June 4, 2013

Straight Baller Fests: The Definitive Unscientific List of Film Festivals That Cover Your Flight & Hotel

Full house at Fletcher Hall for the Opening Night Film, "Guilty Pleasures"

Film festivals are to directors what higher education is to high school graduates: either a launchpad for success, or a hangover with a helluva price tag. Best fest lists are all over the interwebs, but lists of festivals that cover your costs are harder to find, and for good reason. Which fests treat filmmakers right, on and off the carpet? Read on for the definitive unscientific list.

Bahamas International Film Festival Red CarpetMost fests, if they cover filmmakers’ travel and accommodation costs at all, pick and choose who to treat based on celebrity, genre, the yearly budget, and other fickle concerns. Which are the fests that keep it real and front the travel costs for all directors?  Check out the list below, compiled from two years' worth of late night conversations with directors (as I navigated my first feature's festival run). I'll try to update this post as comments come in to get the most comprehensive list possible.  Scroll to the bottom for the quick list.

Disclaimer: the definitive scientific list doesn't exist because it's impossible to predict which festival programmers will change practices from year to year, and most festivals don't publish their policies on hospitality. Thus, comme ci is not comme ça in all cases (ie. what worked for me might not work for you -- but my experience is based on a niche documentary -- so you could do much better).

Double disclaimer: Take this list for what it is: a collection of experiences from various directors. With community input it will grow, but the list will never be all-encompassing. That's where the comments section comes in!

Straight Baller Fests (AKA Festivals which cover flights and accommodation)

Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Thessaloniki International Film Festival: Just in case you get lonely in your seaside hotel room on the Greek coast of the Mediterranean, the Festival Director sends you personal notes slipped under your hotel room door, including invitations to lunch, dinner, orzo, tours of Thessaloniki and just about everything else you can imagine. The audiences are huge, the press conferences are full and the main theatre looks like this. Hard to beat.

CPH-DOX

CPH:DOX: Picks up the award for best complimentary hotel room, and possibly best hospitality overall. Check out the comments from filmmakers and industry professionals at All These Wonderful Things.

Lincoln_Center_New York African Film Festival

New York African Film Festival: This festival is run by possibly the coolest woman on planet earth. From personal phone calls to personalized travel booking to invitations to dinner in her home, Mahen won't let you feel alone in the big city, nor will your film go without serious press (personal PR agent? word).  Did I mention the personal attention? Seriously, Africa. Apply.

LA Film Festival

LA Film Festival: From the pre-festival filmmakers-only retreat to the notoriously huge cash prizes, hotels and accommodation for filmmakers (but not all industry), the LA Film Fest doesn't mess around.

Stone Town Zanzibar International Film Festival2

Zanzibar International Film Festival: This one is the bomb diggity hot dog. Last I checked hotel and local travel (ie from the airport) covered for everyone, flights covered for some. Look at the photo.  If that doesn't convince you, look at some photos of the neighborhood. If that doesn't convince you, allow me to relate a tale from my experience. After screening my documentary The Creators, a woman approached me and said she very much appreciated the film, and that she had a five start resort on her private island just off the coast of Zanzibar which she hoped I could film for her, while staying in said five-star resort (Chumbe Island, holla!). These things happen in Zanzibar. Go there.

Camden International Film Festival

Camden International Film Festival: This intimate Maine festival holds screenings in opera houses, parties in mansions, and lobster dinners with industry, with travel and accommodation on the house.

Kolkata International Film Festival

Kolkata International Film Festival: First of all, this one takes place in Kolkata, India. It is literally impossible to take a bad photo while in Kolkata. Take out your camera on any street in Kolkata and you will have a short film within an hour. Maybe not one that will get accepted to this festival, but the possibilities are endless. Word on the street is that KIFF covers flights and accommodation for directors. I plan to fact check this personally at the next available opportunity.

Full house at Fletcher Hall for the Opening Night Film, "Guilty Pleasures"

Full Frame: If a BBQ and beer awards ceremony appeals to you, Full Frame is where it's at. Hotel accommodation and flights provided for directors. It's not an industry event, but the main theatre seats a three-decker audience of 1000 -- not too shabby.

