film festival circuit inc logo Film Festival Judging Process

What Is Film Festival Circuit?

Film Festival Circuit Inc., is a production company that produces Film Festival Events in the United States. We accept film and screenplay submissions from international independent filmmakers. Then we judge and score each one and present programs in movie theaters. Thousands of films are produced and released by filmmakers every year. For most filmmakers, Film Festivals and online websites like YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo are the only place to show their films and videos to the public. Filmmakers create these films for fun, as resume examples, television pilots, web series episodes, video on demand or for educational purposes. Our judges watch and rate every submission throughly. Finally, we present our audiences with the best, most entertaining independent film line-up.

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Film Festivals Are A Celebration

Our film festival events are fresh, fun, cutting edge, creative and captivating. For example, most people are not used to watching twenty (20) short comedy films in a two hour period from twenty (20) different directors. It's a completely different experience than sitting down and watching a traditional 250 million dollar superhero film.  And for the filmmakers themselves, to have people watch their films and then interact with the audience afterwards is an amazing experience. Also, friends and family that have never seen these films on the big screen. The screenings give them an opportunity to fully experience the films that they are personally attached to.

Judges Notes For Screenplays Now Available

This service has been created for screenwriters that would like an unbiased reaction to their short screenplay. Our team of film festival judges evaluate screenplays on a daily basis for our events. Get feedback about the story, characters and overall impression of your screenplay. This is not a technical evaluation for grammar or capitalization. This is genuine feedback about the impressions that our judges get after reading your screenplay. Is it funny, scary or unpredictable? Is it well written? Are your characters or dialogue believable. Is this an interesting story or is this boring? These are the questions that we can answer for you. It doesn't matter if your screenplay has been submitted, accepted or rejected to a film festival. We will give you our feedback and notes without bias. Even if you've never submitted your screenplay anywhere, isn't it a good idea to get objective feedback before you put your work out there? A small investment of $25, could save you hundreds of dollars in submission fees. What if we catch something that could have easily been fixed? It's time to invest in your creative work. Please purchase the judge's notes for your screenplay, then email your a .pdf file to mikel.fair@filmfestivalcircuit.com. Please allow 7 days for delivery of judges notes via email.

Judges Notes For Films Now Available

This service has been created for filmmakers that would like an unbiased reaction to their short film. Our team of film festival judges evaluate short films on a daily basis for our events. Get feedback about the story, actors, pacing and overall impression of your short film. This is genuine feedback about the impressions that our judges get after watching your short film. Is it funny, scary or unpredictable? Is it well written? Are your actors or dialogue believable. Is this an interesting story or is this boring? These are the questions that we can answer for you. It doesn't matter if your short film has been submitted, accepted or rejected to a film festival. We will give you our feedback and notes without bias. Even if you've never submitted your short film anywhere, isn't it a good idea to get objective feedback before you put your work out there? A small investment of $25, could save you hundreds of dollars in submission fees. What if we catch something that could have easily been fixed? It's time to invest in your creative work. Please purchase the judge's notes for your short film, then email a private link (YouTube, Vimeo, Dropbox, WeTransfer or Google Drive) to mikel.fair@filmfestivalcircuit.com. Please allow 7 days for delivery of judges notes via email.

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Attending Film Festival Events

When you attend our film festival events, in many cases, you get to meet the cast, crew and families of the film creators that are screening. We've had filmmakers fly to our festival events from Japan, Israel, Canada, UK, Spain, Peru and many cities throughout the United States. The dream of most filmmakers is to observe a fresh reaction from a film loving audience, to their film. Most of the films that we screen are 1-20 minutes in length, but in many cases, they take months to plan, shoot, edit and finish.

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Networking and Happy Hour

Our networking and happy hour events are fun, social occasions that are very relaxed and informal. It is refreshing for us to see filmmakers and screenwriters meeting up and at our events. Many of them make long lasting relationships and end up collaborating on future film and screenplay projects. Local actors, actresses and crew bring resumes and headshots to these events in order to meet directors and make contacts.

