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.

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

FIRST FESTIVAL EXCLUSIVELY DEDICATED TO MOVIES DEALING WITH THE COMING OF AGE OF THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND QUEER COMMUNITIES.

3 days short film festival with 100 movies, selected out of 2000, about the COMING OF AGE of the LGBTQ community.

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

The purpose of all Film Festival is to offer film-makers a way to show their work to professionals, while it helps the general public to discover great movies to which he would not have had access otherwise. And it often also help professionals discover the talent of new film-makers.

It is indeed the case for the San Francisco LGBTQ Coming of Age Short Film festival. But what differentiates us from other festivals is our will to show the public, no matter their sexual orientation, origin, age or religion, what LGBTQ+ youths go through at the time of their coming of age, because this specific period of life is the most important in everybody’s life all around the world (LGBT or not). It is a subject to which every single person can relate to.

The message is thus as important to us as the festival itself or the films and the film-makers.

One could think that our festival is too specific or rather limited: LGBTQ+ and COMING OF AGE. You’d be surprised to see how many movies we received from all around the world. And none of them are saying the same thing, yet they all speak about LGBTQ+ and COMING OF AGE. And of love of course because in the end it all comes to that. But there are not 2 movies alike in our selection of 100 movies this first edition of our Festival.

That being said, we obviously hope for our film-makers to get the success they deserve (from both the public and the professionals).

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)?

If you attend the festival, you will enjoy 3 days of nonstop screenings of short films (100 movies selected from 50 countries), about the COMING OF AGE of the LGBTQ community.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We made sure to offer the audience a fair mix of Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender love stories. All films are original and were produced between 2017 and 2018.

We have included a variety of genres such as comedies, dramas, music videos, documentaries, cartoons, etc.

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

I can only speak for my experience with the LGBTQ Coming Of Age Short-Film Festival, for which each entry received a fair judgement…

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

Our intention is to bring light to the discrimination and bullying often directed towards the LGBTQ+ community, but in an entertaining, positive and creative way.

No voyeurism, no exhibitionism, no vindication: just the recognition of love for what it is, because love doesn’t need multiple labels. Everyone should be free to love and to pursue their happiness.

We do not intend to trivialize the issues faced by the fringes of society who, as a result of their culture, religious beliefs, or a lack of education, still judge violently the different ways of loving. However, if we can at least create a space where people are made aware of and can reflect on the mockeries and inequalities that some people must endure because of who they love, then our festival will have fulfilled its purpose.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We were happy to get 280 submissions from FilmFreeway, which is more than we thought we would get from the platform. The submission process was both efficient and fluid, and we received a lot of great movies through them.

But we received 2000 movies altogether. Through many platforms. We have also contacted some production companies and film-makers directly ourselves.

Some films were also sent to us spontaneously by email (mostly from countries where being Gay is a crime, because they couldn’t submit their film online; it would have been too risky for them).

Submissions platforms were a great help to us obviously, but they also have a bad side effect for festivals because film-makers often send their film to as many festivals as they can, most of the time without making sure that their film would be appropriate. We thus received a lot of films {sometime very good} that we had to refuse because they were not even LGBTQ…

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

What matters is our 2018 edition. Let’s go one edition at a time. Anything can happen in 5 years…

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

Tooooooo many to say which one. Here are a few titles of films (non exhaustive) I’ve seen too many times to count:

– Travels with My Aunt by George Cukor, 1972 | Maggie Smith & Alec McCowen

– Torch Song Trilogy by Paul Bogart, 1988 | Harvey Fierstein & Matthew Broderick

– Roman Holiday by William Wyler, 1953 | Gregory Peck & Audrey Hepburn

– My Own Private Idaho by Gus Van Sant, 1991 | River Phoenix & Keanu Reeves

– ‘night, Mother by Tom Moore, 1986 | Sissy Spacek & Anne Bancroft

– Woman Times Seven by Vittorio De Sica, 1967 | Shirley MacLaine x 7

– Charade by Stanley Donen, 1963 | Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn

– Maurice by James Ivory, 1987 | James Wilby & Rupert Graves

– Indiscreet by Stanley Donen, 1958 | Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman

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

To make a great film I would say that you need a great story, good actors and a generous film-maker. These are for me the fundamentals. If we want the public to get out of a theater saying “aww, that movie really touched me”, we need to make sure he forgets he is watching a film. Too many young film-makers concentrate on the technical aspect. Those who don’t put as much passion on the direction of actors and story-telling, often end up making a bad film.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

I currently live in San Francisco. Unlike the rest of the USA, a lot is being made in California to help film-makers, and to offer the public (all the publics) a great “cinematic diversity”.
 