Margaret Mead Film Festival: If you were planning to seduce your long-lost NYC-based soul mate using only your success and largess as enticement, this weekend would be the time to do it as you kick back in your lavish Manhattan hotel room.  The opening night, closing night, and every-night parties, each in different wings of the American Natural History Museum, won't hurt the vibe. In the meantime, Margaret Mead's HBO-sponsored outreach program to high schools in Harlem (among others) and its traveling tour engage the community and give your film the audience it deserves.

hot-docs-pitching

HotDocs: Flights + four nights in a hotel is word on the street, just the hotel for shorts. Just make sure you stay long enough to do the pitching forum (pictured above) -- by most accounts one of the best doc pitching forums in North America.

Berlinale: Huge fest, and not surprisingly, everybody and their mom is covered (works especially well for celebrity bodies and moms).

Sheffield Doc Fest

Sheffield Doc/Fest: Flights + hotels (three nights) for foreign filmmakers.

True:False

True/False: Common consensus is that this hotel is the worst on the documentary festival circuit, but directors love True/False anyway for the strong community, great press and sold out screenings. "One of the very few American festivals that pays for everything" (All These Wonderful Things).

HeartlandfilmfestGala-B

Heartland Film Festival: In the comments section below, Gudgefilm says, "The Heartland Film Festival paid travel, picked us up in a limo from the airport, provided drivers, and paid for hotel rooms. Was a few years ago but I hear they’re still doing it."

Lil' Baller Fests (AKA Festivals which cover extras)

Whether it's a private island retreat or food & drinks on the house, these festivals make their starving artists slightly less so for the duration of the fest:

Bahamas International Film Festival

Bahamas International Film Festival: If you ever wanted to shoot a big gloppy ball of paint at a film critic, this would be the place to do it. Paint ball wars and kissing dolphins are just a few of the excursions BIFF has dreamed up in the past couple years. To the best of my knowledge, BIFF covers flights for features and documentaries which negotiate and carry some weight. But the real reason to love this festival is the private island retreat arranged for filmmakers the day before the festival each year.

Filmfest Hamburg

Filmfest Hamburg: Films get attention galore at Filmfest Hamburg, based on ten permanent and many annually changing themes (check the website for this year's foci).

Film on the Rocks Yao Noi: I have no hospitality info on this one, but it's gotta be included. Look at that location. If you get an invite, the flights are on me (I'm coming along baby).

trinidad + tobago film festival

Trinidad + Tobago International Film Festival: First met these folks in Zanzibar, where they were scouting films and picked up an early version of The Creators (my baby) for their 2012 festival. Turns out they are scouting all over the place searching for indigenous films, and the festival has made waves throughout the Caribbean thanks to the fest's inimitable friendliness and hospitality.

Haifa International Film Festival

Haifa International Film Festival: Free outdoor events each night of the festival and star treatment for all directors balance out the market and pitching competitions to make Haifa an all-around winner for directors.

Tribeca International Film Festival

Tribeca: Mixed accommodation reports of late due to the budget crunch, but there is "no shortage of food & drink to get you through" (All These Wonderful Things).

IDFA

IDFA: While filmmakers moan about feeling lost at this gigantic festival, if they choose to take care of you, they do it in style.  And who doesn't want to get coddled in style in Amsterdam?

Sedona International Film Festival

Sedona International Film Festival: Covers hotels and all meals, according to Ivan, from the comments section below.  Thanks Ivan!

Internationales Filmfest Oldenburg: Pays for most Americans' (and probably most foreigners) travel according to Dan Mirvish, director and author of this incredible film festival poem.  Thanks Dan!

Gijon International Film Festival

Gijón International Film Festival: Thanks for the heads up (from the comments), Dan!

More Ballers

These fests all got swag, and great reviews from the directors I spoke with -- I just don't know the deets regarding their director-friendly hospitality practices.

Recap!

Straight Baller Fests (AKA Festivals which cover flights and accommodation)

Lil' Baller Fests (AKA Festivals which cover extras)

More Ballers (AKA Mysterious swag)

From the comments

Keep in mind this is all experience-based and anecdotal evidence, and it's anything but exhaustive. What festivals did I leave out?  I'll add them to the list as comments come in.

Images courtesy of:

Your Comment

33 Comments

Nice list!

Also, the Sedona International Film Festival covers all hotels and meals. Plus, it's in a gorgeous part of the US!

