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Indie Film Fest of the Day: Winter Film Awards International Film Festival

Our Indie Film Fest of the Day is the Winter Film Awards International Film Festival! Here's why attending should be your top priority.

Indie Film Fest of the Day: Winter Film Awards International Film Festival

Embrace the colder months with our indie film festival of the day: Winter Film Awards International Film Festival. From February 20th – 29th, 2020, you can experience all this amazing festival has to offer. Winter Film Awards International Film Festival is based in New York City, showcasing the eclectic diversity and excitement of the independent arts world.

The 9th Annual Winter Film Awards International Film Festival runs February 20-29, 2020, and includes awesome film screenings, cool discussion panels, career-building professional development workshops and super-fun parties at venues throughout NYC. The event concludes on February 29th with a glittering awards ceremony and hot red carpet gala at NYC’s premier nightclub.

All selected films get an SEO-enhanced page and numerous media opportunities, and all selections screen at NYC’s premiere indie cinema in the heart of Greenwich Village. They award over $75,000 in cash, prizes and distribution opportunities! 

Winter Film Festival is an all-volunteer women and minority-run 501(c)3 organization founded in 2011. Their Mission is to recognize excellence in cinema and to promote learning and artistic expression for people at all stages of their artistic careers with a focus on nurturing emerging and underrepresented filmmakers by helping them gain the skills, recognition and contacts to break into this difficult industry.

Submissions for this awesome festival close November 15th so make sure to check out the website and submit! We had the opportunity to interview Executive Director Steffanie Finn. Before you go and enjoy that, be sure to check out the festival’s social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tell us about the history of this festival. How did you start your journey?

Winter Film Awards was masterminded by founder George Isaacs, who was looking to celebrate indie filmmakers in the same way that high-budget studio actors are celebrated. His dream was to provide a means for emerging filmmakers to break into the industry, build a solid foundation and to ensure that the judging process was absolutely free from the bias we often see.

I took over as executive producer by the second year of the Festival. I’m not actually a film person – I’m a project manager for massive IT data projects by training. So, between my organizational skills and George’s strategic creativity, we make a great team.

From your past program, what are the top 5 movies we need to watch?

Oh, my! Too many to list. Some highlights from the 2019 Festival were … 

New York Scherzo directed by Shaan Couture, a really endearing documentary looking at friendship among musicians looking to build a professional dream in NYC 

Return of the Thumb directed by Florian Convey, an absolutely hysterically funny Rocky-meets-Spinal Tap film about thumb wrestling.

Yellow directed by Sarah Deakins, an absolutely beautiful short film about random human connections

To Tokyo directed by Caspar Seale-Jones, an awesome horror film about a girl hiding from monsters and trying desperately to get back to Tokyo

The Vault web series directed by Sara Martins, a post-apocalyptic/Sci-Fi series about a ragtag group of survivors living in an underground military base

What 3 movies should everyone catch at this year’s edition?

Submissions are still open and we are still deep in the judging process. Catch us again in January for an answer to this!

Why should people attend the festival?

Winter Film Awards makes an enormous effort to ensure every single film we screen is absolutely excellent – each submission is watched by at least four judges (we have 75 judges all around the world) and is scored “blind” to ensure no bias. We don’t care about budget, celebrities or demographics; all we want is an outstanding film. We throw the net very wide to ensure that our submissions are as diverse as possible. 

And, we like to mix it up – each screening block generally includes a feature film, and then a bunch of shorts of all different genres to keep things exciting. So, you’ll see something sad, something funny, something scary, something weird and something heartbreaking all in one block.

We are unique in our educational focus as well – each year, we host about 7-10 educational sessions geared towards emerging filmmakers with topics such as Distribution 101, grantwriting, shooting in NYC, legal issues for filmmakers, getting the best sound on a budget, and music for film. These sessions are free and open to the public.

And, our parties are a blast! Our Awards Ceremony is like no other on the Festival Circuit – a hot red carpet gala at one of the swankiest nightclubs in town, with live performances and all sorts of fun stuff.

Do you have an online streaming option for attendees?

Not yet. We are considering it, but just aren’t there yet.

Where did the concept come from for your festival?

Winter Film Awards celebrates diversity in film. Since we are in NYC, our team is incredibly diverse – our team members are from about 15 countries – and we wanted to build a festival that showed that kind of excitement and diversity.

