There's nothing quite like seeing your passion project short or microbudget feature projected onto a 40 foot screen in front of a live festival audience. This desire, combined with the growing trend of reputable festivals accepting digital submissions, has given rise to 2 companies; filmfreeway, and withoutabox.
Festival submissions can be a daunting and expensive process for first time filmmakers. While IMDB 's withoutabox remains the home of Sundance and tiff, Vancouver-based filmfreeway has streamlined the submission process considerably, offering a much improved user experience for filmmakers and festival directors alike.
It's currently home to over 4000 film festivals, ranging from local festivals that'll inevitably run a 3 hour showcase for an audience of 15, to industry heavy hitters like Slamdance, Raindance and Tribeca.
In order to help filmmakers narrow their selections, filmfreeway brilliantly has 3 categories of film festivals; top 100 reviewed, top 50 worth the entry fee, and Oscar qualifying. While we commend the effort, these lists have some glaring holes we would like to point out for you.
We got you covered. No sweat. Surely submissions to some of the aforementioned festivals are far from cheap, although we do see extreme value in festivals like Shots, Vienna Shorts, Oaxaca, Tallgrass, and Citizen Jane (females only). But for you couch-surfing warriors eating mac-and-cheese for breakfast, here is Pensare Films' list of film festivals for a filmmaker on a budget.
Robert is a writer for Pensare Films Media. He loves film festivals in all their glory, even when they write mean rejection letters. Follow Robert Misovic on Facebook for more Festival-related goodies
The best listing is Moviemaker magazine's top 50 film festivals worth the entry fee list. The listing is an opinion, but it factors in several key things; cost, audience attendance, festival accomodations, responsiveness and perhaps most importantly, VALUE. While far from perfect, it does feel less arbitrary than the other two. Due to the increased exposure due to their inclusion on this widely publicized list, many of it's participants have increased their submission fees. Oh the irony.
Noteworthy: Brooklyn Film Festival, Palm Springs International Shortfest, Tallgrass Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Oxford Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Filmfestival Kitzbuehel.
The Oscar qualifying designation is for a short list of film festivals whose winners will automatically be nominated for an academy award. Sounds snazzy. Until you realize of course that this is something almost any festival can offer provided they're willing to pay for it. 2 of the absolute worst experiences we had in our submission process were with festivals on this list. It's easy to be confused. Every top 25 festival is obviously Oscar-eligible (some even offer multiple oscar eligibility slots), but when you see lesser known festivals listed with Sundance and Tribeca, it's easy to confuse terms. Make no mistake; it is a marketing gimmick and even this list has some duds.
Noteworthy: Tribeca Film Festival, VIS Vienna Shorts, Leeds International Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, Calgary Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival.
Robert Misovic | December 15, 2016
10.Calgary Underground Film Festival | 14 Years Running | Canada
While CUFF is in line with most mid-major festivals in terms of submission fees, it offers a discount to Canadian filmmakers. Actually, if your film is Canadian, your submission is totally free. Gotta love that northern hospitality Eh?
9. Oaxaca FilmFest | 8 Years Running | Mexico
With early bird submissions as low as $10 USD, Oaxaca's a great festival which offers a growing fan base, and an impressive social media presence. You might have to dust those 'Spanish is Learning' textbooks from high school though. The festival requires all films be submitted with Spanish subtitles if in English.
8. River Bend Film Festival | 16 Years Running | United States
This Indiana based festival offers earlybird submissions as low as $15 for shorts and $20 for features. They offer a great live audience and friendly correspondence too.
7. Int. Short Form Film Festival | 7 Years Running | Serbia
You've got to love smaller established festivals that keep submission fees low. Short Form takes it a step further by offering free submissions through all deadlines. If you're into Balkan film festivals, be sure to check out Tuzla in Bosnia as well.
6. InShort Film Festival | 4 Years Running | United Kingdom
Young and enthusiastic audience? Check. Flights to UK cheaper than ever? Check. Free submissions until December 20? Check. Seriously, if you're a young filmmaker looking for a vibrant screening, submit right now.
5. VIS Vienna Shorts | 14 Years Running | Austria
Short films only, but VIS offers an Oscars-accredited film festival with submission fees ranging from $14 USD to $22 USD at the late deadline. While this is far from free, we find the value of this festival far exceeds the cost.
4. Nevermore Film Festival | 18 Years Running | United States
With $1 USD earlybird submissions for both features and shorts, and an established audience which comes out bigger each year for this festival, Nevermore Film Festival offers a unique opportunity for horror, science fiction, mystery/suspense, and action-thriller filmmakers.
3. Fantaspoa | 13 Years Running | Brazil
Who doesn't love Fantaspoa? The secret's out on this value grab, so if you don't have a fantastic film, your odds are slim to nil. With over 29,000 Facebook followers and wildly enthusiastic audiences, free submissions are just the icing on the cake.
2. Imagine Film Festival | 32 Years Running | Amsterdam
Imagine Film Festival offers a great opportunity to screen in a lively city in front of an established audience. Their submission cut-off is December 31, 2016, so if you don't get your film in this year, make sure to get it in next summer. They offer free submissions with one catch; you have to go to their website and fill out an application form instead of submitting via filmfreeway directly. It's a bit more work, but for a festival this good, totally worth it.
1. Warsaw Film Festival | 32 Years Running | Poland
Warsaw Film Festival offers earlybird submissions in the summer of 5 and 10 Euros for shorts and features respectively. It's one of the most established and well respected festivals in the world, and compared to the other festivals it's routinely grouped with, Warsaw Film Festival is an absolute steal. Note that Warsaw Film Festival submissions are only available via withoutabox. Good luck navigating that mess of a site.
Top 10 Value Festivals Every Filmmaker Needs to Discover
The top 100 reviewed festivals are a completely mixed bag. We would argue that very few of the festivals would make our top 500. Filmfreeway only allows reviews from users whose films have been accepted to a festival. Some smaller festivals which accept a load of terrible films may see excellent reviews as a result. When you get 50 rejections, the one festival that accepts you seems great by default. Logically, however, there's much more to festivals than ease of access to meaningless laurels.
Noteworthy: New Orleans Film Festival, Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival, Shots (Slovenia), Brooklyn Film Festival, Citizen Jane Film Festival.