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New Hampshire Film Festival: The Inside Scoop

Are you looking to apply to the New Hampshire Film Festival? Or just be an audience member? Our 2013 Festival Partner gave us the inside scoop in this festival profile.

By Alli Rock

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New Hampshire Film Festival

Co-founder Dan Hannon gives us the skinny on the New Hampshire Film Festival.

Number of Yearly Submissions: Our submissions grow every year. We estimate 1,000 entries for this season.

Number of Films Typically Accepted: We accept about 100 films each year.

What are you looking for when choosing which films you select?

The NHFF Programming Team is an eclectic group of people including filmmakers and producers on the international and local levels, film students, and film enthusiasts. The result is a wide variety of tastes and interests, as well as viewpoints from the filmmaking aspect and the audience aspect, which hopefully leaves very little room for a great, undiscovered indie film to fall through the cracks.

All films are objectively judged on quality, regardless of content, with attention paid to specific aspects including lighting, sound, music, performances, plot movement and more. We look for films that effectively and professionally tell a story that is not only entertainment, but that is also in some way meaningful, important or intriguing.

What are your biggest pet peeves from filmmakers?

  1. "Not Enough Pruning" -- If you’re still in the editing room and struggling with a scene that you really like, but you’re not sure if it fits, or if you should include it, the answer is almost always “cut.” This is an extraordinarily difficult, and sometimes heartbreaking, but necessary task. Always ask yourself with every act, scene, line, camera angle “Is this absolutely necessary?” “Does this move the plot forward?” “Will the audience have lost something without this?” If the answer is NO to any of these questions (let alone all of them) then let it go. It’s really sad to have to reject a film that has so much potential, because of the superfluous content.
  2. "No Cover Letter" -- When the films are finally narrowed and there are ten films and five slots, we are looking at your submission for anything that will make our job easier. If you have a cover letter, the programming team is allowed a deeper understanding of you as a filmmaker (or producer) and it gives the film a more personal touch. Don’t go crazy though, the best cover letters are very brief: Introduce yourself, one or two sentences about why you’ve made the film, key people involved, festival acceptances, press garnered, show knowledge of and enthusiasm for our festival and whether you’d be able/willing to attend.
  3. "No Response to the Submission Received Email" -- NHFF sends out individual submission confirmation emails, and by responding it shows you’re on top of things. You’re opening the line of communication, and you have another chance to show us how passionate you are about your project, and about getting accepted into our festival. Sometimes a member of our programming team will send out the email, sometimes our Programming Director, sometimes an intern, and you have the opportunity to once again give us a glance at your project from another angle.

What is your advice for filmmakers looking to apply to your festival, or to others?

  1. Always include a cover letter -- A cover letter and a detailed synopsis is a great way for screeners to get excited about watching a film.
  2. When possible submit via secure online screener -- The ease of screening online is a great way to guarantee as many eyes as possible on your film, plus it means saving costs on DVDs, promotional materials, and mailings, and the earth will thank you too.
  3. Shorts are your friend -- (especially for a directorial debut), too many times a talented beginning filmmaker will ambitiously attempt a feature, drain a lot of funds, and have to cut corners on actors, sound, lighting, and editing, significantly reducing the quality of the film. Flesh out a small piece of your idea first, it could act as a great teaser for a potential feature, and get you the connections and funds you need to make your film with no compromises.
  4. Be as accurate as possible with submission details -- Double check if you’ve accidentally submitted under any sub-categories, make sure your contact information is correct, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you submitted your film as a world premiere and it was subsequently accepted to another festival.
  5. Know your audience -- Not everyone on the team is in the industry or is going (or went) to film school, this is a purposeful decision. Unless you plan to watch your film by yourself in a room over and over again, there needs to be accountability to an outsider. Be authentic. Don’t shock just to shock, and keep your theme, vision, and purpose consistent.

What is your advice to audience goers for how best to enjoy your festival?

Our best advice to enjoy the festival is to first sit down with our gorgeous printed program and map out your long weekend with us, because it is far more than just brilliant films screening from morning through night. The festival is filled to the brim with excitement from constant press and activity at Headquarters, to special VIP events, to entertaining and educational panel discussions, to extravagant parties.

In addition, the festival’s location of Portsmouth, NH is a strikingly beautiful destination. It combines the charm of a quaint seacoast village with the amenities of a small city. Settled in 1623, Portsmouth is the nation’s third-oldest city. Great care has been taken to preserve its history, culture and quality of life. It is consistently honored on “best places to live” lists and has been named one of the “Top 100 Walking Cities” in America by Prevention Magazine. Forbes Traveler recently listed Portsmouth as one of America’s Prettiest Towns.

So that attendees can take advantage of our pristine location, we arrange discounted rooms at conveniently located hotels all across town each year. We select a few ranging area accommodations to offer something for everyone’s budget and taste. And since few things in life are better than great films and great cuisine, we also introduced the “New Hampshire Film Festival Restaurant Program” in celebration of our 10th Anniversary. The program highlights participating restaurants in a festival map that goes out to 10,000 festival guests every year. Each restaurant offers specials and discounts to festival pass and ticket holders.

MovieMaker Magazine recently called Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Film Festival "the film center of New England." The magazine also added the festival to its 2013 "Top 50 Film Festivals in the World Worth the Entry Fee." We welcome audience goers to come and find out why!

Learn more about the New Hampshire Film Festival, next happening October 17-19, 2013, at their website. Watch films online from the NHFF as part of the Annual Online New England Film Festival.