Lesser Known Film Festivals – Part 1

For filmmakers looking to be noticed, as well as people interested in the art of moviemaking, film festivals are a great place to be. Sure, everyone knows about Berlin, Toronto, Venice and Cannes, but do you know where else to go?

Here are some lesser known film festivals that you need to be attending. Part one of this two-part series will cover domestic U.S. festivals, while part two will show the best international festivals.

AFI Fest

Made up of films that don’t have a distributor, AFI Fest is sponsored by the American Film Market. Many Oscar contenders are shown here. Foreign-language ones included. The power and deal making at this festival is like no other, with 8,000 industry influencers all in one place. For networking or getting your film sold, Santa Monica in the fall is the place to be.

The Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF)

Also held in California, LAFF is worth the trip. American and international works are highlighted here. The only type of film you won’t see here are the big studio flicks. Los Angeles has a long history when it comes to the movies. The local theaters and other locations are a unique backdrop to the nine days of the festival.

It’s not just screenings either, filmmaker retreats, classes, awards and forums for minorities also occur. Another great bonus is that being selected for LAFF qualifies films for several awards, including Academy awards in certain categories.

Palm Springs International Film Festival

Both the main Palm Springs Festival and Palm Springs Shortfest fall under the same umbrella. Shortfest brings the best selection of short films to an appreciative local audience. For the main film fest, international films get special love. There is always Oscar fare here to satisfy the sophisticated locals.

Seattle International Film Festival

Running for almost a month in the summertime, Seattle has a long tradition of film. The breadth of the films shown is impressive, including entries from 80 countries. Its international nature makes it a very well-rounded festival, and a film buff has so much to choose from that there’s bound to be something for his or her taste.

Attendees from the industry number in the hundreds, including actors and directors as well. There are awards given as well.

South by Southwest

South by Southwest or SXSW is held in the spring. Most people know SXSW for its music festival, which runs at the same time as the film festival. It describes itself as a celebration of raw innovation and emerging talent, and is considered a mid-range festival. This is good news since it means it could be a good pick to enter for a filmmaker who hasn’t quite made it big yet.

This festival is heaven for lovers of independent films. Of special note is the fact that SXSW can boast that many non-fiction discoveries, such as “Spellbound”, have been made during its run. The festival has been running since the 1980s and shows no sign of slowing down.