Q: What is Winter Film Awards? I think I stumbled onto this website by mistake.
A: Winter Film Awards (WFA) is an all-volunteer women and minority-run 501(c)3 organization founded in 2011 by NYC filmmakers and arts enthusiasts. It was built with the dream of making indie film more accessible to the public and providing driven, talented artists the opportunity to break through competitive barriers to establish meaningful careers in film.
Q: What are my chances of getting into the festival?
A: For the 2016 Festival, Winter FIlm Awards received just under 500 total submissions. We selected 86 for screening. Depending upon category, we accept roughly 15-20% of submissions However, our programmers are committed to the hunt for the films with the most original vision.
Q: What are your film award categories?
A: We award outstanding work in the following categories:
Best Picture, Best Short Film, Best Animated Film, Best Music Video, Best Documentary Film, Best Horror Feature Film, Best Horror Short Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Score, Best Student Film, Best Web Series, New York Perspectives Award, Socially Relevant Film and Women’s Film Critic Circle Award
Q: What formats do you accept?
A: Films must be submitted via our entry on WithoutABox or Film Freeway. We do not accept DVD copies of films for submission – all films must be available online for selection judging.
For screening, we accept films in MP4, MOV, AVI, WMA, MKV format
Q: Well, what are the selection criteria for WFA?
A: WFA is looking for diverse films from emerging filmmakers. We love first time directors and students. The overwhelming majority of our films were made for under $50k.
Q: Yeah, but what are you REALLY looking for in a film?
A: Each film is watched by at least four judges, who score for overall awesomeness and 10 points of tech.
Every one of our programmers approaches the process differently, but generally speaking; the number one quality we look for is originality. We see an awful lot of films that have the twentysomethings – driving – around – with guns – taking – drugs – talking – about – how – they’re – going – to – film – themselves – robbing – a – bank sort of feel to them. Does that mean that if you have some of the mentioned in your film you shouldn’t bother applying? Not at all. It had just better be done well in order for it to stand out among the crowd.
Q: Do “production values” matter and are there completion date restrictions?
A: A bad script, bad acting, bad editing and bad sound are much more likely to sink a submission than bad cinematography or “production value.” We accept films made in the three years before the festival.
Q: Are my chances of acceptance increased if I was invited to submit my film? How about if I have a celebrity connected to my film? Any other way to increase my chances?
A: No, it doesn’t. Judges are provided minimal information about films – they know only film name, country, whether it is a student work and the synopsis . They are not told anything else and judge the films purely based upon the work upon the screen.
The only way to increase your chances of acceptance is to be a Festival Alum. We love showing Alumnai work and are much more likely to accept the film if we’ve screened you in the past.
Q: What’s the one most important thing I should be sure my film has to increase its chances of acceptance?
A: Obviously, a good story, good acting and great cinematography are important. However, the one thing absolutely 100% guaranteed to sink your film’s chances of acceptance is terrible sound.
Q: Are you just looking for disturbing, artsy, and gritty films?
A: No way. As far as genre is concerned, we really have no preferences at all. Drama, comedy, docs, romance, sci-fi, zombie, whatever. It really doesn’t matter. We’re looking for films with an original vision.
Q: Hey. Do you guys accept Music Videos too?
A: Yes! To qualify as an entrant, all you need is basic exhibition “festival rights.” This should be no different than the rights necessary to include the video on a director’s reel. As long as the video was produced in conjunction with the label (and not on spec), this should not be a problem.
Q: Do you only screen American films?
A: No. We have no American financing or content requirements. WFA aims to showcase filmmakers no matter what country they’re from. Our 2016 lineup includes films from 24 countries!
Q: Do you accept works in progress?
A: We judge submissions as they are now, not as they might be upon completion. If your film is still a work-in-progress or doesn’t have finalized sound, it’s a good idea to wait until the film is complete before submitting.
Q: Do you invite people to submit films?
A: Yes. It’s important to us to have a broad spectrum of awesome films to show, and we check out interesting films we hear about or look at films from ethnic and genre festivals from around the world. We invite these films to submit for consideration and wave the submission fee.
However, this does not in any way mean the film is guaranteed to be accepted.
