Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 33 – Catalina, Woodstock Film Festivals & Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 33 – Catalina, Woodstock Film Festivals & Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image

Article by Justin Bowler

I guess they can’t all be great.

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 filmFilmmakers 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.

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.

Catalina Film Festival

Catalina Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $75

I originally contacted the festival email listed on on 1/25. I waited, and waited and waited. No response. I sent them another email on 4/1. I waited some more. No response. So, I sent them another email on 4/25. That same day I received this welcoming response.

Hi Justin-

What is it that you needed?

CFF Programming Team

Since, I was so warmly welcomed, after three attempts to contact them over three months, I sent my questions to the nameless respondent, wondering if it would take three more months to get a response. Happily, on 4/28, I received a response.

Hi Justin-

Please see the answers to your questions below.
Let me know if you have any others!

The Nameless Respondent

OR you can call Karyl, (Carol, like Christmas)

From the trailer it looks like it would fit into the Wes Craven category, but we ask the filmmakers to choose the one they feel is best.  If we find that it fits another category better and it ends up being one of the selected films, we ask if we can screen it under the new category.

We do not have a problem with nudity.

Realistically, do you program 17 minute shorts?

If they are good, we make it work!

We love our filmmakers!  They are our “Rock Stars” and we treat them as such, and even refer to them as such!  LOL!  From the moment they are notified they have been selected to screen with us, we try to do everything we can to make sure they have a good experience.  We try to make it as easy as we can for them to join us on the island, and once they are there, we let them know we are thankful they even considered us to showcase their work!

While I appreciated Karyl’s answers, I did not submit to this festival. Unfortunately, it took three months and 4 emails to get my submission questions answered. In addition, at $50/short, it carries a hefty submission fee. Plus, I faced a 35% increase due to their lack of responsive.

CATALINA Film Festival gets neither a NEGATIVE OR Positive review. Submit at your own risk.

Woodstock Film Festival

Woodstock Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $95

I originally contacted the festival email,, listed on on 1/31. I waited. And waited. No response. So, I sent another email on 2/10. Then, I waited and waited again. I sent another email on 3/2. I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. NO RESPONSE. They never got back to me.

WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL gets a NEGATIVE review for Filmmaker Friendliness. Do not submit to this festival.

Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image

Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image
Submission Price – Up to $60

I originally contacted the festival email,, listed on on 1/31. They immediately responded. I sent them my questions immediately as well. Then, I waited. No response. So, I sent the questions again on 2/10. No response. So, on 3/2, I sent the questions AGAIN. They NEVER responded.

THE ARTISTS FORUM FESTIVAL OF THE MOVING IMAGE gets a NEGATIVE review for Filmmaker Friendliness. Stay away from this fest. catalina film fest

Well, two negative reviews and a submit at your own risk. It isn’t the best of news this week. Next week will be better… hopefully.

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?)

Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

Read More of Justin Friday Film Festival Friendliness reviews:
PART THIRTY-TWO – Killer Valley Horror, Los Angeles Reel & Halloween International Film Festivals
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

2 thoughts on “Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Pt. 33 – Catalina, Woodstock Film Festivals & Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image

  1. Just noticed this so I had everyone here check their email. One email was indeed received in spam folder on January 31. It reads “Hi there, Do you have the contact info for the Artistic Director or Programming Director? ”

    No other email was ever received.
    Our phone number is readily available on our site or by googling.
    Our staff info is on the about us page.
    Our entry fee for a feature film was $45 for early bird and $55 for regular deadline. The extended deadline price is to dissuade people from making late extended deadlines.