What have been your greatest successes at the festival?

I’m so proud that we’ve been able to build our reach year after year. We’re an all-volunteer team but we manage to put on a huge, splashy, absolutely professional event on a shoestring budget. We have great partners and sponsors who support us, and an absolute army of helpers who believe in our mission are willing to give their all to help produce the event.

This allows us to support our filmmakers – we strive to ensure each filmmaker has a great opportunity to build media attention, get their film screened to a good crowd, and network with other filmmakers from around the world. 

We have writers who interview the filmmakers and post reviews, video teams to create promo videos for many of the films, and on-site interviewers to ensure everyone gets some good attention and media for their own marketing portfolios. We also give out some terrific useful prizes – legal advice sessions, rental certificates, sound stage time, software, equipment, theater tickets and much more.

What tips do you have for new filmmakers?

Do not underestimate the importance of good sound! Filmmakers get all caught up in the tech of filmmaking, but it really isn’t necessary. A great film can have a less than perfect picture, but even the best film will be shut off if the sound is terrible.

When shooting your film, be sure to take lots of stills and some behind the scenes photos. These come in very handy when it is time to market your film.

Film Festivals are a wonderful way to network and build an audience for your film, and nothing beats seeing your film up on the big screen, but not every festival is right for you. Do your research before submitting a film to festivals! We have an article on what to look for: https://winterfilmawards.com/2018/08/17-tips-to-find-the-right-festival-for-your-indie-film/

If your film is not accepted to a festival, it doesn’t mean your film sucks. Festivals have limited programming hours and are not able to accept all of the films submitted, much as we may like to. 

Accepted films need to work together to meet the overall theme of the festival and have to fit in the time we’ve got. It’s disappointing to be rejected and we truly hate doing it, but that’s the nature of the life of an artist and you can’t let it break your heart. 

Make your own publicity. Check out some of the many free Press Release sites (prlog.org is a good one) and post a Press Release about your film’s acceptance to a Festival once you know your screening date/time/location. Include your screening info and links to your website and your entry on the festival’s website. 

Basic format is one paragraph announcing your film’s acceptance and screening info, one paragraph with the film synopsis, one paragraph with the filmmaker’s bio and mention of any local cast members, and one paragraph about the festival itself (you can copy this from the festival’s website). 

Post the release locally and to the festival’s city. If you want another set of eyes or some advice, feel free to send along to the Festival. Once published, send a link to the Festival or tag them on Social Media so they can share.

What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?

For me, logistics are my thing! But I also very much enjoy costumes, makeup and sets. 

What’s been your biggest festival failure?

Knock wood, we really haven’t had any failures! Really the worst part of hosting a Film Festival is the constant search for funding. 

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life what would it be?

I really couldn’t choose! I can say that I’ve seen Rocky Horror, Liquid Sky, Fight Club and Working Girl about a million times each, though.

Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?

Mentors are definitely a great way to learn. Most people are happy to talk about their experiences – just find someone local with the expertise you need and contact them. 

What’s your core festival mission? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when attending your event.

We are so very proud of the quality of the films we screen. At Winter Film Awards, we feel that the established film world and the audience are missing out on some amazing works by filmmakers of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities from all corners of the world; these diverse filmmakers need our support to thrive!

Hollywood’s hugely expensive filmmaking and promotion business is losing relevance as it becomes possible for high quality films to be created well outside the studio organization. But, emerging filmmakers have a difficult time getting their stories heard— the emphasis is on celebrities, large budgets and generic comedies or action plots geared to teenagers. 

Women direct just 6% of top-grossing films and are only 12% of protagonists, minorities appear in top grossing films 10% of the time. Exciting low-budget films are created all over the world; it is critical for local film festivals to showcase them and to provide a means for the community to see personal stories. 

Today, so many people consume media via their phones, surrounded by distractions. Seeing a film on the big theater screen is just a much more exciting, immersive and rewarding experience and we love being able to provide this.

What’s the five-year plan for the event?

We will continue to grow and expand our reach. The long-term dream for Winter Film Awards is to become the “Tribeca of the Little Guy” – to be able to provide the media coverage, reach and validation in order to help the next generation in their reach for the stars.

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