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Submitting Your Film Or Screenplay To The Film Festival Circuit

We have over one hundred (100) judges that help us rate films and screenplays. Each festival is assigned a different group of 12-20 judges each. Some judges only watch a few films, others watch 100's. We pay our judges a small fee to watch and grade movies. Typically, they need a break from Netflix binge watching anyway and are happy to get paid to watch films as a change of pace. We accept films of all genres to our eight film festival events that are currently running. We do charge a small submission fee to the filmmaker or screenwriter for every film submitted to us. To do this, we only accept films through three submission portals. FilmFreeway, Withoutabox and Festhome. We do have discounts available to help with submission fees. Please visit our promo code page for more information.

Fall 2018: Portland Comedy Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open!
Fall 2018 Portland Comedy Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open! The Portland Comedy Film Festival, ranked in the Top 100[...]

Want To Learn More About Our Film Festival Judging Process For Comedy Submissions?

Have you ever wondered what criteria we use to judge for our comedy film festivals? Our process for selecting comedy films, dark comedy films, funny music videos and web series episodes is pretty straight forward. When my wife Brooke and I started the Houston Comedy Film Festival in 2008, there weren’t many resources available that would clearly explain the judging process. Our goal was to create a system that would eventually screen the funniest submissions at our comedy film festivals. We set out to select films that had the funniest situations, the best pacing, the best acting, and a level of production value that would screen well, in a commercial movie theater. Today, we use these same principles for our three active comedy film festival events.

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Our Top Three Film Festivals For Comedy Films And Screenplays

The Houston Comedy Film Festival, the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival and the Portland Comedy Film Festival. These three festivals combined, have received over 8,000 submissions in the last 10 years. We strive to have a system that is consistent. Which is important to the integrity of our events. Each of these three comedy film festivals have a completely different set of 12 judges. Sometimes these different groups will rate films higher or lower than the others. It's all about the perception of "what is funny" to the individual judge. We also have three film festivals that accept comedy films as a category, as well as, accept other genres.

Fall 2018: Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open!
Fall 2018 Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open! The Austin Comedy Short Film Festival is a showcase[...]
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Our Top Three Film Festivals With A Comedy Category

The Oregon Short Film Festival, the Austin Micro Short Film Festival and Oregon Scream Week: Horror Film Festival, accept a lot of comedy films. These festivals play the comedy films in groups. For example, Oregon Scream Week has a Horror Comedy category. Sometimes we get submissions from filmmakers that are a parody of the genre. Films that feature vegetarian vampires, zombies that take selfies, or people being attacked by a trash bag from outer space. These films really lighten the mood and get everyone warmed up at the beginning of a horror film festival program. Before the films about people falling into the wood chopper, being eaten by monsters or tortured by someone's crazy grandmother.

Houston Comedy Film Festival 2019 Submissions Are Now Open!
2019 Houston Comedy Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open!The Houston Comedy Film Festival submissions are now open. This is a[...]

Comedy Films Have Special Value In A Drama Film Heavy Film Festival

Growing up, I used to watch the Oscars every year. I stopped watching about ten years ago, because I get the feeling that drama films get all the glory. It is rare that fun films  get their fair share of the awards. Film after film about death, tears, illness, dramatic acting and earth shattering moments are the essence of drama films. Beautiful cinematography and actors that are fighting for social justice are very popular in Hollywood. Hence, most of our submissions to the Austin Micro Short Film Festival and the Oregon Short Film Festival have a serious tone. Filmmakers are ready to make a statement, which is awesome. But sometimes we need to mix in a few comedies, animated films, music vides and drama films with comedic elements to lighten things up. We have found that "depress fest" only works, if there are some fun moments sprinkled in. Therefore, we are looking for fun films to lighten the mood at our all-genre film festivals. As a result, getting a better audience response.

Austin Micro Short Film Festival 2018 Submission Statistics

This is a breakdown of the type of submissions we received to the Austin Micro Short Film Festival 2018 season. 390 overall submissions. 82 films selected. 30 screenplays selected. Screenplays are no included in the graph below.

