Interview with Festival Director Charles McNeil (Cape Fear Independent Film Festival)

The Cape Fear Independent Film Network is dedicated to promoting independent film and preserving the Cape Fear region’s rich film history.

Go to the film site for more information:

I recently sat down with festival director Charles McNeil to learn more about the festival.

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

Charles McNeil: We consider the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival a Filmmaker’s festival. For Filmmakers that attend we ensure that They first off have a good time, but we also like to focus on the networking aspect of a film festival, we encourage all of the filmmakers in attendance to meet the other filmmakers. For those who can’t attend we offer the notoriety of being in the festival, we are a very competitive festival.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience when you attend the festival?

Charles: We are a welcoming festival, those who attend, whether a filmmaker or someone who is just out for some entertainment, should expect to be approached by a member of the festival and engage them in conversation. We also encourage our filmmakers to engage with our audience and our audience to engage with our filmmakers.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Charles: What is most likely to get a film into our festival is its entertainment and engagement value. Our screeners are looking to be compelled to watch the film they are reviewing, and we want our audiences to be compelled also. Short, feature, documentary, doesn’t matter, tell us a good story that draws our attention.

Matthew: Why would a filmmaker be motivated to submit to your festival?

Charles: The Cape Fear Independent Film Festival offers two monetary prizes, $250 for best short and $500 for best feature, however this isn’t the only reason to submit to our festival. Wilmington NC has always been a film hub, since Frank Capra Jr. brought Firestarter to film here over 30 years ago.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Charles: We do the film festival because we are filmmakers. We have attended festivals as filmmakers and audience members and love the sense of community you can get from some of the really great ones, and that’s what we are doing here. Creating a sense of community for our filmmakers and audience members, it’s great to see the same filmmakers submit again, not only because it’s great to have them visit if they make it into the festival, but it’s great to see the evolution of their craft.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Charles: At it’s heart it’s the same, but when we started we did a lot more screenings in local bars, they embraced us and made it easy for us to put films in front of an audience. We have grown over the years and now we use larger venues. But we are still there to make sure the filmmakers have a good time and network.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Charles: This year we are showing films over 3 days. I would like to expand that in the next few years, our aim is to be a 5 day festival by 2020. More films, more filmmakers, more awesome. But we won’t change the fact that we are a filmmakers festival and want to not only show them a good time, but offer the chance at networking and honing their craft.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Charles: The film I have probably seen more times than any other, and it is my favorite film, is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke. People don’t realize it’s essentially James Bond for kids with singing and dancing. Written by Ian Fleming, produced by Albert R. Broccoli, with Desmond Llewelyn ( the original Q) and Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger) as the bad guy. It’s gotten under my skin and I watch it at least a couple of times a year.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Charles: What makes a great film is it’s ability to hold your attention, horrified, laughing, crying, edge of your seat, the emotion doesn’t matter.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Charles: With the reduction of the film incentive a lot of productions have gone elsewhere, but we are bringing it back, when NC went from a Tax Credit to a Film Grant it was originally $10 million, but now that has been increased to $30 million. Productions are coming back to North Carolina and to Wilmington in particular. Having a professional base of crew makes for a great independent film scene.

Interview with Festival Director Oscar Piloto (Miami Indie Artist Film Festival)

The MIA Film Festival (#MiaFF) is an underground festival based out of Miami, Florida that features films and screenplays of all length and genres worldwide. #MiaFF is unique from the rest because it’s an underground festival that expands the capability of networking with other filmmakers and showcasing films in one location for 9 days in December.

I was fortunate enough to interview Festival Director Oscar Piloto:

oscarMatthew Toffolo: What is the Miami Indie Artist Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Oscar Piloto: What makes us successful is that it’s a new festival and it continues to grow. There are people who believe in the festival and are working with us to achieve our goals. Our goals of giving filmmakers hope for a greater brighter future by helping them create relationships that will last a lifetime. We want to introduce like minded people and guiding them in working together. We want to create a real community that truly allows the growth for individual achievement.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival?

Oscar: We are big in creating a positive atmosphere with lots of fun in the process but most importantly making sure artists leave the festival with more knowledge of this wonderful industry that we love.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Oscar: We understand many films are done by striving artists and in many cases even students. However, we would love to see flashes of greatness in all the different facets of filmmaking.