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

Recognized as one of the Top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals on FilmFreeway, The Dam Short Film Festival is the largest film festival in Nevada. Entering its 15th season, the event attracts filmmakers and fans alike to Boulder City each February to celebrate the art of independent short film. With parties, events, awards, and a lineup of over 120 films in four days, it’s an experience that enlightens, entertains, and inspires year after year.

Festival Director John LaBonney is an award-winning filmmaker and has a B.S. in Broadcasting and Film from Boston University. He was appointed Director of the festival in 2011 and oversees all festival operations. He maintains a strong connection to the arts community and lectures on film topics to college students.

www.damshortfilm.org

The Dam Short Film Festival is currently accepting submissions for the 2019 season. Visit the festival’s page on FilmFreeway here: https://filmfreeway.com/DamShortFilm

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

While we try to take great care of filmmakers at Dam Short through the entire process from submission to screening, I think what we really succeed at is providing them with an audience for their films. We work hard to promote the festival in the press and on social media to attract an audience and we’ve been successful in drawing crowds. There’s nothing worse than getting accepted to a festival and making the trip there to represent your film, only to discover a near-empty theater when the film screens. When you walk into your screening here, there’s a good-sized audience in the theater to watch your film.

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

In addition to a carefully-programmed lineup of over 120 films in all styles and genres, awards, parties, and events, you’ll experience the historic 400-seat Boulder Theatre. Built in 1933, the theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the first air-conditioned building in town. After years of serving as Boulder City’s movie house for many years, it shuttered its doors for some time and was subsequently purchased by actor/musician Desi Arnaz, Jr. and his wife Amy in 1997 who restored the building to its former glory. It’s the permanent home to the Dam Short Film Festival and many people walking into the theater for the first time are amazed by the venue.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We accept films for submission in any style or genre with any year of production and any premiere status. Our only real qualification is length. The Dam Short Film Festival screens short films, so entries must have a running-time of forty minutes or less. The films we program are entertaining and thought-provoking, offer our audience a wide range of viewpoints and styles, and always represent quality storytelling. Given the choice, I pick engaging storytelling over technical proficiency.

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

Possibly. What’s a fair shake?

Programming a festival schedule is a lot harder than people might think, especially when you’ve got more quality films to choose from than you can run on the screen in an allotted time. There are many reasons a festival can’t always run all the product it would like. Even with a large selection committee watching and rating the films, I struggle to put together the final program. I’m not naïve enough to think the selection process is completely fair in every single case, and sometimes pollical considerations are involved. And programmers, myself included, make mistakes. But for the most part, I think programmers are doing their best to put together the best schedule of films for their particular festivals.

Some films might not get a “fair shake” but I think filmmakers should keep on making the films they want to make and keep on telling the stories they want to tell regardless.

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

It’s a love of short films. Short films are so cool! You can do things in a short film that simply won’t work in a feature length format. Features almost always have a commercial goal, but short films are usually financed by the filmmaker himself with little or no hope of earning a return on investment. With no studio or financier to appease, he can do whatever he wants with his film. With no restrictions, creativity runs wild. We’re amazed at what filmmakers are doing in short films, and we’re excited to share them on our screen.

And as we’re entering our 15th season, The Dam Short Film Festival has become an institution. It grows each year and is a huge event for Boulder City. It must go on! We simply can’t not do it.
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6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been? 

Are you kidding? FilmFreeway is a quantum leap in the submission process! It’s what film festival submissions should have been like. I look back and wonder how any of us ever managed before. It’s a thousand times easier for filmmakers and film festivals. It’s like we’ve all been saved. Everyone who is familiar with the stone age technology we were forced to use in the past no longer wants to kill themselves.