17% Comedy Films, Music Videos & Animations
73% Serious Drama, Docs, Horror, Music Videos & Science Fiction
10% Inspirational, light drama, historical, scientific research

Our Audience Loves Drama, Horror, Documentary Films And More

Although we started with the Houston Comedy Film Festival, it's the Oregon Short Film Festival that expanded our horizons. The Oregon Short Film Festival was the first film festival that we created outside of Texas. My wife is originally from Oregon and after visiting 4-5 times per year, we decided to move. We wanted to start something fresh, new and really get to know what Oregonian film lovers wanted. We screened all genres of films and then sat around with a group of filmmakers and film enthusiasts until 2am picking their brains about the films they liked. We were shocked, because everyone had such different tastes. Drama, horror, documentary films and even our experimental category had people buzzing with enthusiasm.

2019 Austin Micro Short Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open!
2019 Austin Micro Short Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open For Films And Screenplays!The Austin Micro Short Film Festival is[...]

The Top Drama Film Festivals And Why People Liked Them

Our audience explained to us, that drama films helped them related to real stories. Discussing powerful emotional moments, films that dealt with grief, sickness, politics, arguments, romance, relationships and sexuality. People love drama films, because of the connection they feel with them. We got compliments on the number of international films that we screened. The audience didn't seem to complain about subtitles or other languages. Drama film fans embrace the cinematography and powerful music in the Drama genre as well.

2019 Oregon Short Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open!
2019 Oregon Short Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open For Films And Screenplays! The Oregon Short Film Festival is a[...]

Top Documentary Film Festivals And The Demand For More

Documentary films share many of the elements of drama films. The Oregon Documentary Film audience really seem to love the education and research that our films offered. Learning something new about science, history or life in foreign countries, really made people excited. We decided to create the Oregon Documentary Film Festival as a spin off of the Oregon Short Film Festival. The support has been amazing.

Top Horror Film Festivals And Why People Travel To Ours

Oregon Scream Week shocked us all with the number of serious Horror Film fans that turned out. In Portland, Oregon, the freaks come out at night. There were so many people that showed up to watch the horror film genre and not just a specific film. It was like "show me everything you got" instead of "when is this particular movie playing." When filmmakers flew in from South Korea, Japan and France, I knew that something really different was happening.

Oregon Scream Week Film Submissions for Fall 2018 are now open!
Fall 2018 Oregon Scream Week Horror Film Festival Submissions Are Now Open!Oregon Scream Week submissions are now open for Horror[...]

Our Film Festival Judging Process: 3 Rounds

We have three rounds of judging for each film and screenplay submission of all genres. Each film is viewed and scored by 12 different judges. Each judge is blind to the other judges ratings in the first round. The overall score of each film is an average score of a 1-10 star system. The top 33% of films from the first round advance to the 2nd round of consideration. The 2nd round is a technical evaluation of the film. The last round, is the final round of overall consideration where the judges reach a consensus about which films will screen in the time available for the festival event. Continue reading for more details about each round.

Round 1: Universal Questions For All Films Of All Genres

  • Was there anything about this film that you really liked? (Limit 5 sentences)
  • Are there things about this film that you really did not like? (Limit 5 sentences)
  • Be honest, was this film boring to you? (Yes or No)
  • (Non-Documentary) On a scale of 1-10, please rate the overall acting in this film? Were the characters/actors believable?

Round 1: Action Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - An adrenaline pumping film that I personally liked a lot and think that other people will enjoy. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - A good action film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very exciting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Animated & Stop Motion Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - The visuals in this film are amazing. Great characters, scenes, and story. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - A good animated film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Other judges may like it.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very well done.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Comedy Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - A very funny comedy film that I personally liked a lot and think that other people will enjoy. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - A good comedy film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Not my kind of humor. Other judges may think it’s funny.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very funny.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Dark Comedy Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - A sick and twisted comedy film that I personally liked a lot and think that other people will enjoy. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - A good dark comedy film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Not my kind of humor. Other judges may think it’s funny.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very funny.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.
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Director Clay Flaten "Mystery Meeting"

