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.

Contact

 
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.

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

This film fest was created to celebrate genre films of all kinds that tend not to have too many outlets on the festival circuit. Being filmmakers ourselves, we know the work that goes into making a film so our entry fees are low and we have a lot of rewards to give out. We are a film fest made by and for filmmakers.

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

Brighton Rocks International Film Festival (BRIFF) was established in 2017 by a group of filmmakers, academics and creatives who love cinema and live in Brighton. The first annual screening event was held in May 2018, followed by an awards ceremony presided over by local actor Patrick Bergin. In addition to screening events throughout the year, we are preparing our second festival in June 2019.

1) What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Connecting fearless, like-minded creatives and giving them a platform to promote and celebrate their work.

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

Buzz. Excitement in the discovery that there people out there, just like you. To kick things off, there will be workshops for filmmakers, followed by screenings of winning films. There will be an awards ceremony with statutory afterparty.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Our selection embraces films that embody the Brighton ethos – a state of mind, an attitude, a spirit that dares to be itself. Above all the filmmaker should impart a vision and express something personal of him/herself.

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

Sadly yes. Festivals are often afraid of going out on a limb to support films that don’t yet have the big laurels. We pledge to look first and foremost at the film, not a long list of stickers.

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

To do better. Experiencing the festival circuit from the other side, as a filmmaker, we’ve seen flaws aplenty – poor communication, bad organisation, etc., not to mention all those that you can’t be sure if they are bona fide. There are some good ones too, of course, but we want to be smarter than the average bear.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

“Gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh, wonder of wonders, like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship” (A Clockwork Orange). So pretty good.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

This will be our 5th anniversary. We hope to have made good on our pledge to become one of the UK’s main festivals for indie and underground cinema. We will host big screening events – across the city and beyond. We will be collaborating with likeminded international festivals.

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

Godard’s A bout de souffle (Breathless), as I wrote a doctoral thesis on it. Next would be Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

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

“In one word, emotion!,” to quote Samuel Fuller in Pierrot le fou.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Brighton offers an amazing range of settings that have been used to great effect in classic films such as Quadrophenia (1979) and our namesake, Brighton Rocks (1947). Scores of talented writers and actors live in Brighton and there is a frenetic arts scene. The city often appears in television series, but it has to be said that Brighton doesn’t always punch above its weight in terms of being a prime location for feature films. One of Brighton Rocks’ missions is to raise awareness of the merits of Brighton as a place to make movies.

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James Rowlins left his native England for Paris, France, to study French cinema. His passion for visual culture subsequently took him to Los Angeles, where he earned a doctorate at the University of Southern California while learning the ropes of filmmaking. He has published articles on the French New Wave and film noir. After serving as Head of Film Studies at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, he now dedicates himself to the full-time running of Brighton Rocks Film Festival.

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

The Norwegian International Seagull Short Film Festival is a Film Festival with live screening, the festival also have a Live streamed award show. The Main host for 2019 is International Award winner Hector Luis Bustamante from Hollywood. They accept films/animations/documentary under 60 min. We also have a category called Best International Game.

Contact

 
1) What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Our film festival stands out that we are a festival for everyone, and the jury is made up of the best people that have the experience required to evaluate a movie. Not least because at our festival we have trophies that are specially made in pure Alleminum, which has a value of almost 800 Euro as all the winners receive.

What’s great with this festival is that we accept all movies within 60 minutes. We do not want to stop filmmakers to submit movies just because they break the game time because you can watch the festivals that have a limit of 15, 25, 35, 45 min. We also have a masterclass too that is free for the filmmakers under 18.

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

They will experience a completely different festival, but lots of people who come to views, professionals who get to know, annotated personalities from all over the world as well as Oscar winner they can talked with. We have stands, concerts and a film program that is may the best the best in the world. and we must not forget that we have live award show with main host from USA.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We search for all movies, it is the jury who decides which movie is on the program. We recommend everyone to send, but you should know that it a strong competition and the film must have a high level in production, acting and story. But in the end we want the best films, we don’t care if you have filmed it with a Red or a 8 mm Camera, just make sure you have a strong story. In the 2018 festival we had over 1200 films but only 150 were chosen.

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

Yes, I think there are many in the jury at different film festival that have too little experience and are too noisy. That’s why it was so important to bring a jury and a host who is recognized and can stand for what they have done. That the professionals can actually go in to read about them and what they’ve done. To me as a festival director, it was very important to find out that this is a festival where the jury stands for it and that it is different nationality so those who submit their movie see that we have a strong maneuver.

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

Well plan the festival for 4 years and stated it up in 2017. the planing was all, because i need the right person in the jury as the main host. But it all fall on place that we needed a festival that was for films under 60 min but with a high level of professional in the board, jury and host. So i think the best was when we found out that it was not that much festival for films up to 60 min, but now it is, but it’s a festival of a high level with a low submit cost.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

It have been great, we have a great page, a lot of submitter and it comes in film from all over the world. We are very proud and happy for all submitter. For the festival in 2019 we have submissions from over 69 different nations.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

That we have a big festival for films up to 60 min and that we have a program full of stands, films, and professional courses. Like we are today but a bigger program with films, concerts and stand and a lot of master class for the professional and guest.

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

Well there are a lot of films I like but I think my top 3 will be Aliens, Predator and The Untouchables

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

It`s all about the story, a story that touch my feelings, joy, sad, happy and pain.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

We are very proud of our city, because we do not only have short festival, we also have Norway’s biggest film festival for feature films. Our city has The Norwegian International Film Festival, known worldwide, where they award “Amanda” award. The city is called “The Film City of Norway»

 

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