Behind the Submissions Process

Submissions are currently pouring in for the 2017 DC Independent Film Festival. As independent filmmakers with limited funds, choosing which film festivals to apply is a difficult decision. Alison Dooley, Submissions Director, and Deirdre Evans-Pritchard, Executive Director, break down the submissions process and what the festival looks for in selecting a film.

How did you initially get involved in DCIFF? How long have you been with the organization?

Alison Dooley: In 2013, I joined DCIFF as a volunteer usher, primarily because of the free tickets offered to volunteers.  I loved the buzz of the festival and became part of the submissions team a couple of months later.

Do you have a background in film?

AD: My background is in software development, but I’ve always had a love of film.  Becoming a film student a few years ago gave me a deeper appreciation for the technical aspects of filmmaking. I have dabbled in screenwriting, production, directing and editing.

What types of films does DCIFF look for in their selection process? 

AD: We have no fixed ideas of our requirements. We are open to almost anything, but especially appreciate the unusual.

Deirdre Evans-Pritchard: The film really has to be new to the Metro DC area in order for us to be able to generate interest in the film and get some press engagement. We do not review films that have already been publicly screened in DC.

Do you have a student film category?

DE: Yes, there is a submission category that lets students get a good discount on the submission fee. But when it comes to reviewing the films and programming them, the fact that the film is made by a student has no impact on whether it is selected.  Well, that is except for the high school student category which is judged separately. It is entirely free to submit to the high school competition if you are still in school.

In your eyes, what makes a film stand out when deciding to put a film in the program?

AD: We select films that are provocative, inspiring, engaging, challenging, often controversial and sometimes sublime.  It’s very difficult (and subjective) to pinpoint exactly what makes a great film, but creative, risk-taking filmmakers are always refreshing.  Obviously brilliant scripts, acting, cinematography, sound, editing and direction don’t hurt either.

How many reviewers do you have? How big is your selection team? Or do you typically choose the films yourself? Or is it by committee?

AD: We have a team of about 40 reviewers, some of them specialize in specific categories: animation, documentary, narrative features, shorts. We also have a separate team reviewing our high school submissions. Our reviewers create shortlists of recommended films, all of which are screened by Deirdre. She makes the final programming decisions, but reviewers do try to champion their favorites. Obviously, many fantastic submissions do not make the final selection, but we endeavor to curate a balanced program that will appeal to the film lovers of DC while showcasing the best of independent film.

How many entries do you expect this year?

AD: We received over 2000 submissions last year. Even in the few years since I became involved in DCIFF we’ve seen a big increase in the number and quality of submissions received.

In a town more known for its politics than the arts, what type of audience do you typically draw to the festival?

AD: DC has a surprisingly vibrant art community. The average resident is highly educated and discerning, but they also want to be entertained. One of the many strengths of the DC area is the diversity of the population. However obscure the subject matter of your film, there is an audience for it here.

Personally, what are a couple of your favorite films?

AD: Juno, Doctor Zhivago, The Lives of Others

Hurry! Submissions close December 4th.