Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Knoxville Horror Film Fest Seeks More Animation Films

The Knoxville Horror Film Fest, founded in 2009, screens every October, coinciding with the Halloween season.

Film Programmer & Festival Director William Mahaffey shares some tips on what to takes to be accepted into Knoxville.

* Tight, Original Stories Rule

Tightness and originality are two key elements in determining whether a film is good enough to screen at Knoxville. No padding. No clichés.

"Work on your script and make sure it's tight," says Mahaffey. "Don't be overly attached to things you shot. The films that perform the best at festivals are usually around five minutes.

"Try to be as original and inventive as you can. If you look at your story and see things that have been done before, come up with something different. Or at least take a different approach. If you recognize that it's something clichéd or overused, then I guarantee the people screening your film will."

* Production Tips

Naturally, your film should look and sound its best. Many indie filmmakers seem especially prone to neglect sound. Poor sounding films is a widespread complaint among festival directors.

"Take your time and make sure you get sound and lighting right," said Mahaffey. "Sometimes your film might have an amazing script and acting, but it's hindered by poor production values. Bad sound is super common. Sound is a pretty hard thing to deal with, but if you take the time to get it right, or hire someone that knows what they're doing, it will make your film better."

* Shortage of Horror Animation

There seems to be a festival-wide shortage of animated horror. As with Crimson Screen, Knoxville welcomes all subgenres but is short on animation.

"We used to get more animated films," said Mahaffey. "I would love it if we got more of them."

* Zombies Okay, Torture Porn Not So Much

The zombie glut continues, making for an overdone, overtired subgenre. But don't despair. Your zombie film might still get admitted into Knoxville -- provided you've breathed some originality into it.

"I personally am pretty tired of zombies," said Mahaffey. "But I am occasionally surprised with how people can still bring something fresh to that genre.

"I do still get torture porn films, and for the most part, I don't want to watch another one of those."

* Not Just an Annual Event

In addition to their big annual screenings, some horror film festivals present smaller screenings throughout the year. Knoxville is one of those.

"We do monthly screenings," said Mahaffey. "Our last screening was on June 12th. It was an annual event we do called Terror in the Woods. It takes place at Ijams Nature Center. We showed The Descent and had a local haunted house create a haunted trail at the event."


For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Crimson Screen Encourages Filmmakers to Attend -- and Schmooze

Founded in 2014, the Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest had its fourth event last May.

Festival founder and director Tommy Faircloth offers advice to horror filmmakers planning to submit their films for the 2018 edition, to be held in North Charleston, South Carolina.

* Films are Heard as well as Seen

Like many festival directors, Faircloth emphasizes the importance of a film's audio quality. It should be clean, crisp, the dialog easily understood by viewers -- who are also listeners.

"We do our best to make sure your film looks and sounds great," said Faircloth. "But if you had bad audio, we can’t do much for you."

* Wanted: Animated Horror

If you're working on an animated horror film, you're in luck. Competition is currently low for this particular subgenre.

"We play all types of horror films," said Faircloth, "from established to first-time filmmakers. But we would like to see more animated horror films."

* Audiences Love Horror Comedy

After a film is shown at Crimson Screen, Faircloth says that "many" elements determine whether it goes on to win an award. Films are judged not solely by artistic merit, but also by entertainment value. 

"It's not only how good the film is," said Faircloth, "but also audience reaction."

So by pleasing the audience, your film stands a greater chance of walking off with an award. Any tips on how to please an audience?

"Comedy horror is always a bit hit with audiences," said Faircloth.

The takeaway: It's not that dramatic horror films don't win at Crimson Screen. But if you want to boost your film's chances, consider tossing in some laughs.

* Slashers Face Stiff Competition

"We have seen a lot of slasher films," says Faircloth, although adding, "We love slasher films."

Is there a slasher film glut? If something's trending at one festival, it could be trending throughout the festival circuit. And because most festival directors like to schedule for variety, a slasher glut means that your slasher film must outperform other slashers to get screen time on the festival circuit. Whereas a decent enough alien abduction film, if it's the only one submitted, might be a shoe-in.

The takeaway: If you're still in pre-production, consider changing your film's monster from a slasher to a radioactive porcupine, or some other rarely filmed creature. Even better if it's a funny radioactive porcupine.

* Schmooze or Lose

Winning an award at Crimson Screen is, to some extent, a popularity contest. (Actually, that's true of most awards, including Oscar.) Filmmakers must please audiences because their reactions while seeing a film matter in the judging process. But it's also important for filmmakers to "schmooze" audiences and judges between screenings, because another factor is ... Do they like you? 

Or as Faircloth describes it, "How the filmmaker helps promote their screening and what type of person they are. Don't be a dick. Don't think your movie is the best out there. It's okay to praise others.

"Making friends and showing support to other filmmakers is something we push at Crimson Screen. The fest should not only be about seeing movies, but about making a connection with the audience and other filmmakers.

"Filmmakers should not think that getting into the festival is the end of their work. They should promote their screening in any way possible -- social media, websites, etc. Especially if they can't attend the fest. But attending the fest is key."


For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.