to a full weekend in the next few years.

Hope that answered everything. Send me a link, I’d love to read about your experiences with other festivals.  I’m prepping my next film in the genre, so I’d love to see what’s going on.

– Ross Williams
Director, XRATS Productions

I loved his answers. This festival came off as genuine and enthusiastic. I happily submitted to it, knowing I would get a fair shot from them, and happy to support this great little festival.

KILLER VALLEY HORROR Film Festival gets a Positive review for Filmmaker Friendliness. Submit to this great festival.

Los Angeles Reel Film Festival

Los Angeles Reel Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $70

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 3/5. The following day I received this response…

Good Evening Mr. Justin Bowler,

All questions can be directed to this email address to the attention of Clifford.  I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.  Thank you!

Warm Regards,
Los Angeles Reel Film Festival

While I will admit, it was little odd that it was from a specific person, but, the salutation didn’t list a name. It was even a little odder to have someone refer to himself in the third person, but I decided to do it. (So, Justin sent off his questions.) Two days later I received a response.

Good Afternoon Justin,

Yes, we definitely accept horror films and 17 minutes is certainly a realistic programing length.  All Filmmakers will receive free entry to the festival and will have a professionally conducted Q&A session.  Awards will also be presented during their screening blocks.  We hope you have a great weekend.

Warm Regards,
Los Angeles Reel Film Festival

While I still found the whole interaction a little weird, I submitted. I would rather have weird and honest over the alternative.

LOS ANGELES REEL Film Festival gets a Positive review for Filmmaker Friendliness.


Halloween International Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $50

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 3/7. I immediately received a response form Matt Artz, Programming Director.

Hi Justin! I am the programming director and my wife and I produce the Halloween International Film Festival. What can we do for you? 
– Matt Artz
OBX Entertainment Halloween Daily News

I received his response, literally, a minute later. So, I sent my questions. Once again, an immediate response.

Hi Justin!  Thanks so much for reaching out to us.  We’ve copied your questions below with our responses.  Please let us know if you’d like more information or if you have any other questions for us!

I just wanted to get some comments about this year’s festival.  I’m writing an ongoing series about my film festival submission experience and I might like to submit my film to your festival if it is a good fit. 
-Sounds like a great idea to us!  People definitely depend on what they read online from other’s past experiences to help make their decision making easier.

Clearly, a lot goes into the planning of a festival line up, and the horror genre has grown so much in the past few years. I’m wondering, as your line up starts taking shape, what are you looking for in style and theme this year: gore, suspense, comedy horror? 
-So far, we’re seeing mostly horror and thrillers, but we are open to accepting films of any genre.  Once we choose the films we will be screening, we carefully choose the line-up to make things flow as smoothly as possible.

Is your festival against nudity? (I have two versions of my film, one with a topless shot and one without.) 
-We are not against nudity.  If it were up to us, we’d want the version the director would prefer to be shown.

I realize you probably CAN accept a 17 minute film, but realistically, do you actually program them?
-Yes. Last year was our first festival and we screened 40 films over 3 days, from 1:00pm to 10:00pm each day, with run times ranging from 3 minutes to two hours.  We’ve had a lot of training when it comes to scheduling, so it was definitely a tight fit, but we managed to stay pretty much right on time, with breaks between Short Film Blocks and Feature Films.

How filmmaker friendly is your festival? Can you give me an example?
-We would hope our filmmakers from last year would have good things to say about us!  We strive to make sure we have good communication with our filmmakers and try to respond to any messages promptly.  Previously, we were able to comp the filmmaker’s festival ticket, made them a little thank you gift bag with some local treats to enjoy and their lanyards were made by us, and the ladies were given a candy corn pin made out of shells found on the beach here in Kill Devil Hills! 

Thanks again so much for reaching out and we hope to hear from you soon!
Sue & Matt Artz

I love this couple. They are excellent ambassadors for their festival. I immediately submitted.

HALLOWEEN INTERNATIONAL Film Festival gets a Positive review for Filmmaker Friendliness.

These are stand up fests (not fests for stand up comedy…, but good fests, well, you get the picture), so submit to them with confidence.

Halloween International Film Festival

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, and be happy (that was for you folks that are fans of indy movies AND Pharrell Williams!).

Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART THIRTY-ONE – Sidewalk, Nightmares and HorrorHaus Film Festivals
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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