Matthew: As per your festival statement, do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Oscar: I absolutely feel that many films do not get a fair shake. I believe some festivals become too big but aren’t relevant or influential, because they accept quantity instead of quality, like a “first come first serve” basis. I’ve seen films win other festivals that didn’t even get accepted in other big festivals. I’ve also known filmmakers ask for their materials from a festival back and they got their films returned and sealed exactly as they were mailed originally.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Oscar: As a filmmaker that had struggled getting a break, I want to help discover new talent and making a difference in the film industry. We want to help create those connections that are desperately needed to succeed.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Oscar: We are only going on our second year but the big changes are having more sponsors. In our first year, the amount of submissions was outstanding. More than I could have hoped for. Now, with the sponsors I hope it will bring opportunity for bigger and better prizes to our filmmakers.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Oscar: There is a big difference between big festivals and relevant festivals. I see the MIA FILM FESTIVAL as the most relevant film festival in South Florida, where deals get made and talents get discovered!

Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Oscar: I’ve personally seen “Greese” the most when I was around 12 years old. Not only was I a big fan of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John but I was also a big fan of the music.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Oscar: A great film occurs when all the little pieces come together, in particular the attention to detail.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Oscar: I think it is great! There’s great diversity here in Miami from all ethnic backgrounds. In addition, Miami is a beautiful city where everyone wants to come, and the more people the city attracts, the film scene will continue to grow.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Brandon Ruckdashel (Program Director) NewFilmmakers NY

Brandon Ruckdashel has served as a film programmer for NewFilmmakers, YoungFilmmakers, and as a juror for the Asian American International Film Festival.

NewFilmmakers NY is a weekly screening series based at Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side. To learn more about the NewFilmmakers Festival and to submit your film, go to their website at

1) What is NewFilmmakers succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Unlike most festivals we run as a year round series. We program a minimum of 55 events a year and this brings our total films screened to between 750-1000 depending on if we receive extra dates.

With the flexibility our screening schedule gives us we are able to do more diverse and varied programs. We can screen films that many festivals would pass over simply because they do not “fit in.” We also make a special effort to program events that focus on groups traditionally marginalized by the mainstream Hollywood film industry. These groups include women filmmakers, our NewLatino series, and nights specifically for black filmmakers.

2) What are the qualifications for the selected films? Does the film need to be made by a first time filmmaker?

We do not have any specific qualifications. Needing to be a first time filmmaker is actually a very misunderstood representation of our name. We believe that all filmmakers who produce independent non-studio backed films fall into the NewFilmmaker category.

Many NewFilmmakers alumni return each year with their new film or films and we enjoy following their progress.

We are always looking for documentaries to fill into our programs and this coming June we are programming an entire month of LGBT themed films.

3) How many events to do you a year?

55 events per year. We also occasionally add in between 3-7 day festivals as our schedule allows.

4) Where is your cinema located in New York City? How is the area for the arts/film scene?

The Lower East side is the historic New York arts district. No other part of New York city can claim as many artists in residence.

We are located at Anthology Film Archives on 32 Second avenue (corner of 2nd street & 2nd avenue)

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival for the last 19 years? When did you come aboard?

We originally started NewFilmmakers as an opportunity for NYU film students, who had no access to a theater, for screening their student projects. NewFilmmakers continues to provide opportunities for filmmakers to screen films that might be passed over by traditional film festivals. Screening at Anthology Film Archives amongst the posters for films shot by Jonas Mekas, Jerome Hill, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Kubelka, and Stan Brakhage sharpens this motivation.

I joined as a volunteer six years ago handling technology and marketing. We launched an online distribution platform (NewFilmmakersOnline), a new scheduling interface for the website, and the NewFilmmakers Quarterly Magazine. I took over programming duties about three years ago and have enjoyed using my understanding of the filmmaking process to help promote filmmakers and give them screening opportunities.

6) How has the festival changed since its inception?

NewFilmmakers started out as a “no fees, no forms, no deadlines” event and has evolved into an established and well respected screening series. Although we still receive them on rare occasions we definitely screen a lot less VHS.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2020?

That is a tough question to answer. So much has already changed in the last year with the addition of DCP as a screening format and moving our nightly events to all digital delivery. Four years seems like a short period of time, but their are many technological advances expected within the film industry by then. Not least of these is the advent of HEVC replacing H264 which will see our goal of moving to “all digital” delivery become practical.

On the programming side I see more featurette programs putting two or three 30+ minute films together. Unfortunately filmmakers have decided to increase the length of their shorts instead of taking a risk and shooting a feature. This has begun to cause some real programming problems in the last two years.

8) What film have you seen the most times?

I think that’s a toss up between the original “Star Wars” trilogy and “Hook” with Robin Williams. Star Wars appeals to me the most because the technology to make it barely existed and the innovations they were forced to make come across distinctly and add a rough edge, which makes it feel real.

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

Succinct simple efficient pacing which illustrates a story while not trying to prove the intelligence of the filmmaker who directed it.

10) What would one expect when they attend your festival?

