Interview with Festival Director Joel Knain (Azalea Film Festival)

 The Azalea Film Festival’s first goal is to acknowledge and award the many talented independent filmmakers, writers and performers who may not get the recognition they deserve through many commercial film festivals. The AFF recognizes filmmakers who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity. All genre of films and music videos are accepted by AFF. Awards will be distributed, giving filmmakers, writers and actors the opportunity to be noticed. First place films of each category will receive an award trophy plus special recognition for the overall all Best Film.

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

Joel Knain: One the biggest problems that filmmakers encounter is not realizing their dream of seeing their work on the big screen. Seeing it on the big screen is really a learning experience that we give to every film we select. There is a huge difference from watching it on your 24 inch computer monitor when you are editing it to seeing it projected on a 40 ft tall screen. It’s what every filmmaker wants for their film.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

A wide variety.. Love stories, horror, comedy… Our selections come from all over the world including Australia, China, Mexico, Canada and France, to name a few. Plus, our films come from a diverse level of experience too. Some are in film school, and some have a fantastic resume in the industry already. It’s really awesome to see how each interpret the world.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

First, they have all been completed after 1/1/2016. They have to be technically good. Poor sound, terrible lighting or framing, or bad editing will get you cut almost immediately, without question. Then the story comes into play. We want to be engaged when we watch a film.

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

I think most get fair deal in the smaller festivals. I don’t know about some of the larger festivals. Maybe they cater a little more to the marketing side of the business.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Two things. First, we are filmmakers too. We went to a festival nearby and the format was a little different and we thought, well, maybe we can do it better. We wanted to have a fair, equal playing field for all films. Secondly, we are a non-profit and we utilize the net proceeds to help children and their families who are affected by autism. Autism affects 1 in 68 children born every day with no cure… Children can only adapt to life. So we give back to help those children.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has been awesome for us. It’s fast, simple and we wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m glad we went exclusively with them.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Wow… that seems so far away. I hope that by 2020 we expand from a 2 day in one theater event to 5 or 7 days and multiple theaters. We are also looking into ways to showcase our films via other avenues of delivery.

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

If I had to guess, it would be Star Wars IV, A New Hope. I saw it in the theater when it was originally released and it was fantastic. Personally, I try to watch as many films as possible, and more than one time. Good and bad. You can learn so much from them. What works and more importantly, what doesn’t.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film is one that transports me inside the film, allowing me to escape for 90 minutes.

How is the film scene in your city?

Mobile has been growing in the film industry. Some or all of older films such as Close Encounters of a Third Kind and Under Siege were filmed here. More recently, a string of Nicholas Cage and Bruce Willis films came through in 2014-2016 and Jean Claude Van Damme just wrapped up filming last week. Our city offers a variety of landscapes for filmmakers to choose from. The Gulf of Mexico is right at our doorstep. And more importantly, the people love to see these filmmakers come in to town and welcome them like family.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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