    We’re here to answer any and all questions, as we have been since 2000. To read what filmmakers think of our festival, see

    At least Paul Rudd thinks we’re cool…
    “It’s a great festival… It’s what a film festival should be, which is really independent films and showcasing the work of filmmakers you might not know about, I love that, and Woodstock is a town that goes hand and hand with that. I can’t think of another place that seems better suited to have an independent film festival than Woodstock.” Paul Rudd (Actor)

    Our film commission promotes and creates sustainable economic development by helping, supporting and attracting film, video and media production in the Hudson Valley and Catskill counties. See

    Here’s a nice comment from Larry Fessenden of Glass Eye Pix…
    We always rely on the Hudson Valley Film Commission to guide us towards great resources, locations and production facilities. What the commission provides is a strong sense of community that begins at pre-production when the always proactive commission head will send out dispatches to rally locations, actors, musicians, props, catering, crew members and interns for specific films, regardless of budget size. The efficiency and enthusiasm of the Hudson Valley Film Commission has earned the enduring gratitude of film producers both local and visiting.” •Larry Fessenden, Glass Eye Pix (STRAY BULLETS)

    Here’s a few films we’ve worked with…
    Departures • The Ranger • Shotgun • Furlough • A Vigilante • Nancy • Diane • Ten • Coin Heist • The Miseducation of Cameron Post • The Awakening • Unwanted • La Devotee by Panic at the Disco! • It Comes at Night • The Strange Ones • Before Mars • One Percent More Humidity • Welcome the Stranger • What Children Do • The After Party • Super Dark Times • Love After Love • A Different Sun • The Independents • Little Boxes • King Cobra • The Seagull • Jack Goes Home • Stray Bullets • OCC: American Made • Look Away • Amy Makes Three • My First Christmas • HAPPYish • The Ticket • King Jack • What Happened, Miss Simone? • My First Kiss • The Tuba Thieves • Growing Up Smith • The Inherited • How He Fell in Love • Approaching the Unknown • Azeroth Choppers • I Dream Too Much • Small Miracles • Hits • Cold in July • Katie Fforde Films • Mi America • About Alex • Loitering With Intent • Late Phases • Uncertain Terms • Magic Men • The Fly Room • Jamie Marks Is Dead • True Story • The Sisterhood of the Night • The Better Angels • Dovid Meyer • We Are What We Are • Doomsdays • Deep Powder • The Bourne Legacy • Franny • Bottled Up • Frances Ha • Why Stop Now • Happy House • Happy & Bleeding • Brass Teapot • Keep the Lights On • In Our Nature • Marwencol • Harriets Traum • Our Idiot Brother • Rhymes With Banana • Another Kind • First Winter • The Last Keepers • Francine • Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding • Martha Marcy May Marlene • Higher Ground • Return • Rocksteady • Bitter Feast • Stake Land • Man on Wire • Whisper Me a Lullaby • Taking Woodstock • Meskada • Handsome Harry • American Gangster • Michael Clayton • Splinterheads • Against the Current • The Human Footprint • The Cake Eaters • Racing Daylight • The Night Listener • Stephanie Daley • War of the Worlds • Down to the Bone • Personal Velocity

  2. Hmm, did you just quote a celebrity to prove how your festival isn’t elitist? That’s your plan to defend that your festival is filmmaker friendly to the unknown filmmaker?

    It looks like you spent as much time digesting my article as you did looking for my other 2 emails, because you completely missed the point of this series. It’s for cold submissions from nobody filmmakers. You demonstrated you don’t have time to answer emails from some yahoo at a movie website, but, you have time for a celebrity like Paul Rudd. Good defense.

    However, you are correct, I sent that email on 1/31. As far as it being the only one you received, sure we could blame it on electronic mail, it’s a convenient alibi, but, honestly, I don’t believe that. However, for arguments sake, let’s say it’s true, then, why wouldn’t you check your spam folder. Has it never occurred to anyone at your festival that messages may go into your spam? I check my spam folder every day. And I’m not charging people up to $95 per film.

    You listed a lot of great films with a ton of accolades. Did those award winning films cold submit to your festival? Did they go through the same process as nobody filmmakers like me? Or did you invite them after you saw their awards?

    Understand, I don’t believe that you or the staff at your festival are bad people. But, I also don’t believe the purpose of your festival is to serve the average or unknown filmmaker. Your festival serves the festival, which is why you defend yourself with celebrity quotes. After all, they can promote your festival more so than… someone like me, Joe Nobody.

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