About a year ago, Dave Bonta, in “A Month of Women’s Poetry Film,” mused that videopoetry perhaps wasn’t prestigious enough yet to be dominated by male voices and visions, and invited comments and stories on that, or any of the other points he raised in his essay. So far, no one has taken him up on that invitation.
However, I have noticed one sign that may indicate that videopoetry is becoming more prestigious, or at least more mainstream: increasingly, traditional film festivals are starting to invite submissions of poetry films.
Filmmakers and poets looking to expand the audience for their work may want to consider some of these festivals, and the film festival submission websites that have recently come to dominate the entry process. For now, I’m going to concentrate on a few festivals with upcoming deadlines for poetry films on the FilmFreeway platform, which some of you may be familiar with already, since the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, the Weimar Poetry Film Award, and the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival (among other poetry film festivals) are now listed there.
High Coast International Film Festival — the early bird deadline is September 23, 2018; several other deadlines follow until the final deadline on June 23, 2019; event dates August 30-31, 2019.
There is no special category for poetry films, but this 4th season Swedish festival seeks films with a “free voice” that experiment with the film medium “regardless of genre, thematics or method.” Their FilmFreeway page notes that they have programmed “wild experimental film poetry,” but submitters will have to pick a broader category to enter (narrative, documentary, or experimental). Fees for short films start at $10 for early bird submissions, and increase to $19 by the final deadline. The festival covers accommodations at a hotel near the festival venue for all selected filmmakers.
Grecanica International Film Festival — the early bird deadline is October 31, 2018; other deadlines follow until the extended deadline on March 31, 2019; event dates May 17-19, 2019
This Italian festival, now in its second year, is looking for films promoting “human rights, dignity, equality, lands, peoples, cultures, linguistic or historical minorities, popular and ethnic music,” including “Graekanic and and Italian minorities poetry produced anywhere in the world.” Films in languages other than Italian must be subtitled in Italian. Fees start at $20 and go up for later deadlines.
All Together Now: A Celebration of Art, Film & Music — the early bird deadline is October 4, 2018; final deadline is February 28, 2019; event dates April 26-28, 2019
This is the inaugural year for this Michigan festival that will take place in an art gallery, where they plan to bring music and short films together over two weekends for “creative exchange.” This festival accepts short films under 20 minutes in length, and has a separate category for “poetry based films.” Fees start at $15 for the early bird deadline, and increase to $20 for the final deadline.
Trenton Film Festival — the regular deadline is October 1, 2018; final deadline is November 1, 2018; event dates March 28-31, 2019
This New Jersey festival is looking for cutting edge films from anywhere in the world completed after January 1, 2018. Poetry films are included in a kind of catch-all category — “Experimental, Music Video, Spoken Word Poetry … new media.” Submissions need to be 25 minutes or less. The early bird deadline has already passed, so bargain hunters are out of luck this year. The regular deadline fee is $20, and goes up to $30 for the late deadline.
So Limitless and Free — the late deadline is November 29, 2018; event date is December 8, 2018
Now in its second year, this Quebec festival focuses on “artistic films.” The organizers are obviously big fans of Jim Morrison and the Doors — they have a category for films that “Jim Morrison would have liked,” and offer a music prize for the best Doors cover. They also offer a prize for the best instrumental music for poetry, and have a separate category for film-poetry shorts under 25 minutes. The early deadlines have already passed; the fee for the late deadline is $10.
Realtime International Film Festival — regular deadline is December 31, 2018; late deadline is March 31, 2019; event dates are June 9-15, 2019
This festival out of Nigeria, now in its fourth year, is both a film festival with live screenings and an online festival/awards event. They offer an award for best poetry, and have a separate category for filmmakers who “wish to be eligible for the best spoken word award.” The early deadline has passed; fee for the regular deadline is $40, increasing to $60 for the late deadline. This festival has ambitious aims to be the “biggest … remotely accessible Festival in Africa,” and FilmFreeway notes that it is one of their 100 best reviewed festivals (based on participants’ postings), but in terms of the poetry film world, their submission fees are high.