We’ve experienced a much stronger rate of growth since we’ve started using FilmFreeway.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023? 

With any luck, we’ll be right here in Boulder City, taking care of filmmakers and providing them with the audience they deserve.

We’ll keep up with the technology as it evolves (in our infancy we screened films on videotape, now we have a Virtual Reality category), we’ll stay current with the short film landscape, and we’ll try new things. But our core values will remain the same.

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

Star Wars.

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

A great film is one that has a great story told with engaging storytelling.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

The Dam Short Film Festival is the biggest film event that Boulder City experiences. It’s a bit of a quiet town to have much of a film scene. It’s a heck of a place to go antiquing though! In neighboring Las Vegas, the film scene is constantly growing and there are always new opportunities, especially since we’re within driving range of Los Angeles.

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Interview with Festival Director Matty Steinkamp (iNDIE FILM FEST)

An exclusive independent film festival featuring the the highest quality in independent filmmaking. Our goal is to create the highest quality platform to showcase independent films while giving the filmmakers a place to make money and succeed at selling out their first premiere. Filmmakers will have the opportunity to premiere their film with a sold out audience in a nationally recognized independent theater and benefit from direct ticket sales with the festival.

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

A: Our fest premieres films with filmmakers giving part of the ticket sales directly to the winning filmmakers. We also provide earned media for each of our films here in the southwest along with radio interviews on Phoenix morning radio shows the week of the festival as part of our festival partnerships. Winners also receive cash prizes and in some categories direct distribution to several theaters in the southwest to screen their film after the festival. All of our premiere screenings will be held in downtown Phoenix in the heart of the art community so there is very active audience that filmmakers get to premiere their films in front of.

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

A: An inclusive art experience that premieres new indie films in vintage movie theaters and classic ballrooms, being surrounded by art, artists, and art lovers, the chance to experience VR at our VR installation, or take some fun photos in our photo booth, or catch a panel or our Key Note speaker at Crescent Ballroom and learn what it takes to get to the next step in your filmmaking career, or on opening night catch one of the pop up screenings down on the art walk with short films and music videos being projected on the buildings as you walk by. There will be live music and live art throughout the festivals two days. Unique film viewing experiences is what we are aiming to accomplish this year.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

A: The films must be created under a $250,000 budget. We are looking for true indie films. We want films made by filmmakers not the industry or some major studio system. Of course with each category there are different qualifications. Like the Drone Film category, we are only selecting films in this category filmed on or with a drone. Also we are looking for films that have not had a World Premiere yet in theaters or online. It is our goal to help new films reach audiences faster and with a successful premiere that the filmmakers can move on to more premieres and make money doing it without needing to struggle all along the way with putting films out alone.

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

A: Our team is made up of filmmakers and artists, we know from our own experiences in submitting films to 100s of festivals that indie films are over looked and passed on more so to give popular icons / studio films more lime light….. even if the the popular icon made a shitty film and the indie film that got passed up was actually amazing and might have been an award winner. Indie films are on the rise though and now is the time to showcase them and celebrate them even more! Our festival is going to give independent films and filmmakers a 100% chance to succeed the second they announce their official selection with INDIE.

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

A: We have always wanted something in downtown Phoenix to be honest. The art scene in Phoenix needs a great film festival that is more than just one night at one venue. Combining two of the top venues in downtown Phoenix in the festival allows for our audience to walk or ride a bike between venues while on the way possibly catch a pop up screening on the side of building just to keep in fun… no one is doing this here in the downtown area… we almost feel like its up to us to move the film festival concept forward in favor of the artists and become more experimental with the screenings to hopefully evolve the art form.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

It has been great so far, we have had some amazing submissions early on and are very excited to see the outcome of our committee selections!!! Filmfreeway gives us the chance to reach way more filmmakers across the entire planet… we are very excited!!!

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Our plan is to be in the same locations but keep adding days as we grow. Our festival is still only a two day festival at this point but it is our goal to stay small and maintain the highest quality while giving the filmmakers the best opportunity to premiere their film. We do plan on growing into larger and more venues once we can accommodate the right budget for additional venues.