Round 1: Documentary Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - Excellent story, interviews/voice-over. A documentary film that I personally liked a lot and think that other people will enjoy. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - A good documentary film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Not my kind of documentary film. Other judges may think it’s interesting.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very interesting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Drama Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - A powerful story with excellent acting. A drama film that I personally liked a lot and think that other people will enjoy. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - A good drama film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Not my kind of drama film. Other judges may think it’s interesting.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very interesting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Experimental Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - Very engaging visuals, characters, content or story. A fresh concept, idea or perspective that I personally liked a lot. I think that other people will enjoy this as well. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - An interesting experimental film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Not my kind of documentary film. Other judges may think it’s interesting.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very interesting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Horror Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - This movie scared me and messed with my emotions. I am creeped out and I personally liked this horror film a lot. I think that other people will enjoy this as well. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - An good horror film that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. It wasn't scary and was kind of flat. Other judges may think it’s interesting.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems here and the film just isn't very interesting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 1: Music Video Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - An excellent concept that really went well with the music. Great visuals and storyline that kept me engaged until the end. I think that other people will enjoy this as well. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - An interesting and good music video that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Other judges may think it’s interesting.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems with this music video and it just isn't very interesting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.
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Diego Lozano (Mexico) Music Video Director From Mexico

Round 1: Science Fiction Film Specific Judging Rating (1-10)

  • 9-10 - An excellent concept with cool visuals, costumes, environments or situations that made me think. A great storyline that kept me engaged until the end. I think that other people will enjoy this as well. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one!
  • 7-8 - An interesting and good music video that I enjoyed.
  • 5-6 - It was OK. It didn't really blow me away. Other judges may think it’s interesting.
  • 3-4 - There are some problems with this music video and it just isn't very interesting.
  • 1-2 - Do not show this film to another human, this is awful.

Round 2: Film Festival Judging Insights And Technical Review

The top 33% of films advance to the 2nd round of consideration based on their average rating in the 1st round. Please keep in mind, that we screen films on giant commercial theater screens in high definition with great sound systems. We cannot play films that filled with technical problems, no matter how good they are. If time permits, I will email the submitter of a film if they had a great score in the 1st Round, but have technical issues. This gives the film submitter an opportunity to update the film if possible. We do not want to create financial stress for filmmakers, but sometimes we bring these things to their attention ahead of time. We've had plenty of success stories, where filmmakers just needed to re-render the film and update it.  All of the films in the 2nd round are assigned a “Flag” based on technical aspects of the film. The flags are for internal use only and the filmmakers do not see them.

Round 2: Green, Yellow And Red Flags: What Do They Mean?

Green Flag: Clean Audio, clear picture & well paced edit.
Yellow Flag: Some problems with audio, picture or edit, that may result in a negative screening experience for the audience if it isn't updated.
Red Flag: This film has two or more technical problems that eliminate it completely from consideration. Examples: Inaudible words. Clipping sound effects or dialogue. Dark and grainy footage that looks bad on a large screen. Glitches in the edit (media offline.) Visual problems extreme brightness or “blown out” footage for no creative reason. Missing words or bad dialogue sync. Subtitles are too fast or too small. We’ve encountered other problems, but if the film has a red flag, there is usually a very big problem.

Round 3: The Final Selection Process

The 3rd and final round is considered our deliberation round. All judge’s comments and ratings are unlocked so that the other judges can see them. The 12 judges re-watch all of the Green flagged films from the 2nd round. The judges are free to edit their ratings based on their 2nd impression of the film and may consider some of the other comments about the film as well. We have spirited discussions on Google Hangouts about our favorite films and discuss the pros and cons of each. Then, on the night before notification day, I (the film festival director) select the top films based on the judges average ratings and our total screening time. Then I announce the “official selections” to the public. The “official selections” are all of the films that will be invited to screen at the event.

Common Questions About The Film Festival Judging Process

Few film festivals explain their judging process online. After traveling to several film festivals across the country, I noticed that it is pretty rare to meet any of the judges at the events as well. Why is this process so mysterious? At every single film festival event that we have, I’ll sit down with filmmakers and screenwriters and talk for hours about the film industry, film festivals and film production. Eventually the conversation leads to the following questions:

  • How many judges are there?
  • How many films do you watch?
  • How many times do you watch each film?
  • Do you have the same judges for all of your festivals?
  • Where do the judges come from and how do you find them?
  • Can the judges vote for their own films and productions?
  • Do the judges only consider the “star power” of each film?
  • Do the judges of comedy film festivals really care about production value?
  • Can I submit my film to all three comedy film festivals and still be fairly judged?

