Interview with Festival Director Joseph Hardin (HorrorQuest Film Festival)

HorrorQuest Film Festival is the worlds only 100% free Horror film festival. Held each year at Cinefest Film Theatre, located on the Georgia State University campus, HorrorQuest has no set submission fee. All HorrorQuest screenings and events are free and open to the public on a first come, first served, basis.

Named one of the “Top 10 Film Festivals Every Filmmaker Should Know About” by Movie Maker Magazine, HorrorQuest has been praised by Filmmakers such as Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) for it’s business model and ethics.

Interview with Festival Director Joseph Hardin 

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

Joseph Hardin: I think HorrorQuest provides an alternative to filmmakers who might not have extra money to spend on festival submission fees. While we do charge a small fee for online submissions, filmmakers can still submit for free by mail. While this makes it harder to keep the festival running, it also is what makes HorrorQuest stand out.

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

JH: First, all screenings are 100% free to the public. HorrorQuest has always tried to put the films first. We do not have Q&As, red carpets or press junkets. Instead we try to cram in as many films as possible. We try to create a good mix of content, we do not have themed blocks of content, instead we try to give you a bit of everything in each block of films.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

JH: It can vary from film to film, but mostly we look for something interesting. When you watch hundreds of films years after year, it is easy to become bored when you see another slasher or zombie film. While we enjoy a good slasher or zombie film, it can be hard to bring something new to those sub-genres. That is what we really look for, films that try something new. If a film plays with an interesting idea or subject matter, HorrorQuest will often overlook the films technical shortcomings.

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

JH: I think that is absolutely true, even more so when you talk about larger festivals. If you do a simple Google search, you will find story after story about film festival corruption. Larger festivals are a business and they operate as such. They want to sell tickets and ad space, so it befits them to program differently than a festival like HorrorQuest. We can take a risk and program something experimental or extreme and not have to worry about what the sponsor is going to think about it. Not to mention bribes, HorrorQuest is a very small festival, yet well still get bribes from movie studios or indie distributors asking us to program their films. I would assume they offer more to larger festivals, on that scale, I am sure it becomes a strong temptation.

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

JH: Every one who is or has been involved with HorrorQuest, does it for free, no one gets paid. We all do it because we enjoy watching movies. We get to get together and watch films many people will never see. Everyday fells a bit like Christmas, when you check the mailbox, you never know what your are going to find. We get submissions from all over the world and it is still amazing to see what people can create. When it stops feeling like Christmas, it will be time to stop.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

JH: Not much has changed. It costs more to keep the festival going. The price to rent a theater never goes down. We still average the same about of guests, some years are better than others. We now accept online submission, which was something we put off for as long as possible. While it has made somethings easier, it has created more work over all. If anything, we have more name recognition. We are still the same hole-in-the-wall festival we were when we started.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

JH: Hopefully the festival will still be going. It is getting harder and harder each year to keep the festival as free as possible and not be out of pocket. Thankfully, we get by and have a theater that works with us as much as they can. There are a lot of things HorrorQuest wants to do. Right now, we are just glad to still be here.

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

JH: I have no idea, it is probably something like Back to the Future or Flight of the Navigator. One of those movies I watched as a kid. I still watch Back to the Future, Navigator, Monster Squad and The Goonies (among others) at least once a year.

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

JH: If I knew that, I probably wouldn’t tell you. I don’t think anyone knows. I think you can know what works, but even then, great filmmakers still make stinkers. Just make something you would want to see, odds are there is someone out there who will agree with you.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

JH: Atlanta is crazy, everything seems to be filming here, Ant-man, Captain America, Hunger Games. I think it was just voted the number one place to live as an indie filmmakers. There seems to be a lot of opportunities here. Georgia is a great place for film, hopefully the state won’t screw it up.


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.