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

A: Coming to America, Goodfellas, Citizen Kane, Play The Documentary,

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

A: A great film needs to have the ability to tell a story that transports the audience to a different place or time.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

A: The film scene in Phoenix is growing. While the industry itself is not investing into the growth in Phoenix, several groups in Phoenix are working hard to collaborate more to help the growth of the film scene from within. New film companies are starting up everyday and more and more creatives are making indie films and putting them out to the world. We have a very strong activist community in Phoenix that is leading the way with social justice films telling the stories of our communities to help us move closer to an inclusive society as well to tell the stories of our communities correctly on not mislead or conveyed by the mass media.

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Interview with Festival Director Dave Harlequin (Stranger Days Independent Film Festival)

The Stranger Days Independent Film Festival is an annual event celebrating the art of truly independent cinema in Charlotte, North Carolina. Showcasing the contributions of independent filmmakers from all around the world, with a strong emphasis on locally and regionally produced short films from the Carolinas, the Stranger Days Independent Film Festival strives to build community and establish positive connections by offering an outlet to artists often overlooked by the mainstream, and providing viewers with an interactive experience in a diverse environment that is both welcoming and inclusive for all people from all walks of life.

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

I think it’s really giving a voice to independent filmmakers, as well as a legitimate outlet to showcase their work. We are independent filmmakers ourselves, so we know all too well how difficult it can be for independent filmmakers out there. That’s honestly why we created this film fest to begin with, to showcase these hidden gems that so often get overlooked, and I really think we’re succeeding at that.

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

Every time I attend any film festival, I always expect to see a wide variety of films I can’t see anywhere else; be that at a theater or streaming online somewhere. I truly feel like we accomplish that, as do so in an environment that is both relaxed and fun for our audiences.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Every film submitted absolutely MUST be an independent film, and I mean truly independent. We do not accept any films with major studio backing, huge budgets, or big stars. Additionally, every film submitted must not already have wide VOD distribution such as Amazon, Netflix, VuDu, or anything like that. Also, if it’s a local film produced in the Carolinas, we also have a special category just for those films, and thus give a selection preference to them, seeing as how we’re located in Charlotte and always like to support local filmmaking.

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

Absolutely. In fact, that’s a big part of why we started the Stranger Days Independent Film Fest to begin with. Far too often great films are being rejected by tons of film festivals out there because they’re either too low-budget, don’t have the exact right run-time, or don’t have the star-power behind them to entice some sort of celebrity appearance or something like that. Lots of times a short film, for example, isn’t long enough to fit into a feature film category, but isn’t short enough to fit into some rapid-fire block of 10-15 minutes or less, so these really great stories that happen to run in that so-called ‘unacceptable’ window of 20-45 minutes can’t even get in the door at most festivals because said festivals don’t make a place for them to be.

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

Honestly, a ton of film festival rejections and a handful of really hurtful anonymous comments is probably my biggest motivator personally. Again, we’re filmmakers ourselves, and know exactly how it feels to have something you’re really proud of that can’t seem to find anywhere to screen and be seen by an actual audience. So, we decided to create a place locally for all of those toiling away in the so-called underground.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has been wonderful to us. It’s a fantastic platform to not only accept and process our submissions, but with the ability to download files, organize, and most of all promote your listing to filmmakers all around the world. We work exclusively with FilmFreeway, and will continue to do so for as long as they’ll have us.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

I honestly never look that far into the future, as I tend to live in the moment, but I don’t see any scenario where were not still going strong, and still offering our event to filmmakers out there. We’ve got an outstanding venue that works with us, with an excellent layout, top-notch equipment, and a great atmosphere that’s with us for the long haul, so I don’t see us going anywhere any time soon.

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

Oh man, that’s a tough one. I think as far as live screenings, I’ve got to say The Rocky Horror Picture Show, mostly because I do a lot of conventions and film festival events across the country and that one tends to run a lot. At home on my own, probably a tie between Pulp Fiction, Richard Linklater’s SubUrbia, and Mulholland Drive. Of course, this is just a total guess, because I watch and re-watch a ton of films.