How Many Judges Are There?

On the three portals, FilmFreeway, Withoutabox and Festhome, we have over 100 registered judges that actively watch films and read screenplays. Most of the time, the judges are registered to festivals that are local to their region. For example, we had 15 judges that lived in the Houston area in 2010. Three of them moved away (Orlando, Madrid and Dallas) but still judge for the Houston Comedy Film Festival. Things happen, life happens, but most of the time, the registered judges are local to each film festival. The Portland Comedy Film Festival and Austin Comedy Film Festival have more than 30 judges each that are currently active, but some of them will only watch 20-30 films per season, while other will watch them all. Each market is different.

How Many Films Do You Watch?

Personally, I watch about 300 comedy short films per month. It’s a part of my daily routine. I don’t like to watch more than 2 hours of films in a single setting. I use high quality headphones (Focal) and a 42 inch HD Television to watch films. It’s not exactly the same as watching them in a movie theater, but I don’t feel like watching submissions on my phone, at the gym is the right environment to fully evaluate them. We have monthly sessions for judges and watch films as a group. It helps, when judging comedy films, to be in a group setting. We have scorecards and often times stop films to discuss them. Individually, I encourage our judges to watch films on a large screen with good headphones. Many of them do like to use their phones and tablets as well. Most judges will watch 4-5 movies per day, pretty consistently. I have some judges that will binge 6 hours of films in an evening. Everyone has their own schedule and style.

How Many Times Do You Watch Each Film?

I personally watch every film submitted to every film festival from beginning to end at least once. When evaluating films for technical issues or award nominations, I watch some films watched 3-5 times. Our judges watch as many films as possible the first time and then re-watch films that make it to the final round.

Do You Have The Same Judges For All Of Your Festivals?

No. The comedy film festivals are completely separate. The judges for the Houston Comedy Film Festival, Austin Short Film Festival and Portland Comedy Film Festival are different people. The judges from the three cities usually pick different films, it’s a strange phenomenon. There are several judges from the Portland Comedy Film Festival that judge for the Oregon Documentary Film Festival and Oregon Scream Week (Horror Film Festival.)

Where Do The Judges Come From And How Do You Find Them?

We get a lot of our judges from film enthusiasts that email us and want to be a part of the process. We also run ads on craigslist as well as meet people through networking. It’s not a requirement to be in the film industry to judge films. We like to have judges that are enthusiastic, consistent and who really enjoy it. It’s easy to “burn out” if you’re not very interested in independent film. Some judges will commit to watching less films, others will binge an entire festival season without blinking.

Can The Judges Vote For Their Own Films And Productions?

None of the judges have films that are in the film festival event they are judging.

Do The Judges Only Consider The “Star Power” Of Each Film?

No. In a comedy film festival, it’s a lot more about being funny than it is about being “known” or having great cinematography. The event is designed to play back-to-back films that keep people laughing for the entire program. Sometimes, we get films with “big stars” and “known actors” that just aren’t very funny. It’s not a part of the judging criteria.

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Do The Judges Of Comedy Film Festivals Really Care About Production Value?

Sometimes. Really poor production value can hurt a film’s opportunity to screen. Rough dialogue audio is usually the “knockout punch.” At a commercial theater like the Alamo Drafthouse in Houston or Austin, audio flaws can become very distracting. Very good cinematography and music are appreciated, but the funnies take priority. We’ve rejected beautiful films that weren’t that funny and we’ve accepted Smartphone films that are hilarious.

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Can I Submit My Film To Multiple Film Festivals And Still Be Fairly Judged?

Yes you can, and many filmmakers do. It’s nice to get recognition for your films at as many film festivals as possible to win awards and advance your career in the industry. If you are looking for a partial fee waiver or promo code, you can use this link to save money on your future submissions. Good luck!

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