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50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2019

50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2019

Annual Lists

Camden International Film Festival

Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine / September 12-15, 2019 / pointsnorthinstitute.org

What Camden lacks in size it makes up for in location (a coastal town in crisp fall), compelling documentary programming, filmmaker networking and community support. The festival prides itself on its diverse lineup of challenging and inspiring documentaries. In addition, Camden features an industry conference that includes masterclasses with renowned filmmakers, panel discussions with industry leaders, workshops and the Points North Forum, one of the largest documentary pitches in North America. Camden is a great place if you are looking for distribution or funding. The 2018 festival included 24 industry representatives, including several distributors: Netflix, PBS’ POV, ITVS, Field of Vision, First Look Media and Pulse Films. Also in attendance were funders and financiers such as the Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute and the Tribeca Film Institute.

Chagrin Documentary Film Festival

Chagrin Falls, Ohio / October 2-6, 2019 / chagrinfilmfest.org

Chagrin Documentary Film Festival

Photograph courtesy of Chagrin Documentary Film Festival

For a small festival, Chagrin attracts a high number of premieres. In fact, 60 percent of the films in 2018 were premieres of some form, with 10 world premieres and one U.S. premiere. The festival prides itself on providing feedback on all submissions and had a record number of filmmakers take advantage of notes at last year’s festival. In all, 89 documentaries selected from 600 submissions competed for $16,000 in cash awards across 11 categories. Chagrin’s growth has attracted distributors, with representatives from Submarine Entertainment, The Film Collaborative, and Gravitas Ventures in attendance last year. Screened films picked up for distribution include Alexandria Bombach’s On Her Shoulders (Oscilloscope), and Nancy Schwartzman’s Roll Red Roll (Film Sprout).

Cleveland International Film Festival

Cleveland, Ohio / March 25-April 5, 2020 / clevelandfilm.org

Cleveland International Film Festival

Courtesy of Cleveland International Film Festival

This festival continues to thrive, with more than 3,600 submissions for the latest iteration. Among last year’s 469 films were five world premieres, including Nick Kelly’s The Drummer and the Keeper, and Sam Rega’s documentary Breaking the Bee. Despite the high number of submissions, all filmmakers have access to notes for their films, which are each watched by three members of selection committees. Distributors in attendance recently included Film Movement and Gravitas Ventures. Winners are well-rewarded at the festival, with the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film, determined by audience voting, taking home $15,000. Film forums and Q&As connect filmmakers to the audience, and copious social events encourage professional mingling.

Cucalorus Film Festival

Wilmington, North Carolina / November 13-17, 2019 / cucalorus.org

Charleston, NC hip-hop group Langston Hughes III performs at the Visual/Sound/Walls Lounge, Cucalorus Film Festival 2019’s interactive music, comedy, performance, and drinking venue. Photograph by Viet Nguyen, courtesy of Cucalorus Film Festival

The charming river town of Wilmington plays a central role in the genial vibe at Cucalorus, which producers consider more a creative retreat than a festival. Throw in spirited social gatherings and you have a festival that the producers say, “We think of it more like a summer camp.” The festival is filmmaker-centric, as exemplified by its residency program, which offers retreats from 10 days to three weeks to help filmmakers develop new work. Adding to the collegial feel is that the festival is award-free, an attempt to eliminate “hierarchies” according to the festival producers. As a testament to the positive energy, festival producers point to a strong bond with alumni, who often return. Premieres included John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm (U.S. premiere) and Nick Westfall’s 8 Slices (world premiere).

DC Shorts Film Festival

Washington, D.C. / September 19-28, 2019 / dcshorts.com / S

film festival

As illustrated by its motto, “We champion short filmmakers,” DC is all about supporting the art of shorts. In 2018, 130 films were selected from 1,508 submissions from directors from 30 countries. There were nine world premieres and seven North American premieres. Last year’s highlights included four films nominated for Academy Awards. Competition showcases feature Q&As, and social events encourage intersections between filmmakers and industry folk. Films are screened multiple times during the 10-day festival for maximum exposure. Workshops focus on hands-on filmmaking.

deadCenter Film Festival

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma / June 6-9, 2019 / deadcenterfilm.org / V, P

Photograph by Justin Brotton, courtesy of deadCenter Film Festival

DeadCenter is a great place to make connections. The festival team works hard to help filmmakers interact. During the distribution forum, moviemakers meet one-on-one with sales agents and distributors. In 2018, five distributors met with every accepted filmmaker at the distribution speed-dating session. In attendance were The Orchard, MarVista Entertainment, Shorts TV, Seed&Spark, and Matson Films. Filmmaker-only events let peers talk shop. These events are scheduled so as not to conflict with screenings. Programmers selected 115 films from 1,200 submissions in 2018.