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

A really great story that leaves you feeling something after you’ve seen it.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Much better than it gets credit for. Charlotte has a wonderful film scene, and a ton of super creative, hardworking people that really strive to make the best art they possibly can. Sure, there are a lot of filmmakers around here that just seem to be more interested in cranking out one good thing so they can leave and head off to Hollywood or Atlanta, but there’s a lot more who are dedicated to creating and sustaining some great stuff right here in North Carolina, and those are the ones I’m interested in.

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DAVE HARLEQUIN BIO:
Dave Harlequin is an award-winning independent filmmaker and professional writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the Creative Director and Lead Screenwriter of A Stranger Concept Films and has to date written and produced over a dozen films, with many winning multiple awards throughout the film festival and convention circuits. His most recent short film, CLOSING TIME, is currently touring the festival circuit and has thus far won several awards and nominations, with plans to join some of his other work on Amazon Prime. Outside of filmmaking, Harlequin is also a professional journalist and currently serves as Editor in Chief of digital fandom culture and entertainment publication Nerd Nation Magazine. When he’s not making films and writing, Harlequin enjoys cooking, gaming, and hanging out with his dog.
And there you have it! I’ve also attached the poster image for the 2018 Stranger Days Independent Film Festival, as well as a headshot of yours truly for your use in the article. Please let me know if there’s anything else you might need from me, and once the article is published, please send me a link to it and I’ll be sure to share it all over our social media, website, etc. Thanks again for the opportunity, and I look forward to working with you again in the future!

Interview with Festival Director Patrick Templin (Summershort Festival)

The Summershort Festival – is the first international Open Air Film Festival in Munich, Germany.

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1) What do you do for filmmakers?

Hi Matthew! Thanks for the interview. We are working together with partners who provide nice prizes for the submitting filmmakers. The winning movies will get big rewards. We don’t like prizes paid in the form of money, but we will give the filmmakers the chance to get direct contact to their new audience. Additionally to the rental service partner coupons , the winners will have the possibility to attend the next edition of SSFF for free and get a Q+A for with their fans. They can answer questions and come closer to the visitors. Also we will try to get a distribution and the winning movies will be mentioned on our websites / social media channels.

2) What do you expect when you attend your Festival ?

As we are a small event, compared to other big Festivals, we don’t want to talk about expectations. We want to celebrate movies again every year and i think this will be the most important thing for us. We will watch a lot of qualitative movies, eat tasty food and have fun together. Don’t expect too much, and take good and bad weather clothing with you. We will do it anyway 😉

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We don’t only choose our winning films by picking out the best “qualifying” films with our jury. Our jury is build up out of professional filmmakers who work in the film business since many years and have a lot of practical “hands on” experience. They will choose the best films by taking a lot of time, watching every movie, which was submitted. They will point out the best ones by viewing them out of many various angles. So everybody will have the chance to win at the SSFF.

4) Do you think that some films don’t get a fair shake from festivals, and why?

I think it is difficult to get a fair answer here. We have to look at both sides of the medal, so, I think its on the first hand difficult for the filmmakers, to submit every season, and make new content, the visitors of the festivals want to see. As I am also a filmmaker, I know this situation very well and it can be some times really hard. But on the other hand, I can also understand, that festival work is a difficult thing. There are so many good films, and if you can, you would screen every good submission of a season, but it is definitely impossible. So I think we have to be fair to both sides – festivals & filmmakers.

5) What motivates you and your team doing this festival?

Our motivation is to make a time possible, where hundreds of people can watch and discuss movies which are on the screen. We want everybody to have a good time with each other while eating delicious food and talking about the flicks which are running. We also love films, and for everybody who knows this, the motivation is clear. We do it for keeping the film business and the passion alive.

6) How has your submission process been?

We have a bunch of very nice films by now. But marketing is a difficult process, you know. We have partners which help us a lot, like companies who gave us their services for free (f.e. the UPMI) and so on. But we definitely need more support by our filmmakers. Everybody who wants to have us on the eye, should share the festival on his social media profiles and websites and so on. Reaching out to the community is a very hard process for a young and comparable small festival like us, but we hope that people like you (thanks Matthew 😉 ) will come to us and ask us questions and maybe help us to gain a much bigger community.

7) Where do you see the festival in 2023?