June 4, 2013 at 10:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thanks Ivan! Were you there with a short or feature?

June 4, 2013 at 5:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

Thanks a lot for compiling this! Great post.

June 4, 2013 at 11:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Love this.

One addition to the baller list: the Heartland Film Festival paid travel, picked us up in a limo from the airport, provided drivers, and paid for hotel rooms. Was a few years ago but I hear they're still doing it.

June 4, 2013 at 12:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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There's usually a big difference between short filmmakers and feature filmmakers. Does this list apply to both or only features?

June 4, 2013 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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steve

Good point - comments should include whether directors are traveling with shorts or features. It all depends on the fest -- I included the specifics on shorts vs. features above if I knew them. The list is based on a feature documentary run of The Creators (http://thecreatorsdocumentary.com/) so you can make a few calls based on that.

June 4, 2013 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

Don't forget Oldenburg Film Festival (Germany) - which pays for most of the Americans to come; Gijon in Spain; Bahamas (pays for some airfare - accommodations at the Atlantis!); Whistler; Virginia; Sarasota; Dallas; Atlanta; IndieMemphis. See my poem for more perks:
http://www.filmthreat.com/festivals/60232/

June 4, 2013 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan Mirvish

That poem is the bomb! Thanks Dan! Haha, I was gonna leave the nudes at the island bar private:) Soon as I make a film that can touch Between Us, I'm following your route!!

June 4, 2013 at 1:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

Little Rock Film Festival also covers everything for feature filmmakers. Amazingly fun festival. Over 90% of filmmakers in attendance.

June 4, 2013 at 1:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The Twin Cities Film Fest in Minnesota also offers free airfare and accommodations for many of the visiting filmmakers. www.twincitiesfilmfest.org

June 4, 2013 at 1:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Aspen Shortsfest is the best festival I've ever been too. They reimburse 20% of the director's travel expenses and they provide a hotel room. They also scheduled a radio interview for us as well as a private screening and Q&A of our film at Aspen High School for the students. The awards ceremony was held at a swanky restaurant with wine and dinner buffet completely covered.

That's just the financial side of things. On the personal side I couldn't have been more impressed by the programmers and staff. Each one of them personally came up to us to talk about our film and how much they enjoyed it. They also personally communicated with us prior to coming and encouraging us to come to the festival, and then took us around at the nightly after-party mixer and introduced the filmmakers to each other.

When the festival was over and we were driving home, a snow storm hit the Aspen area and we even got a phone call on the road asking if we made it out okay. By the time we left it was like leaving summer camp with the coolest people ever, and we didn't want to leave.

June 4, 2013 at 3:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Damon

damn son i gotta step up the swagger on my scripts so i can gets my pimp suit and fresh gators to step out fresh on red carpet in one of these baller fests, you snow what i mean, u figgadeal me?

June 4, 2013 at 3:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

Frozen River Film Festival in Winona, MN covered my transportation expenses...and I had a short doc playing. Great time, and friendly staff!

http://frff.org/wpsite/

June 4, 2013 at 4:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ok, so forgive my ignorance... but how do these festivals afford to do all this, and why is it so important to them to have the filmmakers present?

June 4, 2013 at 6:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

I should add, that second question is not a criticism. Could've worded that a little better.

June 4, 2013 at 6:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

All festivals have a budget, coming mainly from sponsors. Some of them may also be supported by state funding. Especially big A-festivals (Cannes, Berlin etc) have huge sponsors. Companies pay good money to get advertised there since these places gather a lot of publicity, plus it helps a brand's image to be associated with "glamour" and culture. Lastly, it makes sense for local companies to sponsor a festival because with the audience it attracts, it helps the local businesses (hotels, restaurants, bars, stores etc).

June 4, 2013 at 6:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stelios

Festivals want filmmakers to be present so they add to the allure -- otherwise it's just another screening of the film, without the chance to meet the people behind it. Q&A's are a big draw from audience members interested in specific films and directors, as are the before and after parties where casts and crews are present.

