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

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

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

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

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

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

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

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

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

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

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

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

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

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

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

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

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

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

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

Well developed characters in a well written story.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

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

About the Festival Director:

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

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Interview with Festival Director Katie Bruce (UTAH DANCE FILM FESTIVAL)

The Utah Dance Film Festival is an international dance film festival, an arts education organization and a catalyst for movers and filmmakers to connect, collaborate and create.

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Matthew Toffolo: How is the film scene in your city?

Katie Bruce: Utah has several amazing film scenes occurring simultaneously. We are fortunate to have professional productions filming here, like Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” Disney’s “Andi Mack,” and HBO’s “Westworld.” BYU also has a network, and their productions include “Dwight in Shining Armor,” “Random Acts of Kindness” and “Studio C.” Plus, we also have quite a few Hallmark features that film here annually. There are a lot of opportunities for film students to make the jump from classes to sets in all departments. Sundance Film Festival is a big part of the film scene, but that also includes their Director’s Lab and Feature Film Program which develop and foster the production of new works. Damien Chazelle is a director who participated in those programs, and they are a big part of the reason that “Whiplash” was made.

Film producers love Utah because the labor force is skilled, dedicated, reliable and hardworking, and the costs of production are low. Utah has 5 National Parks, 4 universities, and the Utah Film Commission which offers tax rebates on projects filmed in the state. There are always rad locations accessible year round, and plenty of places to rent professional gear.

The Utah Dance Film Festival is based in Utah County, where Adobe and The Void have homes, and the CW series “Outpost” built a rad set for their first season of filming. We receive a lot of films from the dance department at BYU, as well as from the film department at Utah Valley University. Dance is HUGE in Utah – Utahns have made quite the impact on dance television, and the coolest crossovers between those cultures are happening at local colleges. UDFF is right in the center of that mix!

What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Dance on camera is SO consumable on social media, but for filmmakers who are putting in the time in pre and post production, recognition can get lost. We see the widest variety of production value in our submissions – some pieces are filmed from a fixed, frontal point, almost the way you would watch a dance performed in a theater, and with one lighting setup. Other pieces are built in such a way that they are ONLY possible as a film, using perspectives and setups that would never be possible in a live performance. Our film festival highlights filmmakers from many cultures, with different skills from across the globe so that audiences can start to see a more complete view of all the ways in which human movement is unique, that the expression of that movement is an important visual communication, and that the makers of these films are worth celebrating. We are getting filmmaker’s names out there so that they can be appreciated.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Global connectivity of artists, for sure. Dance is this ancient art form which disappears the moment after it is created. A dance has almost no artifacts or proof of existence on its own. That is why it is so exciting to observe the ways in which film and digital technologies are changing dance, as well as perfectly preserving an archive. Past generations of choreographers had to create detailed visual languages to write their dances down, and there really wasn’t an ideal way within those writings to capture or communicate the visceral experiences of dancers as they performed. Dance films are the only way in which a dancer can sit with his or her audience and feel what they are feeling at the moment the dance occurs. My mind never ceases to be blown at that power. It’s especially cool to see how kids and teenagers respond to that opportunity.

What will attendees experience when they attend your upcoming festival?

Our fest is so rad. We offer dance classes where anyone can participate, meaning that sometimes we have filmmakers trying dance for the first time, or a dancer holding a camera for the first time. We offer film workshops on topics like location scouting, pre and post production, and editing taught by professionals. Last year we screened 32 films from 12 countries, and then the festival culminates with a live awards show that features the winning films as well as live dance performances from notable Utah dance companies. It’s a totally unique event for the dance film scene in Utah, and our venue, the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem, is an amazing location for the weekend.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Films need to feature movement. The movement doesn’t have to be refined or technical to be considered. It’s that simple. We receive narratives, documentaries, experimental animation films, the whole spectrum of works. Films can be from any time frame, of any length. We accept works by students and professionals.

We have a 24 hour film competition called MOVE which is our specialized lab for all kinds of human motion – for that, we have accepted films featuring speed walking, rock climbing, sports, alien abductions – a wide variety! This year MOVE is February 15th and 16th, 2019. Teams pre-register and can arrange, costume and plan a short film ahead of time. Then on the 15th we release a theme, and teams have 24 hours to film, edit and submit their works in conjunction with that theme. Winners will be screened at the film festival the following week. It’s a really cool way for people to get involved with our festival right when our hype is at a peak!

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

I do think that is true, yes. In our case, we sometimes have films that just seem a little lost. A filmmaker might have spent tons of valuable time fundraising, planning, shooting and editing only to have submitted to a festival that isn’t quite the right fit. FilmFreeway is the coolest platform because it enables filmmakers to easily shop around and find festivals with a scope that is relevant to their work. I also feel that it’s really important that festivals have fair systems, criteria and categories for judging. In our instance, we have a panel of two filmmakers and two dancers who judge our works. The judges decide on finalists, and scores determine winners. We also don’t allow for ties, which keeps our process competitive and specific at the same time.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

UDFF adores FilmFreeway, and for our 2019 festival we have added a photography category for the first time! There is no way we would have considered adding photography, nor would we have known how to go about doing that, without FilmFreeway. Our directors are also on the platform as filmmakers, and it has been so stunning to see the number of dance film festivals on the rise. We handle all of our tracking, notifying, judging and ticket sales on FilmFreeway, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Definitely giving out grants and scholarships to support more artists at multiple stages of production or studies.

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

Either The Royal Tenenbaums or The Darjeeling Limited, possibly The Princess Bride, (specifically on VHS, recorded from a television broadcast), and perhaps Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Thoughtful lighting, composed shots, good audio, clean edit and a bravery to explore.
 

 

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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)
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Interview with Festival Director Edward Payson (an Anti-Hero Production Genre Fest)
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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)
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Interview with Festival Director Gia Frino (Wollongong Film Festival)
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Interview with Festival Director John LaBonney (DAM SHORT FILM FESTIVAL)
READ Interview