Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Segment 43 – Dickens and Sin City Horror Film Festivals, Desmond District Demons Film Festival and Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival

Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos - Segment 43


Film Festivals: Positive Reviews & Deserved Boos: Segment 43 – Dickens and Sin City Horror Film Festivals, Desmond District Demons Film Festival and Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival

Article by Justin Bowler

Once again, this is 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.

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.

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 17 minute run time too long? (Many fests don’t realistically program 17 minute shorts. In addition, sometimes they have time limits for their shorts, but don’t always post that info on
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 In my email, I stated who I was, the answers I was seeking, and inquired who could answer.

Dickens Horror

Dickens Horror Film Festival
Submission Price – Up to $40

On 7/1/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on Jill Brooke, Curator of the Festival got back to me. I sent her my questions and she got back to me the same day.

Hi Justin,
One of our favorite shorts that’s played two of our five film festivals is Sheila Schroder’s “Happy F’ing Valentine’s Day” and no, they don’t get naked but they do all end up in their undies.

My personal taste runs to the comedic horror (“Shaun of the Dead” is a personal favorite) but we have lots of categories and there are currently at least 5 short films that I’m excited to screen that are more in the Thriller category, not exactly Horror but definitely unsettling.
Last year’s festival had a short film with a topless scene. It wasn’t gratuitous and we were fine with it. 

My film background is as an editor so if your film is 17 minutes, does it NEED to be? My biggest critique of first-time filmmakers; a wonderful 10 min short buried in a 25 min film. Yes, honestly, I program longer films. I’d rather have a 60 min “feature” than a bloated 96 min one!

We currently have 33 submissions with 5 entrees from other festivals already curated…so we must be doing something right! 🙂

Colorado Festival Productions is very active on social media.
We have five separate film festivals all under the CFP brand.
and Twitter too but I’m too tired to go get you the link…you can find us @coloradofests

Jill was upfront and honest. I submitted.

DICKENS HORROR FILM FESTIVAL gets a POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness.

Sin City Horror Fest

Sin City Horror Festival
Submission Price – Up to $30

On 7/12/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on They got back to me immediately. I sent off my questions, and one day later I had a response from Darren Flores, CoFounder.

Hi Justin,

I’d love to give some comments on our festival! Just to give you a little bit of background about the festival and how it came to be. My Co-Founders Mike Lenzini, Drew Marvick and myself came up with the idea in 2016. The three of us are not only huge horror fans, but also horror filmmakers. There were a few horror festivals out here over the years, but they kinda came and went. And there really wasn’t anything in Vegas for local horror filmmakers/fans to submit their films to or attend. So we just decided to stop talking about doing it and do it.

So far we’ve had a huge response to the festival.  We’re not looking for any specific style or theme. What we are looking for is originality, creativity, and a good scare. Haha. Our submissions have been a mix of a little of everything, comedy horror, suspense, found footage, gore, etc. Which we think is great! 

Our festival isn’t against nudity. So if you do decide to submit to our festival you can submit whichever version you want. We do accept 17 minute shorts. We’re accepting shorts up to 45 minutes in length, so we will be programming a variety of films with different run times.

I believe we’re a very filmmaker friendly festival because as I mentioned earlier we’re filmmakers ourselves. We know what the process is like and we know it can be frustrating. And that’s why we decided to start the festival. We wanted to create an outlet for independent horror filmmakers to showcase and celebrate their work. 

We will be sure to check your trailer! If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to reach out!

We’re excited to watch your film! Here are some links to our social channels:

Instagram: @SinCityHorrorFest
Twitter: @SinCityHorror

Hope you have a great day!


I loved Darren’s quick response. And I loved that he empathized with how difficult the festival circuit can be. I submitted.

SIN CITY HORROR FESTIVAL gets a very POSITIVE REVIEW for filmmaker friendliness. Submit to this festival and you will get a square shot.


Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival
Submission Price – Up to $80

On 7/12/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on Robin Bain immediately got back to me. I sent her my questions and she got back to me immediately.

