Interview with Festival Director Bill Hass (FORT WORTH INDIE FILM SHOWCASE)

The Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase (FWIFS) is going into it’s sixth year. It started as a small “boutique” showcase, designed to service local and regional filmmakers. The festival quickly grew in popularity and is now an international festival servicing filmmakers around the globe. The first year, it screened about 40 films, and they struggled to find those. In 2018, they screened around 120 films over the course of three days. They are a multi-genre fest. They screen features and shorts on a variety of topics. In their fourth year, they relocated to Sundance Square, in the heart of downtown Fort Worth. They typically present the festival in the third week of July. The dates for 2019 are July 18-20, and we are currently open for submissions.

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

Bill Hass: What we do successfully is provide a platform to grow. We are going into our sixth year and we have some filmmakers that have participated with us from the beginning. It is encouraging to see the quality of films improve over time. We take a family approach to our event. Once you participate, you’re one of us. With that we do all we can to help filmmakers grow their networks. We make them aware of other festivals, we make introductions to other filmmakers in attendance, and we set up panels and discussions to speak on specific areas of the craft.

2) What will attendees experience when they attend your upcoming festival?

We do everything we can to put a spotlight on the filmmaker. FWIFS is about each individual artist. Of course, we will show the films. Beyond that we are looking to expand the experience by offering a full day of panels on various topics. For the screenwriters, we are also looking at an opportunity to have local actors read portions of their scripts before an audience.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We look for films that tell an interesting story, films that leave you thinking and spark discussions. As a multi-genre fest, we look for and accept a wide variety of projects. We like to present a strong cross-section of films, everything from horror to comedy, and romance to faith based. The element that all of our projects have in common is a tight story, told with interesting characters.

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

The really nice thing about the independent film festival, is that all films are equal. A film that was produced with a zero budget will be considered alongside a film with a six figure budget. Each film is judged on its own merits. At FWIFS, we take every submission seriously. Every other festival I’ve dealt with does the same. That being said, as filmmakers we need to make sure we’re submitting according to the festival rules. In other words, don’t submit a feature drama to a festival that specializes in short comedies. As long as films are submitted within the guidelines of the festival I believe they are fairly considered. I think that is true for all festivals. I know that is true for us.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

The filmmaker and the audience. Festivals like this are important to new and independent filmmakers because we provide an outlet for them to show their films. For those who attend, they also have an opportunity to engage the audience and receive valuable feedback. It’s great to see filmmakers interacting with the audience and their peers. It’s also very nice to watch and audience enjoy a film that they may not have seen or known about, except for our festival. It’s a really good feeling to know what we had something to do with making that happen. That motivates us to do it the next time.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has made our submission process really easy. The receipt, review, and acceptance process is really simple. It’s easy for the judges. Of all the platforms we’ve tried so far, FilmFreeway has brought us the most success. Anytime I’ve had a question or a problem, I’ve been able to get help right away. They also consistently improve the platform and add features that increase the value. I am very glad we discovered FilmFreeway.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

In addition to what we’re already doing, by 2023 I’d like to see us offering more workshops and panels. I’d also like to see more blocks that cater to writers and story development. Over the next five years I also want to continue fostering our relationships with schools and student filmmakers. Ideally, we’ll see a level of growth that will enable us to add another day or possibly another venue in addition to our current location.

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

The Matrix. I really enjoy the way that story unfolds.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Well developed characters in a well written story.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

It’s getting better. We have a new film commission that is working to bring filmmaking to Ft. Worth. There are a lot of great locations to shoot, and the Commission is really focused on building a reputation as a Film-Friendly city. Aside from ourselves, there are several other festivals that go up throughout the year, so there is a decent opportunity to catch indie films. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops here over the next few years.
 

About the Festival Director:

Bill Hass is the programming director and one of the founders of FWIFS. Bill is himself an award winning filmmaker, so he and the team present the festival from a filmmakers perspective. Bill’s journey to programming this festival was about thirty years in the making. He started as a stage actor. From there he learned to write, which led to making films. Filmmaking evolved to programming a festival. He’s been programming the festival since it’s inception, and he works to present a strong cross-section of films each year. The focus is on presenting strong character driven stories in all genres. He also looks for opportunities to mentor young filmmakers whenever possible.

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