Motion Pictures International Film Festival — early bird deadline is December 15, 2018; final deadline is July 5, 2019; event dates August 23-24, 2019
Now in its second year, this is a touring film festival that is planned to take place in a different location each year. The first festival was held in Nigeria; perhaps the second will be held in Canada, as there is an Alberta address listed on FilmFreeway. Their website is currently under construction, and their first festival just concluded at the end of August, so more news could be coming soon. They have a separate category for poetry films; the fee is $10 for any deadline.
Versi di Luce — regular deadline is November 5, 2018; event date March 21, 2019
Now in its eleventh year, this Italian festival located Modica and Gela is dedicated to Nobel prize winning poet Salvatore Quasimodo, who was born in Modica. The theme of this festival is cinema and poetry. The festival has a fairly broad interpretation of this, since they accept features, short films, and music videos inspired by their theme, but there is also a separate category for videopoetry and video art no more than five minutes in length, which can be based on any published or unpublished poem. The entry fee is $10.
Miniature Film Festival — late deadline is October 8, 2018; event date is November 8, 2018
The theme for this Vancouver festival, now in its second year, is love. Submissions are limited to films one minute or less in length, and filmmakers are encouraged to take a “fun, broad interpretation …, such as love of something or someone, romantic love, looking for love, romantic comedy, love for or in nature, love of self, personal essay, video poetry or whatever.” The early deadlines have passed, including (alas) the earliest no fee deadline; the late deadline is $10. The festival director notes that submission fees go toward renting the venue and providing snacks for the screening.
Finally, one poetry film festival that I only discovered because I was searching FilmFreeway for the term “poetry.”
Drop of water & soap bubble — Film contest on the Poetry by Joachim Ringelnatz — regular deadline is July 15, 2019; event date October 15, 2019
Several organizations have joined together to host the fourth competition dedicated to Ringelnatz, but the call for work is spearheaded by the Society for Contemporary Poetry in Leipzig. Ringelnatz is the pen name for artist and author Hans Botticher; according to Wikipedia, he is “best known for his wry poems, often using word play and sometimes bordering on nonsense poetry.” Participants can choose any of Ringelnatz’s poems, but the call for works notes that there is an audiobook of 39 selected poems (which includes five poems in English) that can be purchased and used optionally. There is no submission fee, but submitters must register on competition website, which will trigger an email with the exact competition conditions in an attachment. There are a variety of monetary and other prizes involved, some of them substantial.
There are other film festival submission platforms besides FilmFreeway. If you’re interested in learning, here is one review article on the web that covers ten different platforms to get you started.
I’ve mainly worked the the two biggest platforms — FilmFreeway and Withoutabox. Withoutabox was the early standout; now that it has been integrated with Amazon and its sub-companies CreateSpace and IMDb, it remains the favorite of the largest film festivals, such as Sundance, Toronto, and Ann Arbor. CreateSpace does offer filmmakers opportunities to sell DVD’s or VOD on demand. FilmFreeway is the fast-growing newcomer that worked hard to sidestep all the criticisms faced by Withoutabox, and now hosts the vast majority of the smaller, less expensive festivals. I use both, because some festivals only use one or the other. One advantage of FilmFreeway for me is that you can update a project file very easily if you make editing changes. This is much more difficult on WIthoutabox.
Many poetry film festivals still use their own entry forms, or offer their own entry forms in addition to using FilmFreeway. Many poetry film festivals still offer free submissions. If it’s true that poetry film is becoming more mainstream, it is perhaps good to remember that that change will come with risks as well as benefits. In particular, in the larger independent film world, it’s hard to know what festivals are really a good match for a film when the databases are so large. FilmFreeway currently has 6960 festivals in its open and closed database, with 2471 currently open for submissions. Of those, 191 festivals are fee-free. In the larger film festival world, most filmmakers pay entry fees, throwing a lot of expensive darts to hit a very few targets. The only other alternative is to rely on social media, but only a few films go viral, and quality curation is in short supply. Thankfully, the videopoetry and poetry film community can rely on movingpoems.com, and as well as on all the websites and blogs cataloged on the Moving Poems’ list of links.