Hi Justin,

Would love for you to submit your horr-omedy. If you do submit, submit under the genre of “Horror” and include a note specifying that you spoke to me via email. 

1. No problem with nudity. Would rather see the uncensored version (with nudity) to be honest with you. If that was the director’s vision — let’s see it!
2. We will be programming mostly shorts this year.
3. This is our first year. As there are several filmmakers involved on the festival committee, we are very filmmaker friendly and understand the process and how challenging making an indie film is. We aim to make it a wonderful experience for the chosen filmmakers.

Thanks for your interest!

Robin Bain
Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival Team

And yes, we are on social media.
Instagram: @filmmakerawards 

Robin had great responses and was expedient. I submitted.


Submission Price – Up to $35

On 7/1/17, I originally contacted them through their informational email listed on Tyler Moldovan got back to me with this…

Hey Justin.
As filmmakers we want our fest to be extremely filmmaker friendly. So we have Director/cast Q & A planned for each block of films. We are accepting horror films of all lengths, including features. Our blocks are not yet set in stone but we plan to have a good mix of the horror genre as we see fit. It is a Halloween weekend event so there will be campfire ghost stories downtown and possibly an escape room to go along side our festival. The event will not only be an event attended by filmmakers but the generally film curious as well as horror film buffs if our previous years attendance is measuring point. A handful of films that have been submitted have had adult content in them, but that is of no deterrance to us, for example we have a feature submitted that is really amazing, and also has probably 35 minutes of full frontal nudity. But I checked out your trailer and I’d like to see more. We want to promote independent Michigan made films as well so there is an option on film freeway to submit as a Michigan made film at a discount! 

I’d like to see some of your writings when it’s all done about your experience with film festivals as well. All in all, main reason we started this festival is because there isn’t a premiere, high quality independent film festival in Michigan that we as filmmakers were excited to go to and have a unique, satisfying, informative, experience. We want to create buzz about films we are excited for people to see, we want to spark discussion with people about the art, we want to create an atmosphere that is creepy and unsettling for a one of a kind Halloween weekend that will have filmmakers and movie goers coming back. 

Sorry for my ramblings. But any questions, feel free to contact me again. Hope you submit so we can check out your film in its entirety.
Tyler J. Moldovan
Designer of all Things.

In addition, I also got a response from Andrew Brown from the Festival…

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?

We have received a lot of submissions within all realms of the horror genre. Our goal is to not limit ourselves in style and to give all films a opportunity. We have some amazing submissions from many styles so far.

Is your festival against nudity? (I have two versions of my film, one with a topless shot and one without.)

No we are not against nudity. One of the films submitted has a villain who is naked through the entire film. It’s pretty amazing.

I realize you probably CAN accept a 17 minute film, but realistically, do you actually program them?

Yes we currently have 2 shorts that are over 19 mins that we are planning to select so yes it’s all about content and quality (and fear).

How filmmaker friendly is your festival? Can you give me an example?

Well as filmmakers ourselves and being treated downright nasty at past festivals, we plan to make it a comfortable and supportive environment for the filmmakers. While we really want to give free tickets to filmmakers, it’s looking unlike that is a possibility this year. We’ve added an amazing venue, Sperry’s Moviehouse which is an incredible experience all its own. Unfortunately we are paying for its awesomeness. We are doing our best to figure a way to make it affordable for our filmmakers. One thing I can tell you is that we really care about the art of filmmaking and understand how much work it is. We seek to make this an interactive and enjoyable experience for the artist, because that is who makes the event possible.

Thanks for your inquiry, we really hope you’ll submit to DDD so we can take a look at your film.

Yes we are on social media:

Official website:



Thanks again for reaching out and hope you can make it to the festival!

Any questions don’t hesitate to reach out

Andrew Brown

I loved how thorough and communicative both Andrew and Tyler were. So, I immediately submitted.


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. It’s really 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.

Thanks for joining me and…
Let’s stay positive!
Justin Bowler
IG @IndyFilmTwittic and @OhTheEffingHorror
Twitter @JustinTBowler

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