Interview with Festival Director Otessa Ghadar (DC Web Fest)

The DC Web and Digital Media Festival highlights the best of the web. The festival goes beyond web series to include various forms of digital media, such as Short Films, Screenwriting, and Game/App development. The MISSION of this festival is to Entertain, Educate, and Promote these new and innovative art forms.

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

Otessa Ghadar: The DC Web Fest is a great platform for independent digital media creators to showcase and promote their work. We have a total of six categories: web series, digital shorts/trailers, games, apps, AR/VR, and blogs/scripts. At the festival, shows have been picked up for distribution. Some of our web series have moved on to television and many of our games have moved on to major consoles like Xbox, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. The DC Web Fest is also a place where industry players come in search of exceptional content.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

I would expect to experience a wide range of digital content in addition to educational panels where I can learn from industry professionals, from writers, directors, and producers to digital marketing experts, podcasters, and IP law professionals. I would expect to meet many like minded creatives and form meaningful, productive relationships. Mostly, I would expect be uplifted, entertained, and educated with the best of indie digital content.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

The main elements we look for are strong original story with conflict and character arc, production quality, and strong editing. There are specific criteria that can be found on our FilmFreeway page through https://dcwebfest.org/submit.

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

As a woman and minority owned organization, the DC Web Fest is devoted to inclusion and diversity. There is definitely division and underrepresentation, which need to be addressed. That’s why we are currently working on a side project (Analyzing Diversity in Media) that collects data to highlight the various issues with diversity in media. Please help us make a difference by taking just a few moments to complete our questionnaire! Here is the link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdVdyT5Up16Mm-jed0CZKAiJ52iVQXkn3Z4KMANuAYEbopS8g/viewform

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

Indie creators need to know that there are platforms that freely welcome their ideas that are rejected by Hollywood. The indie community is like a family, and we need to all ban together to keep the indie spirit strong. DC is a vibrant city full of creatives. We want them to know that there is a place to call home. They don’t have to travel to the major markets (i.e. LA and NY) to tell their stories. They can tell their stories right here- in DC where many are hungry for authentic, creative digital content. Each year, our creatives have shown their gratitude and many continue to excel.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Our experience with FilmFreeway has been quite positive. It would be great if we could make the process more personalized. But since our inception (year 1), we’ve seen submissions increase by a multiple of 20.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

By 2023 we will be showing work that our minds haven’t yet conceived of…and that’s just how we like it. The future is in our blood over here.

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

We were film majors! Where shall we begin?! The Graduate (just to name one). We can send a spreadsheet of our favorite films if you would like.

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

A strong storyline with a clear, concise goal, conflict, and characters who progress throughout make a good film. sometimes the conflict or goal need not be so clearly defined. Sometimes, a strong story, with meaningful characters can hit a nerve and unite a viewership. It’s not so cut and dry. There is a structure, but there is also more than that. It’s all about knowing “the rules”, then knowing how and when to break them.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

DC is full of energetic, passionate filmmakers and storytellers. There are other festivals that also serve as platforms for local filmmakers to showcase and promote their work, such as the DC Black Film Festival. DC Web Fest founder, Otessa Ghadar, serves on the advisory board of the DC Black Film Festival. DC Shorts is another popular local film festival.

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Interview with Festival Director Rob Lobosco (MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL CINEMA EXTRAVAGANZA)

The Melbourne International Cinema Extravaganza M.I.C.E. aims to be one of Melbourne’s leading cinema extravaganza, raising awareness and celebrating these wonderful totem animals- Mice.

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

Rob Lobosco: As a new film festival it is a great opportunity for filmmakers to submit and be part of something evolving, bringing together a collection of great films and celebrate their efforts.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival 2019?

A collection of great work in honour of the millions of mice that are used in research to save lives.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Films will be judged and the best will be selected. Of course All film creations are the best in which case all films will get a mention.
We are most excited about looking for an amazing script.

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

I think all festivals do their best In judging and sharing their viewpoint about the films. It is a collective decision amongst the judges and sometimes it may be disappointing to filmmakers not to be selected. But there is a huge celebration for filmmakers to complete a title and that’s the main focus for filmmakers to embrace. We all see the amazing creation in your film and are honoured to watch it and ‘not selected’ should not dishearten you, it should propel you to keep going.

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

Creation, stories, characters, situations and how they all blend together to become a film. Film fascinates me in that there are limitless ways to tell a story and the filmmaker chose this particular way. It’s amazing to judge film with this in mind.
The motivation also is for the life saving totem animal of our festival – mice.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Film freeway is a great platform and fantastic place to submit films all around the globe.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We see it as a hub for emerging new talent and with its creators actively writing, producing and judges for other film festivals, it will become something quite special for filmmakers. A festival to bring together film makers with their new creations, network, collaborate and ultimately create!

