Interview with Bill Hass, Programming Director (Fort Worth Indie Film Festival)

The goal of the FWIFS is to promote grassroots collaboration between and among filmmakers. They want to call attention to the quality work produced within the independent film movement. They want to do their part to provide a platform for independent artists to share their work and unique voices; to network and gain encouragement from their peers.


Interview with the Festival’s Programming Director Bill Hass:

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

Bill Haas: We are just three years old so we are still growing and discovering our persona. We’re seeing that we are becoming successful at relationship building. We work really hard to create an environment of collaboration versus competition. We are structured so that everything is physically close. This provides opportunity for filmmakers to see each other’s films and network. We are also building strong relationships with other festival directors who attend FWIFS. The filmmakers have opportunity to meet those directors and learn about other festivals to which they can successfully submit. For filmmakers that are actually from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, we’re providing a platform for them to show their work to family and friends in a festive environment. We’re still growing, but I can see that in the years to come, one of the key things that we will be successful at is building bridges. Establishing relationships with filmmakers, helping them grow their audience in the Fort Worth area and helping new and young filmmakers establish relationships with other filmmakers and festivals so they can continue to grow in their craft.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

BH: If you attend the festival this year you can expect to have a complete independent film experience. We have quality films from around the world. A lot of the filmmakers will be in attendance, so you will get to meet and talk to the people who are creating the art. As a filmmaker, if you attend, you can expect a highly positive experience. All filmmakers will be celebrated for their work and treated like the professional artists they are.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

BH: A strong story. Whether it is a documentary or a narrative, the story needs to be interesting. We look for good writing, plausible concepts and a strong production value relative to the budget. Beyond that, we like to see good acting that results in characters that we believe an care about. Basically, we want to see a respect for the craft for filmmaking. If the person that made the film has a love for the craft, that will show; and the film made with respect for the craft is a strong candidate for acceptance to the festival.

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

BH: I see this topic come up in some form or fashion quite a bit. I honestly believe that all legitimate festivals fully consider every film submitted. Ultimately though, I can only speak for myself. We have a diverse screening committee that watches all of the submitted films. I don’t vote and I don’t speak to the committee about the films so as not to influence them with my biases. When making decisions regarding which films will be accepted, I lean heavily on their assessments. Beyond that, there are films I had a negative opinion of based on the synopsis. But then I watched the film and the story and production value turned me around, and we accepted the film. I honestly thing that all legitimate festivals fully consider every submitted film; I know for a fact that we do.

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

BH: We’re filmmakers ourselves. We know how difficult it is to get a low budget independent film in front of an audience. We want to do what we can to help other filmmakers connect with an audience and grow in the craft. That being said, this festival is not about us. We hardly ever show our own films, and if we do, we’re not eligible for awards.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

BH: We’ve not really changed a lot since our inception. Our target is the true independent low budget filmmaker. We want to show the films produced by the teams that are telling quality stories with little to no budget. That is where we started and that is where we plan to stay. We have grown. We have two screens this year so we’re showing twice as many films. Aside from that, we’re the same festival that we were in year one. Next year, we’re planning to add a screenplay competition.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

BH: By 2020 we’ll be seven years old. By then we should be in a position to add at least one more day to the festival, or another screen (or both). We may be in a position to increase the value of our awards and possibly provide some level of assistance or sponsorship to student filmmakers.

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

BH: The Five Heartbeats.

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

BH: A great story makes a great film.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

BH: The film scene in Fort Worth is getting better. We have a new film commission and the film community is really excited about that. We’re looking forward to more opportunities developing at all levels over the next several years.


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 Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go for more information and to submit your work to the festival.