This post was written by Lisa deSouza.

Film festivals are a natural part of the independent filmmakers’ journey. While most filmmakers are focused on the “final act” of the screening, and some do acknowledge the monumental amount of work that goes into producing an event, very few actually know just what it takes to pull off a festival of merit. As the Founder and Executive Director of the Santa Clarita International Film Festival (SCIFF) let me take a moment to enlighten you.

Putting together a film festival is not for the faint of heart. In order to stand out from the plethora of festivals that exist these days, SCIFF must establish a brand and reputation that is highly respected in order to distance itself from the crowd.

Courtesy of SCIFF

How Do We Do That?

It is easier said than done.

Our commitment, first and foremost, is to the filmmaker’s experience. As such, we hold our festival in the newest, and state-of-the-art Laemmle theater in downtown Newhall, CA. However, crafting the next great independent destination festival takes more than just a fabulous location. Choosing high-quality films is key to the growth and ongoing success of SCIFF. After all, a reputable festival will always have a great program of independent films and artists to showcase.

What makes us turn our heads and catch our attention?

Easy! We start with a story. In other words, show us an authentic story, regardless of budget or “celebrity” attachments, with great character depth, cinematography, and sound, and you will get our attention.

We love independent artists and, as a film festival for filmmakers created by filmmakers, we understand just what it takes to put a film, whether a feature, short, micro short, commercial, or music video, together.

Courtesy of SCIFF

We respect the “blood, sweat, and tears” and we see your accomplishments. I have had the pleasure of talking to so many directors and producers who have won awards at SCIFF and the two recurring pieces of advice I have heard from almost everyone is to take the risk and not let fear hold you back.

Right now, we are in the unique position of still being small enough that our Screening Director will watch every submission (in addition to our screening committee). We then review those that are selected, especially those that are a “maybe," as we program our festival.

But at the end of the day, if you have a great project that tells a fantastic story, you will more than likely be chosen. Believe in yourself and we will believe in you. It’s really that simple.

Courtesy of SCIFF

What Not To Do

But here is a quick tip on what not to do and really rubs us the wrong way.

Don’t email us asking for a waiver telling us how hard you worked and how you are an independent artist who doesn’t have a lot of money. Here are a few more tips:

  1. If you wouldn’t like us to ask you to do things for free, then don’t ask the same for us. The bottom line is that running a festival costs money and we rely on submission fees (as one source) to help our budget. The more money we have/make, the more perks we can offer our artists to celebrate their accomplishments and hard work.
  2. Almost all of us are independent artists who are hustling and grinding, so what makes you special? Why should we grant you a waiver but not your counterparts?
  3. We get a ton of emails that we have to read and respond to. Sending us a request for a waiver only bogs down our inbox and backlog a response to those who need one.

Courtesy of SCIFF

Our goal is to deliver a great event where you not only get to see some great films but also get to connect and network with colleagues all while getting deals done.

What sets SCIFF apart? Simply put: location, location, location.

Santa Clarita is the third largest city in Los Angeles County and is known as the Hollywood North because it houses over 100 sound stages, several large studios and production houses and 70% of its residents work in the industry in some capacity.

Park your car, watch a great film, listen to some great music, laugh at some great comedy, and then walk around the many restaurants on Main Street or partake in our food festival all while taking in some great paintings and sculptures.

Join us December 7–10. We can’t wait to see you there!

Submissions are still open until October 15 so get your film in now at

For more information, including schedule and tickets, visit SCIFF's official website.

This post was written by Lisa deSouza.