In 2023, we see the festival as one of the bigger ones, which people love because we take feedback seriously and always are trying to give a lifetime-experience to our visitors and filmmakers.

8) Which film did you see the most times in your life?

Definitely, The Matrix.

9) In one sentence: What makes a great film?

Serious? One sentence? 😀 okay!
– A great film has to be an enrichment for yourself. It’s the perfect combination of a good thrilling story and a perfect visual style.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

We love Germany very much. We have a big independent scene and community here and there are a lot of cool filmmakers, actors and companies. We also work together with many people from Austria and Switzerland and combined together this is a very small, but also a very lovely community regarding the film business.

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 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 single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Festival Director JE (Jeff) Smith (TEXAS TERRORS FILM FESTIVAL)

Texas Terrors is an indie/grass roots short film festival celebrating the fun in bone-chilling horror. We’re less concerned with Hollywood-style slickness than with creativity, originality, and passion. The festival will feature a diverse array of scary stuff, and provide a fun evening of chills and thrills.

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

I hope that I’m providing a good and empowering forum for filmmakers. As a filmmaker myself, I’m a four-year veteran of the festival circuit, mostly smaller, regional festivals, often with specialty themes. I have submitted my various films to dozens of different fests, and picked up a ton of rejections. Anyone who has tried their hand at the festival circuit will tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart — be prepared for a LOT of rejection, and for hearing “no” far more than you ever hear “yes.” Also, all festivals are not created equal, and even when you get a festival to accept your film, sometimes they don’t make things easy for you, as a filmmaker. Of course, running a festival is a tough job, and I understand that the people behind them are very busy. But there are definitely times when you, the filmmaker — the one providing them with content — are treated almost as an annoyance. So, when I decided to try my hand at putting on my own festival (in a genre I’ve loved since I was a kid), I decided that I would try to give the filmmakers who took a chance on my small, first-year, one-night festival, the best experience I possibly could. It remains to be seen whether I fully accomplish this, but I’m doing my best! Of course, the sad fact is, you still have to say “no” to a significant amount of submissions — I was overwhelmed by the response I got, and in fact, I even expanded my run-time to accommodate more films, because I was so excited by a lot of the material I was getting. But, I still had to say no to almost 2/3 of the people who submitted. That sucks! But, it was the only economically feasible way to approach this first-year festival. I could easily have selected another 6-8 excellent films if I had more time at the venue, or could afford to expand to a second night.

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

Diversity of style. There is a wide range of content and approach that could be considered “horror,” and I’ve tried very hard to select films that represent a range of different types and sub-genres. If you go to YouTube and search for “short horror film,” you’re going to find a lot of stuff that seems like an endless variation on the same story: a young woman, home alone, hears a noise, gets a butcher knife from the kitchen, prowls around a bit, and them BOOM — jump-scare — some kind of boogeyman appears to get her. Hard cut to black. This kind of thing can be effective, but it’s over-done. WAY over-done. So, one of my guiding forces was to try and seek out films that were a little different, a little off-kilter. That said, we purposely have stayed away from the more extreme forms of horror. I personally am not a fan of the so-called “torture porn” sub-genre. I’m fine with grisly gore — you can’t be a horror fan if you’re too squeamish, and a well-done gag is part of the visceral thrill of horror flicks. But the sort of pointless, dehumanizing brutality that is associated with torture porn (and other purely sadistic horror sub-genres) doesn’t really appeal to me. I prefer “fun” horror — and this festival is a reflection of that. I’m very happy with the variety of styles that make up our program this year. Also, I’m very happy that over half of the films we’re showing have never screened anywhere in Texas before, AND we actually have three *world* premieres. Very exciting!

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Well, they had to be short. Twenty-two minutes was the upper limit, although in the end, the longest film we’re featuring is only eighteen. Most of them run between six and twelve minutes. No matter what their budget/slickness level, they had to have a base-line of acceptable filmmaking techniques — for instance, one film was rejected almost entirely because the sound was bad, and it was difficult to hear/understand what any of the actors were saying. So, they didn’t have to look like Hollywood movies, or be shot with expensive cameras — a few of the ones I accepted clearly were low- to no-budget affairs — but they had to be in focus, with clearly understandable dialogue (a good solid Rode Videomic only costs a couple hundred bucks, and if you’re not willing to spend that to have clear sound, maybe you shouldn’t be submitting to festivals!), and have a certain cohesion of storytelling. Just basic filmmaking competence, really. Most importantly, they had to have a sense of enthusiasm and vigor that transcended however much money they had to spend — it’s not the tools, it’s the talent, as the old saying goes.

