Interview with Festival Director Lisa Diersen (EQUUS Film Festival)

The EQUUS Film Festival is the world’s premier showcase for domestic and international Equestrian Content feature films, documentaries, shorts, music videos, commercials, training and educational materials, art and literature.


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

Lisa Dierse: The EQUUS Film Festival is the only Equestrian themed film festival that includes equestrian art, literature and music. We also have an On Demand platform for our content that gives filmmakers access to audiences after the festival. We are a touring film festival, after our main fest in December where our WINNIE awards are distributed we spend the following year

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

A wonderful introduction into the world of equestrian films and documentaries.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Must be horse content.

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

For sure, horse themed film and documentaries get looked over all of the time! That’s why the EQUUS Film Festival was created, to give these filmmakers the respect they deserve.

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

Love of horses and being able to show the world their beauty through film.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Wonderful, it has made my job as festival director a whole lot less stressful!

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We will be expanding our Global reach through more international Tour Stops

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

The Black Stallion

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

A film that has the ability to bring tears to your eyes one minute and make you laugh out loud the next.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Great, it’s Chicago!

Interview with the Festival Team of Picentia Short Film Festival

“Picentia Short Film Festival is one of the main international shortfilm festival in Campania (province of Salerno, Italy), born in 2017, produced by the Association of Independent Cinematographic Production ACT Production, a young production formed by filmmakers between 19 and 28 years old which have reached in the last two years the finals and the official selections of some main international shortfilm festival. PSFF has got in these years among the patronages and partnerships Campania Film Commission, World Film Fair (New York), JIFF – Jaipur International Film Festival (India), ToHorror FilmFest (Turin).

The festival – edition 2019 – will take place at the end of the next summer in the little city of Montecorvino Rovella, in the heart of Monti Picentini Regional Park, in province of Salerno.”

Short Bio of the Artistic Direction: “PSFF Artistic Direction is composed by Antonio Palo (M. Rovella, 25 y.o., founder and artistic director), Luca Capacchione (M. Rovella, 19 y.o., deputy artistic director) and Erica De Lisio (Salerno, 23 y.o., deputy artistic director), all of them part of ACT Production’s team.



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

Picentia Short Film Festival Team: Picentia Short Film Festival’s goal is to award the talented filmmakers giving them an apposite ‘place’ where they could valorize their works, meeting also the main cinematographic productors and artistic directors of the region. Through our parterships the winners have been part of some international events (as World Film Fair) and mentions: it’s a starting point both for emerging filmmakers and also for successfull ones.

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

I would expecting a relaxing contest where to show your abilities, experiences, stories: in a few words, a piece of your life. Picentia Short Film Festival is made by yuong filmmakers for filmmakers: we’d love to share each other and widespread all of the visions of cinema with the people that still believes in it or could be attracted by this form of communication.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

There are 6 categories/genres: “Horror & Thriller”, “Drama & Social”, “Comedy & Comic”, “Past & Future”, “Docs”, “Music Video”. The qualifications is for short films with a maximum duration of 20 minutes; documentaries with a maximum duration of 52 minutes; music videos with a maximum duration of 4 minutes. There will be two juries (technical and public) who will assign each day of the event – from 11th to 15th September, 2019 – the festival prizes (total combined value of about $3.000,00).

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

I think it’s partially true, that’s why some film festivals have become – with the passing of time – a sort of limited circle for some kind of ideas, artists managements, distributions or for the ‘great possibilities’ of their single filmmakers. I personally – as all of the rest of the artistic direction – believe in pluralism and impartiality. So, being Picentia Short Film Festival neutral in terms of judgement, there’s no distintion among tipologies of budgets, distributions or curricula. Here low budget short films can compete with higher budget and distributed short films: the only evaluetion criterion is the quality.

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

My team and me are very motivated doing Picentia Short Film Festival: it represents the making of the job we love to do and the proof that some young boys could build an international company where skills and professionalism could valorize people and places. We want to be an example for the youngest generations to believe in their dreams.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

The FilmFreeway process has been great. It’s a really great platform to view films and super user friendly. We’re proud to be there.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Very hard question… (That’s the first time I’m thinking about!). I wish 2023 festival greater than the previous years, with the same friends and the same values which keep us together. But the first step is now, in 2019!

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

I haven’t a favourite or most-seen film, but I can’t remember how many times have seen Eddie Murphy’s and Ben Stiller’s comedies, Leslie Nielsen’s “The Naked Gun” serie, Steve Carell’s “Angie Tribeca”, Monthy Python’s sketches, and fanta-epic series (as “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings”). Really great movies…

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

The ability to leave into you something deep inside.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

The film and artistic scene is almost, completely absent: a further incentive to reach our festival’s goals.

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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.


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 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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Submit to the Avalonia Film Festival


Want to give Avalonia Festival a shot? Use our exclusive  Promo Code “MATT” for 33% off ALL your entry fees!

“Honor. Celebrate. Promote.” This is the mantra of Avalonia Festival: A film festival you can trust ! Low entry fees and a website that actually HONORS, CELEBRATES and PROMOTES you and your work as a filmmaker, photographer and actor!

They are a FilmFreeway Top 100 Best Reviewed Film Festival and proud of it!