We have a photographer. We have a step-and-repeat. We have a party. We always encourage filmmakers to work with each other to bring beverages and snacks.

Every night is a different night. We program in a way that filmmakers with similar styles, genres, and interests are screening together. This creates an incubator type atmosphere where there are a number of filmmakers who can walk away from the night having made new friends or met people they’d like to work with on future projects.

When a filmmaker gets invited to a festival it is really up to them to take control of the atmosphere for the evening. Print a “step-and-repeat,” a few large format posters, and bring lots of information about your film. People love seeing films when they know it will be turned into an event and I can attest that the energy and money put into promoting is always returned by the energy of the audience that it attracts.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is a multiple award winning short filmmaker. He is currently the Festival Director for the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Screenplay Festival.

Interviewee Brandon Ruckdashel is a New York based actor and filmmaker who recently finished production on his debut feature “Grinder.” As an actor he starred in HBO/Cinemax’s hit series “Co-ed Confidential” and numerous made-for-TV movies directed by Roger Corman alumnus Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski. Brandon’s production company Ruckus Film Works specializes in post production, extreme dialogue denoising, and other delivery services (including DCP authoring).

He can be contacted through facebook at

his website



Today’s Twitter Posts: Sunday November 29 2015

Today’s Twitter Posts: Submit to Various Festivals via Film Freeway

Today’s Best of Tweets in the Festival World

Read the best of Twitter Tweets from Festivals from around the world:

7 Questions with Founder Zachary Jones

Today we are in conversation with Zachary Jones, the Founder of, the new alternative submission center for Film Festivals and Filmmakers/Screenwriters. A startup from Canada that launched in February 2014 that is already becoming stiff competition to the dominance of withoutabox for over 15 years.

Matthew Toffolo – First off, congrats on announcing 1250 Film Festivals in your database as of this interview. That’s amazing in such a short time. What has been the key to your success so far?

Zachary – Thank you so much! The secret is really quite simple. We set out to re-invent festival submissions with modern technology and a fair business model. FilmFreeway offers a simple, user-friendly service that is always 100% free to filmmakers and writers. We back that up with friendly, reliable customer service from real people who care and are happy to assist our customers anytime.

MT – What motivated you to begin this start up?

Zachary – Festival submissions have been dominated for far too long by a company with grossly outdated technology, a miserable user experience, excessive fees and an overall predatory business model. It was about time somebody changed that.

MT – There have been many other startups attempting to compete with the competition, but almost all have failed. Why do you think your company has succeeded so far over the rest?

Zachary – We created FilmFreeway to be incredible simple and easy to use for both filmmakers and festivals. We added to that by offering the service 100% free to filmmakers. Our mandate when building FilmFreeway was to make it fair and simple. That seems to be the magic formula that has resonated with over 85,000 filmmakers and counting so far!

MT – Bottom-line, why is your site better than the competition?

Zachary – FilmFreeway is lightyears ahead of Withoutabox when it comes to the user experience we offer. Our online screeners play in beautiful, crystal-clear HD. We also integrate with Vimeo and YouTube. The days of paying $3 each time to submit a pixelated, standard definition online screener are over. With FilmFreeway, filmmakers can have their project added and ready to submit in under 5 minutes. Also, our search engine for discovering amazing festivals is powerful and fast. It’s a night and day experience when compared to Withoutabox. Here what filmmakers are saying on Twitter:

MT – The main issue with film festivals is that you were forced to use the main submission source in order to succeed because that’s where all the filmmakers were submitting their films. But, because the company took so much commission from the festivals, it was impossible for most of them to not to lose money and therefore many festivals have been forced to shut down. Or, they were forced to raise their submission fees to stay in the black, which takes more money from the filmmakers themselves, which in the end forces them to submit to less festivals than they want and therefore gives them less opportunity to get their film out there. It has been a vicious cycle. How are you going to be different while still being profitable for your own company and site?

Zachary – You’re exactly right! We’ve already heard from many festivals that have told us that thanks to FilmFreeway they can once again afford to operate their festivals and stay in business. We are actually helping the industry thrive, rather than suck the blood out of it like Withoutabox. We offer optional paid marketing services for festivals which helps to pay our overhead and make sure that FilmFreeway will always remain 100% free for filmmakers and writers.

MT – What was the first film festival to sign up to your website?

Zachary – The wonderful Food & Farm Film Festival was the very first to sign up:

MT – What is FilmFreeway’s ultimate goal?

Zachary – To simply provide the best film festival submissions experience in the world for filmmakers and festivals alike. You can expect to see continued improvement and added features as we grow and develop as well. We’re always listening to the feedback of the community to make FilmFreeway even better. Thank you again for all of your support!