June 5, 2013 at 12:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

About your 2nd questions, film festivals are great opportunity for filmmakers to showcase their work in front of a real audience. Actually for many filmmakers, this would be the only chance for their movie to be seen in the cinema since most of the movies today, especially the majority of the independent/non-studio ones, don't get released on the big screen. Lastly, for a good movie, it's great exposure and publicity to do a good festival run, maybe even win some awards, so the movie may be noticed and picked up for distribution. For all the above reasons, filmmakers have to be present when their movie plays at a festival. :)

June 4, 2013 at 7:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stelios

Is it usually smaller festivals that pays travel expenses and accommodation to attract filmmakers?
How is it with feature films? (not documentary).

June 4, 2013 at 8:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Steve21

Just the opposite - smaller festivals usually don't have the budget to pay for travel and accommodation. If you're wondering why Sundance isn't on the list, it's because they just give a bursary to certain filmmakers ($500 to one filmmaker I know of, which doesn't go too far in Park City) and let the majority fend for themselves. But most larger festivals do cover the travel costs, at least for select filmmakers, and features usually get travel expenses covered before docs. This article features festivals which extend their hospitality budget to most (features + docs) if not all (features + docs + shorts) directors.

June 5, 2013 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

boOm

June 5, 2013 at 2:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alex

Not sure if you are talking about a travelling satelite but the main HotDocs pitch fest the doc
industry has come to know over the years takes place in Toronto, Canada.

June 5, 2013 at 6:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Samantha

Haha great point Samantha, you caught my late-night-foggy-brain imperialism creeping out...

June 5, 2013 at 12:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

and what a about the fees?, or the section fiction, documentary or animation?? could the author please expand the info, i think its a great article idea, but it misses important info, either way, thank you for the knwoledge!

June 5, 2013 at 10:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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roro

In theory it would be great to have one article that pins down all these subjects. Unfortunately the fees change by deadline (Early Bird, Late deadline, Extended deadline), sometimes change by category, and often increase year by year, so including that here would date this article in a jiffy (or else make updating it a part time job). All that information is easy to find on festival websites, withoutabox, and other similar websites. This article is focused on compiling information that you can't get from any other source.

I agree that someone should create a website that has all this information for each festival, updated by the festivals themselves (because it changes so often), complete with reviews from filmmakers providing the vital financial details the festivals won't disclose themselves. It might already exist out there somewhere -- anyone on it?

June 5, 2013 at 12:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

Thank you so very much!

June 5, 2013 at 10:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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maghoxfr

The Newport Beach Film Festival has a filmmaker's hospitality lounge that provides free food and non-alcoholic drinks through\out the festival run. The lounge is stellar! Here are a few pics from Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10151619929521672&set=a.10151...

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10151619929531672&set=a.10151...

This year they even had most of the films on computers so you could watch the films you missed. At night they the events are sponsored by restaurants so there is even more free food AND ALCOHOL! You also can't beat the SoCal beach location.

June 8, 2013 at 4:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Steve Miles

Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) in South Korea. The organizers like to call it the best Genre film festival in the world. My short film Project 11 was premiered here in 2012. One of the few festivals who provide Airfare and Acco to Short as well as Feature filmmakers. Entire festival was managed with great efficiency, and was extremely filmmaker-friendly. Overall I was really impressed with their hospitality.
http://www.pifan.com/eng/

July 14, 2013 at 4:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thanks Vikas! Adding PiFan to the list...

July 26, 2013 at 10:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Laura Gamse
Writer
Director/Producer

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August 23, 2014 at 8:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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http://www.americandocumentaryfilmfestival.com/ offers accommodations, but not airfare. They also have prizes.

September 3, 2014 at 4:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

Pls add Bangalore International Film Festival to your list of festivals which offer Ticket & Hotel to film makers.

November 18, 2016 at 8:31AM, Edited November 18, 8:31AM

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anand kannan
Festival Coordinator-Hospitality
8

A relatively new festival in Istanbul, the Bogazici Film Festivali, paid flights, airport transportation, 4/5 nights accommodation, breakfast and a couple of dinners for me, two crew and 2 cast to attend (all of us were coming from Europe) - we had a feature fiction film in competition in 2016. A little bit disorganized in general the festival was, but very generous and lovely.

October 4, 2017 at 5:45PM

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Lou
Producer
8

Also there's the new "Tel Aviv International Short Film Festival" (2018) that pays for filmmakers airline tickets and hotel and transportation and etc.
www.taisff.com

August 8, 2018 at 6:24AM

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Matan Tal
Filmmaker
86