Interview with Festival Director Richard Hooban (ZERO Film Festival)

Zero Film Festival is an independent film festival exclusive to self-financed filmmakers. Founded by Brad Bores and Richard Hooban in 2007, Zero Film Festival holds annual festival events in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, London and Miami Beach. The American Buffalo is the symbol for the festival, representing the independent spirit.

Interview with Festival Co-Founder Richard Hooban:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Richard Hooban: ZERO is the first and only festival exclusive to self-financed filmmakers. After 8 years, I would say we are succeeding at sharing authentically independent films with cinema lovers.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

Richard: You would expect to see some of the most talented filmmakers in the world sharing their art, you would expect an opportunity to speak with them, and to have a really fun time in the process.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Richard: Each and every film must be self-financed.

Matthew: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Richard: This is a tough question, and for this there are two answers. First, the larger and most prestigious festivals aren’t looking for micro-budget and low budget films, they are looking for films with celebrities, with press agents, films with producers and directors with deep connections. There are the occasional deserving films that slip through, but this is akin to winning the lottery. Second, I’ve seen in the past 8 years a proliferation of new festivals, most of which seem to lack a raison d’etre, and some which don’t physically exist at all, so filmmakers sending them hard earned cash really aren’t getting a fair shake in my opinion. I would encourage all filmmakers to do due diligence on a prospective festival prior to entering.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Richard: We were, or are, independent filmmakers. We saw how stacked the deck was against true independent filmmakers so we created a festival exclusive to them, taking everything we learned as filmmakers along the way to create a good experience.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Richard: Wow… in the beginning we were wild and crazy. We held screenings in warehouses in downtown Los Angeles before it was gentrified, we were running on pure passion, we had warehouse parties that went until dawn, we didn’t pay attention to budgets, we used our credit cards to support the festival and filmmakers the same way that indie filmmakers use them to make their films. For the long run though, that type of festival isn’t sustainable, and we believe that ZERO deserves, in fact, should exist, so unfortunately that meant screening less films, thinking about effective budgets, and moving from the wild warehouses into elite and highly respected venue, which in the end, is better for filmmakers in the long run, even if the warehouse days were more fun.

PHOTO: Zero Film Festival’s old warehouse days:


Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Richard: Doing exactly the same thing. Its an authentic film festival with a purpose.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Richard: The filmmakers I have watched and studies the most: Richard Linklater, his structuralism is brilliant, and Tarkovsky, he’s brilliant. Guilty pleasure? Zoolander.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Richard: Thoughtful craft and integrity.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Richard: I live in New York. Its incredible. Its inspiring. I’m spoiled.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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