The Top 10 Film Festivals to Submit To

OMPA member Scott Ballard shares some of his favorite film festivals far and wide!
| By Lisa Cicala

OMPA member Scott Ballard has been a freelance filmmaker for about 15 years, the last 10 of which he’s called Portland home. Over that time his works have been selected for literally hundreds of film festivals - wow! He recently shared his tips on submitting to film festivals, and while we talked, he filled us in on some of his favorite film festivals far and wide!

| Local |

The NW Filmmakers Fest:

As a well curated event that showcases all NW filmmakers, the NW Filmmakers Fest is the perfect festival to keep your finger on the pulse of films being produced in the region. Because of the festivals relation to the Portland Art Museum, audiences include film lovers, art lovers and people interested in seeing the Portland creative community thrive. It's a great place to meet other local filmmakers and film lovers. It's also the perfect place to see the diverse amount of content being created in the NW.

The Portland International Film Festival:

PIFF is a one of a kind event. The recent addition of the NW Shorts category allows access for local filmmakers to submit their work in a focused category. The festival brings in amazing films from around the globe and the opportunity to see such a diverse amount of voices is incredible. Being able to screen work alongside such immense world-wide talent is truly inspiring, informative and just plain exciting!

Local Sightings Festival:

The Local Sightings Film Festival is Seattle's only festival dedicated to NW films. It's an incredible chance to screen at a local festival that opens you up to a broader reach of audiences and other filmmakers. The many resources needed to pull of independent cinema can be expanded to our entire region and this festival is the perfect opportunity to expand your knowledge and connection to this larger NW community.

The Boise Film Festival:The Boise Film Festival is an awesome festival. I had the chance to go last year and they did such a great job of curating events and bringing filmmakers together. Filmmakers are not necessarily the least awkward people, getting people together to talk sometimes takes a little curation, how they put events together and bring people together is one of the reasons why i like their festival over others.

Bend Film Festival:

Bend Film Festival is an amazing experience that is fun to go to even if you aren’t screening. You get shown so many different films and so many filmmakers attend it so you get a lot of different voices and perspectives in each screening group.

| National/International |

The Albuquerque Film and Music Experience:

One of my favorite film festivals hands down is The Albuquerque Film and Music Experience. They bring everyone together, and they are able to curate events that aren’t just about film, but about the relationship between film and music. The crew that runs it is so warm and makes sure everyone is taken care of. I think Albuquerque concentrates really hard on being able to plan an event where everyone’s gonna get something out of it. I feel like that’s been my experience each time I’ve been there.

The Bahamas International Film Festival:

The Bahamas International Film Festival is an amazing event. If you’re able to go there, then that’d be the film festival that I’d put money into going because you also get an experience out of it. Of course, it’s in the Bahamas, but it’s way more than that. It's the variety of places they bring in, the variety of projects they bring in, and the fact that you have filmmakers there to represent them. During the Q and A after these films you have access to the filmmakers, their motivations, what they’ve done, and as filmmakers then we have their knowledge. I’ve met so many people who I’ve asked what their experience was like doing certain things, and now I have insight from a lot of different perspectives as a resource.

Arizona International Film Festival:

I really love the Arizona International Film Festival in Tucson. I have a very special relationship with them in that I’ve premiered four of my works at that festival - three features and North and Nowhere all premiered there. That film festival is extremely dear to me. One of the things that they do really well is providing local media access as a platform for you to do press for your project. Instead of just sending an electronic press kit out to wherever you can find online that’s local, they provide specific links and e-mails for you to send those to and then they’ll set up interviews with local radio. They’ll drive you around and make sure everyone’s okay. The parties are so fun, and the people who run it are so personable that you immediately feel like these are friends of yours. They just pull you into not just the culture of the festival, but the culture of Tucson, of the local filmmaking network and community. You just immediately feel included. It’s a really unique experience. It’s really well established and it shows.

Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series:

Big Sur has a screening series throughout the whole summer, so it’s a film festival, but the way that they format the film festival is over time. Each week they’ll have a series that shorts might be included in, so if you get into that, then it’s not just a one time event, it’s over several months. Within that, you have your screening time with other filmmakers so it’s like a mini film festival. When I went to that this past summer it was really interesting that they bring in a lot of international films, so you’re juxtaposed with other films that have a perspective that’s very different. It’s really interesting to see your own project within something where the curation is so diverse. Also, it’s very well-attended and it’s been around for a long time. People participate in the Q and A a lot so the Q and A can be very in-depth and can drive a really interesting conversation. That Q and A led to a conversation which led into two hours of just hanging out and talking with people who live in Big Sur about my film. That kind of personal feedback is one of the big points of getting into a film festival. Not just getting feedback on that project, but getting to able to take that feedback and carry it into your future work. Finding out how people perceive what you’ve done, being able to ask people very specific things, and getting specific feedback from them.

Ozark Foothills Film Festival:

The Ozark Foothills Film Festival in Arkansas is deep in the foothills, and so for making films in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a very different place to be able to screen my films. I have access to perspectives that I don’t necessarily have access to in Portland. When I want to get feedback and really view the film through new eyes with a new perspective, being able to go someplace that’s different from where you normally are, there’s so much value in that. Between the Ozark Foothills Film Festival and the Pasadena Film Festival, and even the LA Indie Fest, those are very big and entrenched within the context of filmmaking. It’s all near LA so you have a bigger arc of people’s relationship with film, and then you have a small community like the Ozark Foothills where that intrinsic relationship between filmmaking and the audience isn’t established. Both are so valuable! One’s not better than the other, but it’s so interesting to be able to look at - are there larger film festivals that I can get into near somewhere where filmmaking is happening constantly? You meet a lot of people at film festivals in LA, like the career filmmaker who is talking and really thinking, “how does my film land with an audience?” Seeking out these different perspectives so that you have a fully grounded experience with that film. We make these films for people to watch. The whole point of spending all this time, all this money, all this effort, the blood sweat and tears is for someone, somewhere to watch it. Hopefully a bunch of people! {laughs}

But really, any film festival is worth going to - Scott thinks the value of the feedback and audience interaction you get at a festival is priceless.

"Being able to get out to festivals and use it as a way of knowing - is this successful or not? Did I hit the mark? Am I happy with the outcome? Is it resonating with the audience? If it did, great. If it didn’t, what was it specifically and i take that and i use it as a learning lesson for the next project."

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