50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2015

By Kerry O’Conor  Via moviemaker.com Read all 50 Film Festivals here.

The Festivals


Wroclaw, Poland / Oct. 20-25, 2015 / americanfilmfestival.pl

With generous prizes, excellent programming, a very favorable rate of acceptance (last year a whopping third of submissions got in), free lodging and transportation, and field trips around Poland—all that for no entry fee—submitting to the American Film Festival may as well be a no-brainer.


Ashland, Oregon / April 9-13, 2015 / ashlandfilm.org

“One of those regional gems that gives me faith and hope for the future of independent cinema,” says Michael Tully (Ping Pong Summer) of AIFF. The festival’s passionate audiences are cultivated at nightly AfterLounge parties, open to all. And its strong student film component expands this year with the high-school PridePrize for a LGBT-themed film.


Atlanta, Georgia / Spring 2016 / atlantafilmfestival.com

Atlanta Film Festival holds an annual Creative Conference and a multiple-day retreat for screenplay competition winners in addition to its main festival. Distributor turn-out is solid, with films likeMetalhead and Bad Turn Worse acquired in 2014. To provide filmmakers with travel compensation, the festival runs an annual Kickstarter campaign; donor rewards include a spot on an audience award jury.


Austin, Texas / Oct. 29-Nov. 5, 2015 / austinfilmfestival.com

Austin Film Festival attendees experience an open forum with panels and workshops (over 170 of them) featuring guests like Paul Thomas Anderson and Vince Gilligan. The environment assures that “every filmmaker, registrant, panelist and awardee goes to the same parties, eats at the same restaurants, drinks at the same bars,” says festival staffer Harrison Glaser, which means the festival is “all about networking.”


Bend, Oregon / Oct. 8-11, 2015 / bendfilm.org

Eighteen percent of submissions were accepted to BendFilm in 2014, which aren’t bad odds at all. Throw in a mountain range backdrop, cash and camera package prizes, a newly established filmmaker residency program and work-in-progress workshop series, and “more craft beer, wine and spirits than our 125 visiting filmmakers could drink” (Todd Looby, festival director).


Waimea, Hawaii / May 21-25, 2015 / bigislandfilmfestival.com

Big Island Film Festival’s spirit of ‘ohana (or family) provides for an extremely welcoming festival experience, so much so that alumni keep in touch long after the fest. The comfortable island setting and Fairmont Orchid venue means informal networking from the shores of the beach to the local eateries.


Tallinn, Estonia / Nov. 13-29, 2015 / poff.ee                                                

Set in the Nordic-Baltic region, Black Nights presents the best of international cinema; last year’s edition featured the Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything and local favorite Tangerines. In addition to the comprehensive “Industry @ Tallinn,” a week-long film summit attended by 40 distributors, the festival will launch a corresponding sales summit this year.



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