AN ONGOING SERIES ABOUT ONE SILLY LITTLE MAN’S FILM FESTIVAL SUBMISSION EXPERIENCE
Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Segment 42 – Unrestricted View, Terror in the Bay, Glasgow & Freak Show Horror Film Festivals
Article by Justin Bowler
Well, it has been a few weeks since “Week 41”, so I can’t really call this Week 42. Instead, I’m calling it “Segment 42”! And it’s a little different than before as I’m only covering horror festivals this time. Keep reading.
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 specific type of 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.
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.
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:
Clearly, 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 my kind of horror films? (There are all kinds of horror fests, some are all “gore”, all “hack and slash”, some are “terrifying”, so I would like to know if they even consider the genre in their short film competition.)
– Second, do they accept films with nudity? (Believe it or not, even horror festivals sometimes have to keep it nudity free. 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 don’t realistically program seventeen minute shorts. In addition, sometimes they have time limits for their shorts, but don’t always post that info on FilmFreeway.com.)
The bottom line is, I need these questions answered before I give them my money.
My journey began by contacting festivals through the informational email they listed on FilmFreeway.com. In my email, I stated who I was, the answers I was seeking, and inquired who could answer.
UNRESTRICTED VIEW HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
Submission Price – Up to $30
On 7/1/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on FilmFreeway.com. James Wren, Festival Director and “final say on programming,” got back to me the same day I sent him questions.
To answer your questions:
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?
The festival covers all forms of horror film.
Is your festival against nudity? (I have two versions of my film, one with a topless shot and one without.)
We accept nudity, our audience is 18+
I realize you probably CAN accept a 17 minute film, but realistically, do you actually program them?
We do. I’ve attached last years brochure so you can see that.
How filmmaker friendly is your festival? Can you give me an example?
The festival is run by filmmakers so is very filmmaker friendly. The screening room (54 seats) is above a friendly bar and their is a lot of socializing between filmmakers between screenings. There are also some reviews at the bottom of our Film Freeway page: https://filmfreeway.com/festival/UnrestrictedViewHorrorFilmFestival
Hope that helps
I loved James’ answers and his expediency in getting back to me. I immediately submitted.
UNRESTRICTED VIEW HORROR FILM FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Submit to this festival with confidence.
TERROR IN THE BAY FILM FESTIVAL
Submission Price – Up to $50
On 7/1/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on FilmFreeway.com. One day later they put me in touch with Festival Director, Chris B. I sent him off my questions and he got back to me that same day. I can honestly say he gave the most thorough answers I’ve ever received!
Thank you again for reaching out to us! I really like what you are doing with your series, and would love to follow it, and read up on all of your festival experiences! As a filmmaker myself, I traveled to various festivals with my past film, and saw first hand how each one was presented. I learned so much from those travels, and used that experience I gained towards the design of Terror in the Bay Film Festival. As the creator and director of Terror in The Bay, I wanted to have a film festival in this city that targeted the horror genre niche. After researching and submitting my films into several festivals, and also attending them first hand, I thought it would be a great idea to have one in my city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
This year will be the 1st year of Terror in the Bay Film Festival, and it has garnered a tremendous amount of attention thus far, within this city and abroad. People I have spoken with from Thunder Bay are very excited for this festival, and happy that our city has a film festival targeted strictly for horror film fans! I can give you several reasons why I wanted to start a horror themed film festival, but the number 1 reason and most important, is that I LOVE horror films! Since as far back as I can remember, 7,8,9 yrs. of age, Halloween night after trick or treating, John Carpenter’s Halloween would air on television, and we would all sit around, open up our candy and watch that film, every single Halloween!
As far as a particular horror style or theme, Terror in the Bay is not looking for one! We love creature features, slashers, zombie flicks, horror comedies etc.
The three most important aspects we look for when judging a film is: originality, writing and direction. We look at the technical aspects as well, but if your film hits those first three points I mentioned, then I would say your film has a better than average chance of becoming an official selection. We understand the hard work and dedication it takes into making a film of any budget size, and we judge each film fairly, and without any favourtism. Our judging committee does not look at how many festivals a film has been accepted into or how many awards it has won, if we think it is strong enough to be included in our festival, then it will be chosen as an official selection.
We do accept films with nudity, but it would have to be considered light nudity, and not pornographic material. In addition, as outlined in our rules and terms: Your film must not contain genuine acts of violence – animal cruelty, rape or murder. You did mention that you have two versions of your film, one with a topless shot and one without. Either version would be ok to submit. People attending Terror in the Bay Film Festival must be 19 years of age or older.
Thus far, the biggest challenge with our film festival, without a doubt, will be creating the program, and figuring out how to slot each film in. From my past experiences with different festivals, many films do not get selected because of their longer running times, or do get selected, but do not get screened because of their running times. I can speak from experience, because this has happened to me, more than once. I took note of this, and wanted to avoid that problem as best as we could with our film festival. Every film that receives an official selection will be screened, with the exception of feature length films (60 mins+). There is no guarantee that a full length feature film will be screened, even though it may be an official selection. We have spoken with the theatre owners, and they have allowed us to increase the showtimes for each night, so we will be able to fit even more films into our line-up, and that is good news! Your film is 17 min, so if it were to be selected into our festival, then it would be played, 100% guaranteed.