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

Absolutely. There are definitely festivals that are concerned mostly with appearance — if it doesn’t look slick, it doesn’t have a chance. Which is a real shame, because the festival circuit really should function as a sort of training ground for burgeoning filmmakers; almost like the minor leagues in baseball. Of course, the ultimate goal of any festival is to entertain the audience that ends up attending, and I’m not suggesting festival directors should select bad films just so the filmmaker can get some experience under their belt — but it would be nice if the selection process could be a bit looser, and a bit more open to things that, at first glance, might not seem like a winner. Having said that, a lot of filmmakers tend to hamper themselves by not fully embracing the system and trying to understand the other side. If someone is putting together a short film festival, they want as much good material as possible, so every minute is precious — and yet I still got submissions that had unecessary scenes, weird story tangents, and overly-long closing credit crawls. Seriously, folks, cut those films to the bone! If your opening or closing credits last more than 30-45 seconds, they’re too long! :p

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

Honestly, for this first year, it was mainly just to see if I could do it. I like a challenge, and I’ve never assembled a project quite like this before — it’s a bit terrifying, but also thrilling. I don’t expect to make a nickel of profit (I’ll be thrilled if I come anywhere near breaking even!), but I suspect it will be more than worth it. And, as I said above, I really wanted to provide a forum where the filmmakers who participated would come away thinking, “Wow, that was a really cool festival. They cared.”

And, on a purely selfish level, I got to see a LOT of cool horror films I might not otherwise have seen. AND I get to share the best of them with an audience, in a really cool theater with a great projection system. That rocks.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway have been fantastic — I can’t say enough good things about them. A couple of times I had questions that weren’t on the FAQ page, and they responded super-quickly and helpfully. Their interface for people running festivals is clean and user-friendly. We used them exclusively, and they’re great. Highly recommended.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

I hope over the next few years we can expand to 2 or maybe even 3 nights. I would love to be able to incorporate a couple of feature-length films as well. It would be great to build enough of an audience that we can keep holding it at the Texas Theatre (the beautiful and historic venue where the fest is taking place) — it’s a fantastic place, and I’d love to continue to call it home. And I hope we can continue getting really interesting and challenging material to showcase. Also, I’m committed to keeping our submission fees low — a lot of festivals have what I would consider to be outrageous fees that many low-budget filmmakers simply can’t afford to pay. While, to a certain extent, I understand the economics of this — submission fees help fund the festival as a whole — it still feels weird to take money from someone and then reject their film. So I really want to keep our fees as low and non-exploitive as possible. I’d like to think that, ten years from now, we’ll be charging about the same as we did this year. Hopefully I won’t have to eat those words. 😮

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

Oh gosh — probably Monty Python and the Holy Grail? That would definitely be a contender. I did see the original Alien eight times the first week it was released (and yes, I’m old enough to have seen the original in theaters!).

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

The late, great film critic Gene Siskel used to say that a truly great film has “three great scenes, and no bad scenes.” That works for me. 🙂

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Pretty strong, actually. In a big city like this (Dallas), we have a remarkable pool of talent, from actors to make-up people, cinematographers, writers, you name it. I don’t know that any of them are truly “hitting the big time,” or making a lot of money, but I see a lot of folks who are passionate about their craft, and willing to make sacrifices, just to make art. That’s thrilling, and very empowering. The real trick is getting people to stick around, and not move to Austin, New York, or Hollywood! I myself have no desire to relocate — I love living in Texas, and I want to stay here and keep creating.

I’d say we have at least a half-dozen or so local/indie film festivals per year, and another handful of national/higher-end fests. There are always opportunities to get your films seen, once you’ve made them, but obviously, the more prestigious festivals can be tougher to crack. Still, ya never know til ya try!

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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 single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.