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

A few- Beaches, Titanic and Muriel’s Wedding!

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

Investigating a situation/story and truthfully following the character’s physical, emotional, esoteric and spiritual journey, makes an Oscar winning film.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Melbourne is a multicultural hub for amazing artistic talent and wonderful films. It’s a great place to be to create.

Even though we are so far away ‘downunder,’ we are very well connected to filmmakers all over the globe because of the need to collaborate and connect and create!

Interview with Festival Director Brian Hopson (LOST SANITY FILM FESTIVAL)

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

Brian Hopson: The Lost Sanity Film festival gives attention and recognition to filmmakers who may not have the biggest of budgets, but they have an important story to share with the world. We promote them on our website, as well as bring them attention via local press here in NYC and we do our best to share films which really strike a chord with us to our friends in film distribution.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

We are a fun, professional and quirky festival all in one. You can expect to have a joyous time with other filmmakers and you may just walk out with one of our prestigious Golden Zombie Trophies !!!!

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We are first and foremost looking for a great story. We have produced films ourselves so we understand you may have financial limitations in terms of film production, so give us something original, well written and with quality acting and there’s an excellent chance you will be invited to be part of our event !

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

Yes, we believe that certain festivals rely solely on a “big budget” look and as a result some independent gems can get lost in the shuffle. We review all films sent to us – our five judge panel promise that we watch the ENTIRE submission, not just a portion before making our decisions.

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

We saw a need to bring films to the New Jersey area, as well as help independent filmmakers gain some attention (and possibly land a distribution deal with some of our associates) . In a nutshell, we just love films and artists !!!!!!!!

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

It’s been wonderful, this will be our second film festival and we’ve already noticed a tremendous upward spike in submissions from just a year ago. We attribute this to being very honest with our feedback and running our festival with integrity ( plus our trophies are pretty badass if i do say so myself )

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We see on limits to where this could go, we are already exploring multiple venues for upcoming festivals in the years ahead in NJ / New York and The Philadelphia area !

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

That would be a toss up between “THE SHINING” and “It’s A Wonderful Life”

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

A compelling story with engaging writing and actors who are so invested in the material that you forget they’re acting !

10) How is the film scene in your city?

In New York it’s wonderful….. we are just across the river in the Hoboken/Jersey City area and we are proud to say that it’s really growing rapidly. We are honored to bring great films to New Jersey !

https://filmfreeway.com/TheLostSanityOnlineFilmFestival

Interview with Festival Director Nina Fiore (ASTORIA FILM FESTIVAL)

The Second Annual Astoria Film Festival will be held May 17-18 2019, in Astoria NY, at the famed Kaufman Astoria Studios. AFFNY2019 will feature short films (under 25 mins) and web series in Comedy, Drama, Documentary, and Experimental genres.

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

Nina Fiore: The Astoria Film Festival (Astoria NY) is bringing emerging filmmakers together, highlighting their work, and helping them to network with one another to collaborate on future projects. We are especially conscious of reaching out for submissions from various groups of filmmakers who are historically under-represented in the film industry such as PoC, women, LGBTQ, and disabled filmmakers. We also wanted to bring film industry insiders to local youth who have an interest in filmmaking, and we are able to do that with our filmmaking workshops.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

We aim to create an intimate atmosphere with a warm caring vibe. We want everyone to feel welcome and we want the filmmakers to feel appreciated and cared for. We take a lot of care in selecting the films we screen and grow very attached to them and to their creators/actors in the process. I think our genuine respect and awe at the quality of the work comes through in how we present the films and how we treat the filmmakers.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

The quality of production, the quality of the acting, the quality of the plot and screenwriting, the uniqueness of the material — all of these go into the selection qualifications. We also have at least 2 meetings with all the judges after judging ends where we discuss which films will make the selections. Sometimes those meetings get heated, as there are only so many slots and so many very strong projects, and different judges have different favorite projects.

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

We are motivated to bring the filmmaking community here in Astoria NY together. It’s a very diverse community and there are many filmmakers, actors, directors, and other artists living here. I have also spent a lot of time the past few years working with local after school programs. In doing so, I encountered a lot of middle schoolers who were very interested in filmmaking, but did not have any affordable resources for learning more about it. So bringing local filmmakers together to help us bring filmmaking workshops to local students was also a large motivation for creating and continuing to develop this festival.

5) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway is a great platform and handles so many different aspects of the festival, it’s been a lifesaver. There are tiny tweaks here and there I’d love to make to it (especially since I have a background in UI/UX Design and digital platform development), but in general, we are extremely happy with it.

6) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

By 2023, it would be wonderful if the Festival was well-regarded for its unique selections and its intimate setting, well-sponsored and financially able to provide funding for under-represented filmmakers, able to provide filmmakers connections to distribution outlets for their films, hosting film events and indie film premieres throughout the year, and containing a robust Education Department with filmmaker workshops in at least 50 local schools.

