Programming Q&A with Portland Film Festival

Fun at the Portland Film Festival
We sat down with Executive Director of the Portland Film Festival, Josh Leake, and Director of Programming, Jason De Parrie-Turner, to talk to them about submitting to the festival, MovieMaker Magazine, called “one of the coolest film festivals in the world.”

Each festival has a unique community of indie fans, what is the personality of your audience? What does your audience want to see from indie film?
Portland is quirky. Our festival has a young crowd (average age between 25-34) of makers, writers, dreamers. They are social media savvy and diverse with a liberal slant. Films tend to have longer theatrical runs in Portland—we have more theaters per capita than any other city, outside of Paris; we are true film buffs. Our attendees love our artisinal food, craft beer and incredible music offerings before screenings. Filmmakers also love to come for the same reasons. It’s hard to say no to all this, combined with tax-free shopping and beautiful summer evenings.

 

Our crowds love socially engaging films with something unique about them. Keep in mind we have the longest running weekly screening of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the world (and yes, we include the revival screening in our festival line up). If you have a pioneering and challenging plot, a great sense of humor, an experimental vibe, or boundary-pushing animation, Portland is your crowd. Ultimately, we just love good stories. And I should probably mention the break-dancing troop that opened up our festival last year, and the circus aerials that performed on one of Portland’s busiest streets in 2013.

 

What was the last film that excited you to introduce to audiences? What made you excited about it?
Last year we had an amazing turnout for the world premiere of our opening night film “Sex Ed,” a comedy starring Haley Joel Osment, Abby Elliott and Chris Williams. The cast and crew came up with screenwriter Bill Kennedy, who also writes for House of Cards. Having the likes of Eli Roth and Justin Long in the audience made it all the more special. “Sex Ed” won’t the Best Narrative Feature Jury Award, got distribution and a theatrical run. You can now watch it on VOD and iTunes. They also got a lot of national press from our event in addition to being featured on two of Doug Benson’s podcast “Doug Loves Movies.” For us, connecting the filmmakers and their films to the audience is the primary goal. We work with all the directors to help get their film the maximum exposure possible.

 

What is the first thing you take note of when reviewing submissions?
Reviewing submissions is one of the perks of the job. We have a huge team that watches every selection. Each film is watched by at least three different people to insure it’s inclusion. Unlike other festivals that primarily curate films, the majority of our selections are are based on filmmaker submissions. The first thing we consider is the film’s category and where it would fit into our program. After that we sit back and emerse ourselves in the director’s world and let the story work it’s magic–or not. We always pray for good sound that doesn’t take us out of it.

 

Themes often emerge organically for programmers. Are you anticipating any themes for the 2015 submission seasons? Have you ever been surprised by a common theme among filmmakers in past seasons?
Themes are usually organically found during submissions. Any film with a strong story and clear execution is a contender, and we will work to find a place for it.That’s why we brand ourselves as “The Storytellers’ Festival & Conference.” Once you’re here, we have over six classes a day to help you learn, develop and share your storytelling and filmmaking skills. We feature visiting directors and writers on panels and in workshops. In the past we’ve had an emphasis on relationship themes, social activism, quirky humor, science fiction and history—and I think we will always be interested in those type of stories, but we are always open to discovering something outside of the box.

 

If you could give a filmmaker one piece of advice for their submission, what would it be?
Make the film that you believe in to the best of your ability. And send it to us.
Is less more when submitting a film? Or more information the better? What information do you absolutely need to make a decision to select a film?
More is more. Less is less. We like to learn about you, in addition to the basics of contact, content and social media presence. The more you give us, the more we can get to know you as a filmmaker and share your vision with our audiences.

 

Who’s been/screened films at the festival?
Past attendees and alumni include Eli Roth, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Abby Elliott, Chris Williams, Chuck Palahniuk, Jason Mamoa, Doug Benson, Wendy Froud, Brian Froud, Toby Froud, Penny Lane, Chelsea Cain, Daniel Wilson, Chelsey Reist, Isaac Feder, James Franco, Lorenza Izzo, Matt Walsh, Susan Sarandon, Michael Tully, Ryan Murdock, Kelly Reichardt, Kris Kaczor, Bryan Storkel, Leah Warshawski, Daryl Hannah, Vivian Norris, Karney Hatch, Jon Matthews, Dana Nachman, Mitchell Jackson, John Jeffcoat, Shawn Telford, Leah Meyerhoff, Mark Raso, David Zellner, Bradley King and more.

 

When is the festival held? And can we come?
The festival will be held September 1-7, 2015. Please join us! We’re always excited to host filmmakers from around the world. We love Portland and hope you will too!

 

 How can you submit a film to Portland Film Festival?
For the last couple of years we’ve relied on Withoutabox, but have received requests to open up to other submission platforms. A friend of ours that runs the DCShorts film festival gave us a list of recommended submission tools. We signed up with all of them. Now filmmakers can make their own choice as to how to submit. I’m excited about getting access to all the new submissions. I really love watching films. As a filmmaker, I know the pain it takes to bring a film to fruition. And when it works, it is such an amazing feeling.

 

What submission platforms do you accept?

What are your deadlines?

  • Late Deadline – May 6, 2015
  • Extended Deadline – May 15, 2015
  • Final – May 22, 2015

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