Interview with Festival Director Kristian Day (Interrobang Film Festival)

Presented as part of the Des Moines Arts Festival, the Interrobang film festival is three day multi-venue event taking place in the Des Moines East Village Neighborhood. The audience – whether cinema enthusiasts or curious newcomers – can experience curated screenings from films around the globe as well as experience hands on workshops, celebrity lectures, and industry parties.



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

Kristian Day: All of our juried films are free to the public. As a filmmaker myself, I hate the process of submitting to festivals. You spend lots of money submitting your films and then if you are selected, the audience has to pay to see them on top of that. Which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I want to take the risk out of going to a film festival. If your film festival is not a buyers market, then at the very least you want to help guarantee an audience for the films that have been selected.

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

For the first 9 years, the Interrobang Film Festival took place within the Des Moines Arts Festival. We have grown significantly and this year we have become a stand alone three day / multi venue event.

New additions this year:

Interrobang Film Challenge, a timed film competition similar to the 48hr Film Project that takes place the weekend prior and the films will then screen the weekend of the film festival.

Best of Show Award now includes how filmmakers market the film in our city. As most filmmakers know, once they are selected it is up to them to get people to come see their movie. I want to encourage old fashion showmanship. Fliers, parades, billboards, guerrilla marketing , whatever they need to do to get people in the seats! It is not only a big marketing tool for the festival but its fun for the city to have that experience. I give all the filmmakers every media contact in the city thats in my rolodex but they have to get more creative then just sending out press releases.

More parties. I don’t think young people have the attention span to sit and watch movies for hours like they used to. The Youtube generation likes things short, sweet and always moving. So we have a lot more non-screening events including a “Beers with Iowa Filmmakers” party and a cocktail hour with the Iowa Screenwriters Alliance.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

I can’t say there is a specific qualification to select a film. There are obvious technical aspects I look for but I am always looking for something unique in each one. Sometimes I might watch it and think “this isn’t for me but I know there are definitely some people who will enjoy this”.

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

Sure. The bigger festivals are very political and I get that. If they don’t have some celebrity attached or if it hasn’t created some controversial buzz behind it then they are not really interested in it. But good films find their way. That is one thing I have learned over the years. A good will won’t go unnoticed if the creators never give up.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

I work in the film industry full time. I commute from Des Moines, Iowa to LA several times a year. I do this festival year after year because some day I hope that I don’t need to commute to LA for work. I want to see the industry move into more third markets (areas that are not LA or New York) and to do that you have to continue to develop that culture.

From an Iowan perspective, Des Moines is the capital city. It deserves to have a great film festival.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Great. I love FilmFreeway! We used to use Withoutabox but to be honest it was super tedious, clunky, and convoluted. I like being able to watch films within the site and its easy for the judges to do their work within the system.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Buyers market is always the goal. But it could also just take its place among the other festivals like 80/35, 515 Alive, and the Des Moines Arts Festival: an annual event that everyone in the region looks forward to attending, Either way I would be very happy. I don’t actually want to run this festival forever, I do it because it needs to be run by someone who doesn’t want to be the center of attention. The filmmakers, the audience, and everyone who makes the festival what it is are the most important aspects. There are some programers who think that they are the heroes and this not the attitude I want to see. Also whenever I see someone post things like “Great things on the horizon” on social media I am immediately turned off.

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

Once Upon A Time In The West. This is the single greatest film ever made.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, and Jason Robards are what make a great film. (See the answer to the previous question)

How is the film scene in your city?

It’s OK. We have several shows that film here but not many folks are properly trained to work on a real set. I am a 1st AD on a lot of projects and every time on Day 1 I run into either a camera operator or a sound mixer who hits record and yells “speeding” before I tell them to roll. I have to stop everything and explain to them that no one touches anything until I say so.

My dream would be that we would have people who could work on shows in bigger positions, not just PAs. That could happen but they just need to work more and have more opportunities to be trained.

Interrobang Film Festival2.jpg


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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