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

Lol. Well, I am a mom of a 10 year old, so over the past 10 years, I’ve watched his favorite movies (currently Coco – which is wonderful!) more times than I’ve ever watched my own favorite movies.

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

I think that when all the elements of a film – from story and script, to acting, to production, to music, to editing, come together to make you feel something emotional and to cause the film to stick in your thoughts over time, growing in meaning and appreciation, then that makes it a great film.

9) How is the film scene in your city?

The American Film Industry had many of its beginnings here in Astoria NY. Kaufman Astoria Studios was the Paramount Pictures Lot before Paramount moved out to Hollywood in the 1920s. So there is such a rich filmmaking history here. As a kid, growing up here, I remember walking by the Kaufman lots when they were filming The Wiz and seeing all the tiny taxis from the “Emerald City” set. I’d come out of grade school and run into Sly Stallone, Tom Hanks, Woody Allen — so it was a great place to grow up. However, the Studios aren’t always accessible to the public and the indie film scene here isn’t very strong (although it is of course strong in Manhattan). I enjoy helping the community here connect personally with Kaufman Astoria Studios, and I’d love to bring a more consistent indie film presence here in Astoria. We’d love to host more film events throughout the year, such as indie film premieres and retrospectives, but we are thrilled to contribute to the film industry here today with our film festival and filmmaking workshops.

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Interview with Festival Director Martin Tran (Seattle Asian American Film Festival)

Seattle Asian American Film Festival (SAAFF) is the only film festival in Seattle to provide a space for Asian American voices, perspectives and histories by screening independent films that reflect the diversity and richness of the city’s Asian American community.

Web: seattleaaff.org
Facebook: facebook.com/seattleaaff

Twitter: twitter.com/seattleaaff
 
Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Martin Tran: Our greatest success as a festival is how we grow a supportive community for our filmmakers. As independent Asian American filmmakers, it’s important to us that we connect them with people who are hungry to hear their stories, and to champion them and their work in the future.

It starts with partnering with local community organizations to help promote the films. For each screening we select organizations that have thematic alignment with the films, which plugs the filmmakers into organizations and communities that are eager to engage.

We also create spaces for the filmmakers to meet and engage with each other; from brunches to VIP rooms to parties. We’re all in this together so let’s connect and celebrate it!

And we as festival organizers we are such a tight knit group that we want to make the filmmakers feel like part of our community. They did the hard work of making a film for us to showcase, and we want to let them know that we appreciate them and will support them in all their future endeavors. To that end we always spread the word whenever they have screenings, crowdfunding campaigns, and new projects.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

From a first time festival goer to our longtime festival pass holders, we expect our audiences to see the type of films that are rarely showcased; ones that will reflect, entertain, and illuminate the experiences of the Asian diaspora.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We have a large team of volunteers who rate and review the submissions, and all of the reviewers come with their own tastes and experiences. What we ask them to look for most is originality, craft, content, and adherence to our mission of being a space to tell the stories of the Asian diaspora. How a reviewer personally defines that though is entirely up to them. Using the rating system as outlined by Film Freeway, which is a film submission tool used by many film festivals, our programming team aggregates the data and selects the highest rated films. And at a final, in-person meeting, that’s when the bleary eyed debates ensue.

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

It’s hard for me to speak for other film festivals, but in my opinion I believe so. There are so many things that go into selecting films for a festival; your audience, sponsors, mission, you name it. There’s also the notion of what is a festival worthy film. Like it has to be “important” or a “prestige” film. Luckily there are so many festivals out there catering to different audiences and tastes that I believe if you made a good film, no matter the topic or style, there is a festival and audience out there for you.

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

It may be a corny answer but it’s love. We’re an all-volunteer organization putting in crazy amounts of our free time to make it happen, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the love. Love for film, community, advocacy, and for each other. We’re a family as much as a festival organizing team, and we always strive to extend that feeling to our filmmakers and filmgoers alike.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has been a great tool for us. It’s an easy way for filmmakers to find and submit to festivals like ours. The review and rating process is very streamlined, and it’s nice to have all that data for us.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

I would like to see SAAFF continue to grow as we do every year. By 2023 we will be putting on our 11th festival, and I would like to see us become an even greater part of Seattle’s film scene with bigger venues, more films, and more events.

And in those five years I hope the Crazy Rich Asians effect will continue to bear fruit. 2018 has seen a lot of momentum for Asian American stories in Hollywood, and I hope it continues. So I would love to see an influx of filmmakers who had greater support than before, and a new generation of Asian American filmmakers following in the footsteps of those who opened the doors for them.

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

For me it would have to be The Princess Bride. I’m a sucker for action, comedy, fantasy, and intergenerational family stories.