Terror in the Bay Film Festival is very filmmaker friendly, and to prove it, several local establishments have sponsored us, including a historic hotel located downtown, in the very heart of our city. Filmmakers that wish to make the trip to see their selected film play in our festival, will receive a “filmmaker” discount to that hotel, as well as a complimentary 3-day “platinum pass” ticket. In addition, they will also receive discounts to some of our local restaurants, and free cover charge to the “awards ceremony” after party. Thunder Bay is filled with an enormous amount of very skilled filmmakers, despite the population size of just over 100,000 people. Terror in the Bay hopes to attract, not only filmmakers, but horror film buffs from around the world to visit our beautiful city, and mingle with other local filmmakers. The four “major” award winners will receive a custom made statuette, in which I cannot give out details as of yet … hehe (top secret) but details will be announced in the near future! We do not have a “must attend” “in order to receive” award policy. We have received emails asking if filmmakers have to attend in order to receive an award, and we understand if you cannot be there in person, so those particular awards would be mailed out to the winning filmmaker.
In addition, as filmmakers ourselves, we understand festival submission fees can get costly, so we have kept our submission fees low. We have received emails regarding free waiver fees, but unfortunately, at this time we are not granting free waivers. We feel that it would not be fair to those filmmakers that have already paid the submission fee. The possibility of granting free waiver fees to selected filmmakers under “special circumstances” will be discussed within our festival committee, and it is something we will consider in the future!
I hope I have answered all of your questions, and please feel free to message me back if you have anything else to ask! We hope that you will consider Terror in the Bay to submit your film. Whether or not it receives an official selection, we wish you the very best of luck in the film circuit! For more information, guidelines, categories etc. etc. I have attached a link to our website, facebook and filmfreeway page.
PS my apologies for the short novel, feel free to cut and paste whatever you may need for your article series 🙂
Chris is one of the best ambassadors for a film festival that I have met during the course of this series. I think it’s easy to see his enthusiasm and genuineness in his answers. Though I thoroughly understood his warning regarding the reality of programming a 17 minute film, I was so impressed with his answers that I submitted anyway.
TERROR IN THE BAY FILM FESTIVAL gets a very POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Submit to this festival and you will get a square shot.
GLASGOW HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
Submission Price – Up to $10
On 7/1/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on FilmFreeway.com. On 7/3, I was contacted by Cara Clark (who I presume is with the festival?). I sent her my questions and she got back to me immediately.
I would say we’re looking for a real mix. Last year we had a blend of horror-comedy, paranormal, psychological, gore and animated films.
We genuinely do give equal and fair consideration to all submissions. We have been running popcornhorror.com for six years, and it’s all about supporting indie horror. We formed the festival because there’s nothing in our home city (or really country) that screens independent horror and we wanted to fill that gap.
Last year we ran two film programmes, live action and animated. All of the shorts were sourced from submissions, and varied in length from 3 to 23 minutes. The overall winner was 17 and a half minutes.
Nudity is no problem, so long as it’s not blatantly disrespectful. The festival is 18+.
We’re just using our regular Twitter, but here’s the FB event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/1912744912272620/
Though I am still not sure who Cara is… I will say that she is a good ambassador and the festival should think about officially hiring her.
GLASGOW HORROR FILM FESTIVAL gets a positive review for FILMMAKER FRIENDLINESS.
FREAK SHOW HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
Submission Price – Up to $70
On 7/1/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on FilmFreeway.com. A day later they got back to me. I sent off my questions and a fast two days later I had a response from Robert Massetti, Executive Director.
To answer your questions we love all horror wether it be comedy, drama, gore, etc. but what we really look for is originality, something we haven’t seen before, something different. And of course good basic filmmaking like good sound, acting, etc.
We are not against any nudity and we don’t like to sensor any work an artist presents to us. We have a shorts program, a student shorts program, and a short “FREAKY” award. So programing a 17min short is very possible and has happened many times.
We are filmmakers ourselves and still submit and attend film festivals. We try to treat all attending filmmakers like we would like to be treated and we have been doing this for 12 years now. We also encourage filmmakers that are not screening to attend and try our best to help all filmmakers because that is how we would like to be treated. We have helped filmmakers get distribution deals and we always promote independent filmmakers when possible.
I hope these answers will help you and if you need anymore information just email me back anytime. And please keep us updated with your film and we wish all the best with your project.
FREAK SHOW Horror Film Festival
Founder | Executive Director
Robert was quick to get back to me and direct in his answers. I firmly believe they take care of all that submit to them.
FREAK SHOW HORROR FILM FESTIVAL get a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.
Four awesome fests!!!! How about that?
If you would like to see how the opposite of this interaction, then check out my interaction with the Woodstock Film Festival. They are, without a doubt, the most challenging festival that I have dealt with.
I want to thank everyone who has reached out with their own stories. All of you are awesome (except that one guy who hates me) (just a guess, you are Richard Marx). Any way, it’s nice to hear about other great festivals that I haven’t covered. In addition, thank you to those of you who reach out with praise for this article. I too believe it is important to demystify the online film festival submission process.
I will continue to post follow-ups from time to time as festivals are still getting back to me. Stay tuned.
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.