Edmonton International Film Festival

Edmonton, Canada / September 26-October 5, 2019 / edmontonfilmfest.com 

Festival-goers give a standing ovation at Edmonton International Film Festival 2018. Photograph by Emily Welz, courtesy of Edmonton International Film Festival

Competition for a slot is high at Edmonton, where 128 films were selected from 4,860 submissions. Edmonton pays particular attention to projection. As the producers explain, films “receive white glove treatment and your film will be projected in the best possible light.” Canadian premieres in 2018 included Ross Whitaker’s Between Land and Sea and Jesse James Miller’s Rabbit. The festival is an attractive venue for gaining exposure since Edmonton attracts six to eight commissioning editors from Canadian broadcasters with offices in Edmonton.

Fantasia International Film Festival

Montreal, Québec, Canada / July 11-August 1, 2019 / fantasiafestival.com / V, P

film festivals

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot star Sam Elliott and director Robert D. Krzykowski at Fantasia International Film Festival 2018. Photograph by King-Wei Chu, courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Fantasia is about putting all of its films in the spotlight. As the producers explain: “We’re especially proud of the fact that almost every film in our lineup manages to find its audience here and get noticed.” To eliminate films getting lost in simultaneous screenings, the festival limits the number of films playing at any one time. Fantasia is earning attention from distributors, with reps from Amazon Studios, Arrow Films, Blumhouse Productions, Entertainment One Films, Elevation Pictures, IFC, Magnolia Pictures, Mongrel Media, Raven Banner Entertainment, AMC’s Shudder, and Universal Pictures International in attendance. Among last year’s 151 films was the world premieres of Robert D. Krzykowski’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot and Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam. Both films found deals at the festival. The second weekend of the festival offers Frontières, an international co-production market that offers in-production screenings and brings filmmakers together with industry pros.

Female Eye Film Festival

Toronto, Ontario, Canada / June 25-30, 2019 / femaleeyefilmfestival.com / P 

Award-winners pose with their prizes at Female Eye Film Festival 2018. Photograph by Mack Downey, courtesy of Female Eye Film Festival

Known for its intimate, accessible atmosphere, the female-centric festival is seeing growing interest from distributors, with attendance from A71 Entertainment Indiecan Entertainment, Hollywood Suite, VICE Canada, and United Front Entertainment. In addition to social events and post-film Q&As, the festival includes a filmmaker discussion panel, a script development program, and a pitch session open to the public. Among films picked up for distribution were Valerie Buhagiar’s It’s Hard to be Human (Juniper Island Productions). While a competitive international women director’s film festival since 2001, the festival is inclusive for men, with its script development program open to all.

Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival

Providence, Rhode Island / August 6-11, 2019 / film-festival.org / A

While Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival shows features, its focus is shorts. The fest is one of only 10 worldwide to serve as a qualifying festival for the BAFTAs, the Canadian Screen Awards, and the Oscars. A whopping nine shorts shown at last year’s FRIIFF were nominated for Oscars in 2019, including Marianne Farley’s Marguerite and One Small Step by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas. The community-minded festival also features a Filmmaker Mentorship Program, pairing successful indie moviemakers with local college and high school students.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar Ryan Betschart says:

    San Diego Underground Film Festival!!!!! YAY!!!

    • Avatar Ron Tucker says:

      I can assure you that the Beaufort International Film Festival held each February in Beaufort, SC is well worth the entry fee. See the recap here -https://vimeo.com/321820933

  2. Avatar Lucifer says:

    SDUFF is the best!!!

  3. Avatar Tommy says:

    No film festivals of diversity, not event the American Black Film Festival? Disappointing!

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