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

Story. Story. Story.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

I love the film scene in Seattle. There are so many people doing great, independent work. It’s a very supportive community that just continues to grow. Support from the city and state side though…that could use improvement. But hopefully we’ll get there.
 

 

 

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Best of October 2018 Film Festival Interviews

These are festivals to look out for. Read interviews with the Festival Directors and learn more about them.

Interview with Festival Director Daryl Bates (A SHORT NIGHT)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Edward Payson (an Anti-Hero Production Genre Fest)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Dr. James Rowlins (Brighton Rocks Film Festival)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Cato ML Ekrene (The Norwegian International Seagull Short Film Festival)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Aleksander Sakowski (THE VISION FEAST)
READ Interview
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Interview with Festival Director Sally Bloom (LONGLEAF FILM FESTIVAL)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Pierre Cialdella (San Francisco LGBTQ Coming of Age Short Film Festival)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Avery Cohen (Macoproject Film Festival)
READ Interview
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Interview with Festival Director Gian Smith (The Black Film Festival of New Orleans)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Gia Frino (Wollongong Film Festival)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director John LaBonney (DAM SHORT FILM FESTIVAL)
READ Interview

Interview with Festival Director Daryl Bates (A SHORT NIGHT)

A Short Night consists of a variety of short films. The majority are produced, directed, and acted by local film talent. These films range from drama, horror to films that deal with current “hot button” issues. This event is a chance for local film makers to get their creativity and talent, in front of lovers of film.

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

Daryl Bates : Our goal for film makers is to get their projects seen. That’s our number one priority. We know there’s a ton of talent literally floating around. We want the up and comers, the dreamers, the people who never give up. Hollywood is running out of ideas for films. We are seeing a lot of retreads. What better place to find uniqueness and originality than regular everyday people.

People who have a different perspective on things. For example, one of my favorite movies is the original Paranormal Activity. It wasn’t the brain child of a Hollywood executive or the hottest screen writer. It was a regular guy who had an idea and made something special.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

Attendees can expect a broad range of short films. Since each short is five minutes or less, festival goers will have a different experience every five minutes. One minute you could be looking at a tear jerker while five minutes later you could be fully enthralled in a horror film.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

As far as qualifications, we are lax. Of course, the usual, it has to be your work, you have to have the necessary permissions, sound quality has to be sufficient. We also want to keep it as fan friendly as possible. No explicit nudity, over the top coarseness etc. But for our films, each film should be five minutes or less. We are looking for a quick dynamic story. Our goal, when the
five minute film is completed is to have our audience saying “Wow, I want to see more of that!”

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

It’s like anything else, we can’t really expect fairness. The world isn’t a fair place, it’s not right, but it’s the way that it is. A lot of film festivals aren’t immune to this reality. Film festivals are usually looking for “something” in particular. That something, in their eyes, should cater to the
main stream. If they don’t see that “something” they will probably move on. With our festival, we are looking at concepts. Concepts that can be expanded and created into something more.

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

I guess the biggest motivation is the You Tube Short that I saw a few years ago called “Lights Out” I was impressed with the simplicity of it and its originality. Obviously Lights Out went on to become a Hollywood movie, and a sequel is in the works. I’m convinced there are others out there just like it.

We know for certain, there are talented people out there. We understand that life happens, and making a living takes precedent. We want to awaken those individuals. Have those individuals keep dreaming keep pursuing. Dust off those old shorts, and let’s display them. The world needs their unique creativity. Our goal is to find that type of person.

6) How has your Film Freeway submission process been?

Film Freeway has been great so far, it has been a one stop shop for us. From tickets to submissions, to website integration. Exactly what we were looking for.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

In the next five years we are planning to have more of the same. Getting exposure for more people. Like anything else we will probably have to tweak a few things, but we fully expect to have larger venues, more eyeballs on the shorts that our talented Film makers are producing, and hopefully at least a few of our shorts become major motion pictures.

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

Probably “The Shawshank Redemption” or “The Mist”.

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

Really hard to answer, lovers of film have different taste depending on mood. And different criteria based on genre. In other words, I liked the movie Avengers for different reasons than what made me like The Shawshank Redemption. But I thought they were both good films, which is why we created the five minutes or less criteria for our festival. It has the ability to cater to moods.

There is one thing that I like about films, and that’s the conflicts between characters, anything that makes the audience pick a side or makes you think. Like ‘12 Angry Men’

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Atlanta is a great film city. Quickly being regarded as the “New Hollywood.” The state has invested in creating an atmosphere to attract film makers. You’d be hard pressed to find a better place for this industry, then right here, right now.
 


Daryl Bates is a writer and director of short films. An avid movie watcher, his favorite movie genres are horror and suspense. Daryl loves to use his imagination to create powerful entertaining films.