If you’re a first-time filmmaker or are hitting the festival circuit for the first time, you might have a better chance at getting your film into a regional festival. If accepted, your work will likely receive more attention than it might have at a bigger, more competitive festival like Sundance and Cannes.
The regional festivals listed below are actively looking for new talent and therefore take the submissions process very seriously. Attending these festivals might not help you as much on the sales front, but it could certainly plug you into a community and network of filmmakers, programmers and industry folks who will want to support your future projects.
The festivals are listed below in alphabetical order (with descriptions and deadlines courtesy of their web sites, which we link to as well). For info on submission fees, visit the festival web sites. And before you apply, you might want to study up on these film festival tips.
When: October 29-November 5, 2015
What: Known as the Writers Festival, [the] Austin Film Festival has always been fanatical about strong storytelling. AFF recognizes the importance of the creator at the core of filmmaking, and screens the highest caliber narrative, documentary, and animated films—all of which are grounded in the power of a well-told story.
Moviemaker Magazine named AFF as one of the "50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee," a "Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World" and named Austin the #1 city in which to be a moviemaker for 2013.
AFF is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, making all Jury Award-winning Narrative Short, Documentary Short, and Animated Short films eligible for an Academy Award.
Film Early Bird Deadline: April 20
Film Regular Deadline: May 20
Film Late Deadline: July 10
When: October 8-12, 2015
What: The Hamptons International Film Festival takes place annually in October, with a number of additional events held year round in New York City and the Hamptons. The Festival is the premiere film event on New York State’s East End, and is an intimate showcase of some of the year’s best offerings in contemporary cinema.
With cash prizes handed out totaling more than $45,000, HIFF continues to attract some of the best films of the year. Festival selections continue to play an important role during awards season, with a significant number of titles highlighted every year at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, as well as the Gotham Awards and Independent Spirit Awards.
Films in the 2014 Festival received a record 44 Oscar nominations, including three Best Picture nominations. The Festival also screened films featuring twelve of the Acting nominees as well as three of the Best Documentary nominees. 2014 was also the fifth year in a row that the Festival’s Audience Award-winning film ("The Imitation Game") was nominated for Best Picture, with the two such films ("The Artist" and "The King’s Speech") eventually taking home the honors.
Early bird: April 6, 2015
Regular: May 4, 2015
Late: June 1, 2015
WAB Extended: June 15, 2015
READ MORE: Why Filmmakers Need the Festival Forum
When: October 8-18, 2015
What: Since founding the Mill Valley Film Festival in 1977, Mark Fishkin has shepherded this once small, three-day showcase into an eleven-day, internationally acclaimed cinema event presenting a wide variety of new films from around the world in an engaged, community setting.
The festival has an impressive track record of launching new films and new filmmakers, and has earned a reputation as a filmmakers’ festival by celebrating the best in American independent and foreign films, along side high-profile and prestigious award contenders.
Each year the festival welcomes more than 200 filmmakers, representing more than 50 countries. Screening sections include World Cinema; US Cinema; Valley of the Docs; Children’s FilmFest; a daily shorts program; and Active Cinema, MVFF’s activist films initiative. Festival guests also enjoy Tributes, Spotlights and Galas throughout.
The relaxed and non-competitive atmosphere surrounding MVFF, gives filmmakers and audiences alike the opportunity to share their work and experiences in a collaborative and convivial setting.
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Final Deadline: June 12, 2015
When: Sept. 1-7, 2015
What: The Portland Film Festival has already established itself as Portland’s leading film non-profit, with hundreds of screenings, events, education programs and community partnerships providing a unique opportunity for our diverse audience to connect with filmmakers working in all different genres and forms. In addition, our festivals hosts dozens of film and television professionals, offering filmmakers a chance to forge new relationships across the industry.
Featuring a rich program of films in the Fiction, Non-Fiction, World Cinema, Transmedia, Short and Student Filmmaking categories, as well as a program dedicated to the work of filmmakers from Oregon, The Portland Film Festival offers emerging and established artists to present their films in a world-class screening environment, with curated competitions, Audience Awards, and opportunities to reach attending members of the national press.
Past attendees and alumni include Eli Roth, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Abby Elliott, Chris Williams, Chuck Palahniuk, Jason Mamoa, Doug Benson, Wendy Froud, Brian Froud, Toby Froud, Penny Lane, Chelsea Cain, Daniel Wilson, Chelsey Reist, Isaac Feder, James Franco, Lorenza Izzo, Matt Walsh, Susan Sarandon, Michael Tully, Ryan Murdock, Kelly Reichardt, Kris Kaczor, Bryan Storkel, Leah Warshawski, Daryl Hannah, Vivian Norris, Karney Hatch, Jon Matthews, Dana Nachman, Mitchell Jackson, John Jeffcoat, Shawn Telford, Leah Meyerhoff, Mark Raso, David Zellner, Bradley King and more.
Hosted in venues across Portland, its public transportation and accessibility are matched by very few cities. Portland offers a relaxed community and quirky environment with sophisticated audiences deeply engaged in the art of film.
Regular Deadline: April 14, 2015
Late Deadline: May 6, 2015
Extended Deadline: May 15, 2015
Final: May 22, 2015
When: September 30-October 4, 2015
What: Each year film and music lovers from around the world gather at the Woodstock Film Festival for an innovative variety of films, first-class concerts, workshops, celebrity-led panels and awards ceremony and fantastic parties.
The film competition includes cash in kind awards in each category, including awards sponsored by Gigantic Pictures, Gray KrausStratford Sandler Des Rochers LLP, Films We Like, Lowel Light, Panavision, Technicolor Postworks and more. Competition categories include the Ultra Indie Award, Best Editing (in feature length documentary and narrative), the Haskell Wexler Best Cinematography Award, the Maverick Award for Best Feature Narrative and Best Feature Documentary, Short Animation, Short Doc, Short Narrative and Short Student Award. The jury is always comprised of top industry members and renowned filmmakers. Audience awards are also always given out each year.
Esteemed members of the film world who have participated include Darren Aronofsky, Elmer Bernstein, Les Blank, Peter Bogdanovich, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Connelly, Courteney Cox, Paul Dano, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jonathan Demme, Vera Farmiga, America Ferrera, Alex Gibney, Debra Granik, Marcia Gay Harden, Woody Harrelson, Ethan Hawke, Todd Haynes, Ted Hope, Timothy Hutton, Barbara Kopple, Ang Lee, Melissa Leo, Ray Kurzweil, Tony Kushner, Laura Linney, Richard Linklater, Albert Maysles, Oren Moverman, Mira Nair, Tim Blake Nelson, Ron Nyswaner, D.A. Pennebaker, Natalie Portman, Keanu Reeves, Tim Robbins, Ted Sarandos, Nancy Savoca, James Schamus, Liev Schreiber, Morgan Spurlock,Uma Thurman, Stanley Tucci, Christine Vachon, Haskell Wexler and many many more.
Early Bird: April 3
Regular: May 8
Late: June 5
WAB Extended (Available via WAB only): June 19