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My Favorite Regional American Film Festivals

My Favorite Regional American Film Festivals ~Joe Swanberg

Film festivals like Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca get a lot of the attention and the World Premieres every year on the American film festival circuit, but there are a lot of great festivals out there where your film can receive attention and you, the filmmaker, can have a really good time.  Here are my favorites, in order of when they happen each year.

SF INDIEFEST – San Francisco – February

I appreciate any opportunity to spend time in San Francisco, but this Festival provides wild parties, enthusiastic audiences and a truly independent program that makes the city that much more appealing.  The main venue is in The Mission District, which borders The Castro.  Both neighborhoods have great restaurants, stores, cultures and histories.  When you’re not seeing movies you’ll have a great time walking around and taking in the area.

Because you’re in San Francisco there is good access to media, so you can get nice coverage from the Festival.  The vibe is low-key and fun and the late night audiences are enthusiastic.  This is a great place to show an indie genre film, but the program also makes room for small relationship dramas and documentaries.

* From my experience, the Festival doesn’t pay for your flight, but might be able to help out with hotel deals.

MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL – Baltimore – May

With a focus on panels and knowledge sharing, and a centralized location, the Maryland Film Festival is like the best film school campus you could imagine.  The Charles Theater is screening great movies all day and across the street is a tent village where you can eat great food, hang out with friends, connect to the Internet or listen to experts and professional talk about film.  And the whole Festival takes place over one weekend, so everyone is there at the same time!

As if that weren’t good enough, your Festival badge allows you free admission to several Baltimore museums as well as the Aquarium.  And if you’re lucky enough to have the Festival fall during a time when the Baltimore Orioles are playing a home game, Cal Ripken Jr. donates his seats to the Festival so that filmmakers can catch a game.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

* The festival usually provides travel and accommodations for filmmakers.

SIDEWALK MOVING PICTURES FESTIVAL – Birmingham, AL – August

The historic city of Birmingham, AL hosts this festival dedicated to indie film.  The parties are overflowing with free food and drinks and the staff is committed to making sure filmmakers have an amazing time.  Most festivals pride themselves on being filmmaker friendly, but Sidewalk goes above and beyond, coordinating outings, providing ample transportation and keeping everyone notified of events.

There are usually a few World Premieres, but the Festival is mainly focused on showing the best films that have been on the circuit that year.  Most of the filmmakers attend the Festival, so it’s a great place to meet people, and the parties are conducive to making fast friends.  Most of the venues are walkable from the hotel, so it’s easy to get around and see movie.

* The festival usually provides travel and accommodations for filmmakers.

INDIE MEMPHIS – Memphis – October

Erik Jambor, who founded the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival, now runs Indie Memphis, and he is just as committed to filmmaker friendliness.  Memphis is a great city and the Festival makes sure you have a true Memphis experience as far as food and music is concerned.  Outside of the official parties and events, it’s easy to explore and experience the culture on your own, so make sure you get out and see the town.

Most of the films are showing in a centralized venue, so it’s easy to see other filmmakers work.  If you can resist exploring Memphis, you’ll be treated to a program of great indie films hand-picked from the circuit that year.  Memphis has a strong sense of local pride, and a growing film scene, so you’ll also be able to check out what’s happening locally.

* The festival tries to provide travel and accommodations for filmmakers.


Joe Swanberg

Joe Swanberg (b. 1981) has directed the features KISSING ON THE MOUTH (2005), LOL (2006), HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (2007), NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS (2008), ALEXANDER THE LAST (2009) and UNCLE KENT (2011).

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About the Author


Rachel has been with Zacuto since 2009. She began working in the sales department and moved to marketing in 2013. In her role as Digital Marketing Director she oversees the gear loan and review program, social media, blog content, zacuto.com, and works with the team on overall marketing strategy. Rachel has a BA in Theatre with a focus on Directing from Arizona State University. Those who have spoken with her on the phone know she occasionally reveals her homeland by slipping into a British accent. Rachel likes tear-jerker sports movies, reading cookbooks for pleasure, and crossword puzzles. Contact her at rachel@zacuto.com

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