In 2016, 12% of submissions were invited. About of 1/3 of those were actually selected for the Festival.
Q: If I entered last year, can I enter again this year?
A: Yep. This year’s judges won’t have any idea that you submitted before and will look at your film afresh. We have several cases of films rejected one year and then accepted the following.
Q: Should I be concerned about premiering my film at another festival and blowing my chances at getting into WFA?
A: We have no premiere status requirements – NYC is a big place, so even if you’ve screened here before, chances are good there are a bunch of people yet to see your film.
Q: Who are your judges? Are they a bunch of the same white guys?
A: We have about 50 judges for each Festival, about half are women and about 25% are white guys. They range from film students to enthusiasts to industry veterans and ages range from 15 to 60. We have a very diverse range of ethnicities for our judges.
Q: I’m a student and I made my film with a budget of $100. I used a skateboard as a dolly and shot most of it on my iPhone and used free editing software. Do I have any chance of acceptance? Should I bother spending the submission fee?
A: Submit. WFA loves labors of love and we care mostly that your film is interesting to watch, will hold people’s attention and is something different. One of our best films was a horror film shot for about $10 that took place in the supermarket where the Director worked as night manager that involved lots of ketchup for blood and carefully implied violence (to avoid actually wrecking anything).
Q: Do I need to have all my music rights cleared to show a film at WFA?
A: You must affirm that you own all required rights to exhibit this film publicly, and all copyright, trademark, and other rights to the materials shown in the film, and you must accept all liabilities for any failure to secure such rights. If WFA is made aware of any issues at all having to do with these rights, we will pull your film from the lineup.
Q: How do I submit to the festival?
A: All films must be submitted through Withoutabox or FilmFreeway. Submissions open each year on June 1. Do not send work directly to our email address or our office – we will not consider any film not submitted via our submission platforms.
Q: When’s the submission deadline?
A: There are several rounds of deadlines: Early Deadline is June 1 – August 31, Regular Deadline is September 1 – October 15 and Late Deadline is October 16 – November 15. WAB Extended Deadline – December 1
Q: Is there a difference if I apply earlier?
A: It’s cheaper (early entry fees are much lower).
Q: What are the submission fees?
A: Early fee is $25, Regular is $40 and Late is $60. Extended is $100
Q: Hey, I’m a poor starving filmmaker – what the hell is up with these outrageous entry fees!!!?
A: As struggling filmmakers ourselves, we feel your pain, comrade. Unfortunately though, it costs a lot of damn money to put on our little festival (remember, it’s held at one of the most expensive cities in the country). Our best advice is to submit early to get the cheaper fee AND familiarize yourself with WFA. Check out each year’s OFFICIAL SELECTIONS. See if your film is the sort of project we’re likely to consider. When all’s said and done, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than submitting to Cannes.
Q: So WFA accepts credit cards?
A: Yes. You can pay by credit card with your Withoutabox or FilmFreeway submission.
Q: If I submit a work-in-progress in time for the early deadline, can I resubmit a more finished version a few weeks later?
A: No. We judge your film as we see it. If it isn’t complete, it will count against you and waste our time and your money.
Q: Should I submit a full press kit?
A: No. We should have all the information we need from the aforementioned material. You should definitely have press kits on standby, because if we accept your film, we’ll need these materials as soon as possible.
Q: Do you accept films on any type of DVD?
A: No, we accept online submissions via WithoutABox or FilmFreeway only. Our judges are all over the country and DVDs are very difficult to pass around.
Q: Do you pay screening fees to show my film?
A: Sorry, but as a small non-profit, we are not in a financial position to pay screening fees. If your film requires a screening fee, please do not submit it because we will not show it.
Q: What if the film’s not in English but I can’t afford subtitles?
A: Again, we poor filmmakers sympathize with lack of funds. Unfortunately, however, our programmers may not speak your language and therefore we require English subtitles on all such films.
Q: I’m an auteur who doesn’t like to be disturbed at home, so should I put my big Hollywood agent down as the contact info on the application form?