Avalonia Festival III is now accepting submissions of short films, teasers, trailers, film photography and film posters for our hugely popular website and our third live festival on Friday night, December 7, at 6pm at the historic Courthouse Center for the Arts at 3481 Kingstown Rd, West Kingston, RI 02892

In addition to many traditional and unique genres to enter your film in; including Drama, Comedy, Doc, Feline, Canine, Vampire, and Romantic Comedy. Our ThoughtCrime category has proven to be very resonant with today’s edgier filmmakers. Special Award Recognition has also been given to films which stand out.

Here is their Youtube page with videos from Avalonia Festival I and II.

Film Festival Testimonial – Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival

Michael Willer
Michael Willer

I had a great experience with this festival. They’re very accomodating to the filmmakers, very good about communicating, and the quality of their screenings is excellent. Their format is solid, allowing time for in depth feedback while also keeping the screening moving along without any lulls. And the screening was held at the Regal at LA Live, which is awesome. Will be submitting again!

5 Star Review

Submit via FilmFreeway, the exclusive way our festival accepts submissions.:

THE VOLUNTEER, 27min., USA, Sci-Fi/Romance 
Directed by Michael Willer  

A woman fleeing a dystopian city forms a connection with someone she cannot touch.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Interview with Festival Programmer Aaron Leventman (Santa Fe Film Festival)

The initial idea for a Santa Fe Film Festival was first introduced in May, 1980 when Bill and Stella Pence, founders of Taos Talking Picture and Telluride Film festivals, started an event with a New Directors/New Film program, co-sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Pences led a festival for four years, with such notable guests as Francis Ford Coppola, Charlton Heston, Sam Peckinpah, and Lillian Gish.  The current form of the Santa Fe Film Festival was inaugurated in 1999 as a nonprofit and began showing films in the year 2000. Festival awards varied over the years. Initial categories included: Best Short, Best Documentary, Best Feature, Best Native American, and Best Latino Film. By 2006 the awards became the Milagro Award (best American independent film), the Independent Spirit Award, and the Audience Award, Honorable Mention in the Creative Spirit Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.The Film Festival has now continued for 16 consecutive years. The special setting of the festival in the unique and historic City of Santa Fe allows filmmakers, journalists, industry leaders and audiences from around the world to gather together in celebration of film. The festival’s annual program includes curated selections of over 40 film programs including narrative and documentary features, shorts of all types, tributes to world-renowned film artists and industry professionals as well as a spotlight on local, New Mexican filmmakers and crew. Embracing the full spectrum of cinematic arts, the Santa Fe Film Festival extends beyond screenings in theaters to panels, workshops, art exhibitions and fabulous parties. Come experience the beauty of Santa Fe and join us for our upcoming celebration of cinematic arts.

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

Aaron Leventman: Our festival has provided an opportunity for filmmakers to screen their work for a film savvy audience of both locals and international attendees. There is also the opportunity to educate oneself on industry related topics with experts and celebrities at high-powered panels. They have the chance to make both industry and personal connections that in some cases has resulted in distribution deals and the development of new projects particularly for our festival award winners.

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

You will be able to see a variety of shorts, documentaries, and narrative films for both mainstream and underserved audiences in a beautiful southwestern environment with many great historic and cultural tourist attractions.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

They must tell a good story, whether fiction or documentary, with high quality filmmaking. Locally made films are also given special attention.

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

Sometimes a submitted film with a similar theme from a major release comes out in the same year. Those films are often not selected because festival programmers are afraid that they won’t have an audience. For example, the year the 12 Years a Slave came out, other films with a similar topic had a hard time getting into festivals.

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

I love the chance to showcase important works by lesser known artists and to provide additional opportunities for them. I also appreciate the chance to celebrate the life of seasoned filmmakers that have contributed to the industry for many decades.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We appreciate receiving submissions by both first time and famous filmmakers on FilmFreeway. We receive many shorts but would love to receive more features.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We will have more international attention because of the increase in popularity of the community of Santa Fe. Cross promotion with other film festivals will result in more recognition. I think we will receive more sponsors from major companies because of the increased interest in our film industry which will allow us to show more major titles and be able to bring in more filmmakers to present their work from around the world.

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

Annie Hall

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

Good structure, a well paced narrative, relatable themes, identifable characters, and strong visual storytelling makes a great film.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

We have a thriving film and TV industry where many Netflix and other major networks are shooting in New Mexico in additional to Hollywood films, independent features, and shorts. Local theatres are committed to showing both commercial and foreign cinema supported by our diverse audiences.

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  Bio for Head of Programming, Aaron Leventman

Aaron Leventman was previously the producer of the Bioneers Moving Image Festival, part of the Bioneers Conference. and previously worked for the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, he was the Director of Programming for Santa Fe Film Festival and the premiere event of the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience. Aaron has also given presentations with the Popular Culture Association Conferences around the country and has been on the awards jury for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA. He has an M.F.A. from Columbia University’s film program, and is an actor who has appeared in many feature films, shorts, commercials, and industrials as well as theatrical productions in Santa Fe, San Francisco, Boston, and Provincetown, MA. He is also a published playwright ( whose works have been performed all over the U.S., most recently in New York City. Aaron is currently a writing coach and film and acting instructor at the Santa Fe Community College and Renesan for Lifelong Learning.

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 for more information and to submit your work to the festival.