A: We would strongly encourage people to put the director down as the primary contact person. At least put down the producer who will be at home and available in December. Our experience shows that producers, agents, lawyers, publicists and producers reps will come and go – but the director rarely changes.
Q: When are the selections made?
A: All film selections will be made in December and we will announce acceptances late December. All filmmakers will receive an email one way or the other. Please be sure to look for mail from firstname.lastname@example.org – we find that our notices sometimes wind up in spam folders and we have to hunt you down to let you know we’ve accepted your film.
Q: Do you make early decisions or give early notifications?
A: No. At WFA we program all the slots at the same time. It makes for a rather grueling few days at the end of the programming session, but we feel it’s a more fair system to wait until all the films are submitted before making any firm decisions or issuing any invitations to the festival.
Q: Do I have a better chance of getting into the festival if I have a fancy agent or lawyer or publicist call in and lobby?
A: No. Remember, WFA is about helping filmmakers get a leg up. If you’ve already got a fancy agent, lawyer and publicist, then you really don’t need WFA to help promote your film – you should just set up an industry screening at a different time of year with all those people helping you.
Q: Once I’ve submitted, should I call and bother you about my film?
A: If you’ve got any new, relevant information for us during the selection process (new contact info, you just got into another festival, the film got distribution, etc.), please let us know. Also, if you want to make sure we have received your submission information, email email@example.com. Try not to pester us too much, but if you have any real questions or concerns, don’t be shy about emailing. Please don’t contact us until you read ALL of the FAQ.
Q: If I help you raise sponsorship money, or if I work for one of your sponsors, or if I write you a really, really big check, does it help my chances of getting into the festival?
A: We are always looking to develop sponsorship for the festival, and certainly appreciate any help people can give us. But as a matter of fairness, payola does not actually help your film get into the festival.
Q: Alright, but I really like what WFA is all about and want to give you money or an old computer or a pizza or big box of candy. Won’t you please take it?
A: We can send you our sponsorship package (email firstname.lastname@example.org) . If you are local, feel free to bring us nibbles or cash of any sort! It won’t help your chances of getting in, but we would be delighted just the same.
Q: OK, fine, so I guess you guys think my film is a piece of crap because you rejected it, you sons of bitches! Don’t you even have the guts to tell me to my face what you thought of my movie? Or are you going to cower behind the arrogant anonymity of a stupid form rejection email that you send out six months after the festival!?!
A: Indeed we DO cower behind the arrogant anonymity of a form rejection email! We’ll send it out as timely as we can – within a couple of days before the announcement week. But if you don’t see your film listed on the website around early January, you can assume that you did not get in. Before you go firebombing our office, trashing our good name, or sending us “I Love You” viruses, please keep in mind that just because you didn’t get into the festival DOESN’T MEAN YOUR FILM SUCKS! We’re pretty good about recommending films that didn’t make it into the festival to our friends at other festivals or to distributors and other industry-types we know. Remember WFA shows only a small number of films. Every year we are forced to pass on a ton of absolutely great films and it can be a heartbreak for us as well.
Q: At least will you give me some feedback on my film?
A: We really wish we could. We’re all filmmakers here so we understand very well the importance of feedback. However, due to the large amount of submissions we get every year and the fact that our programmers are all volunteers, unfortunately we just don’t have the ability to provide feedback on your submission.
Q: If I get into the festival, does WFA fly me first-class to NYC, put me up in a fancy hotel suite and buy me expensive meals?
A: No. We’d love to and hopefully one day we’ll get enough sponsor support (or frequent flier miles) to do that. But in this world, we currently can not provide travel, room or board. That said, if you are coming from far away, we are happy to help you try to find a grant to help cover travel expenses — local travel agents, universities and embassies are sometimes willing to help fund filmmaker travel.
Q: Who’s on the jury?
A: We invite a mixture of filmmakers, film critics and film industry.
Q: Who’s in the audience at WFA?
A: Our audiences are a real mixed bag of nuts, ranging from local film enthusiasts, actors, other filmmakers, press, alum, local fans and friends, other film festival directors, volunteers, students and many more. Our screening venue, Cinema Village on East 12th Street, has a dedicated audience base, so we get a lot of local walk in attendees as well.