TQFF’s Statement Regarding the Practice of
Film Festivals Charging Entry Fees
At TQFF, one of our top priorities is to support filmmakers. In recent years, the number of films being made has exploded due to the widespread accessibility of high quality video production technologies. Unfortunately, however, in many ways it has never been harder for for filmmakers who make work without the benefit of large budgets or insider connections to get their projects shown at festivals, precisely at this moment when it has become possible for almost everyone to make films.
There are huge barriers to entry at almost every stage of most festival submissions process, starting with the first step: submitting your film. Submission fees, the requirement that filmmakers and producers pay amounts ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars in order to have a festival even consider screening a film, have become ubiquitous, even on the LGBT film festival circuit. Festivals offer a range of excuses for charging these entry fees, including “we are a non-profit and by paying submission fees you are supporting our festival” to “we are overwhelmed by the number of entries in recent years and thus rely on the fees to hire programming staff to watch all of the entries.”
Such justifications for charging submission fees indicate additional motivating factors: 1) festivals view themselves as gatekeepers who can demand premiums from artists seeking the recognition and exposure for their work that some festivals offer; 2) a prioritization of supporting their institution and the labor of their staff over the work of artists and filmmakers, without whom, in reality, they would be unable to host their festival; 3) as the number of films being made and submitted to festivals continues to rise, many festivals want the submission fees to be a barrier to entry, especially since many festivals program very few films submitted through open calls and may already be overwhelmed by the number of entries they get even with the large submission fees.
In this manner, festival submission fees have become an accepted practice that is, intentionally or not, designed to restrict access for low-budget and/or marginalized filmmakers to have their work be considered and ultimately programmed at festivals. At base is the assumption that filmmakers and producers who do not have sufficient resources to pay high entry fees to numerous festivals do not produce work worth considering.
At TQFF, we are no more impressed by films made with large budgets than we are with the videos of first-time filmmakers who shot their project on their cellphones. We are thrilled that the proliferation of digital technologies is increasingly making it possible for even queer and trans folks with the least resources and institutional supports to make work.
At TQFF, we want to foster and support the production of all kinds of work, and that means dismantling institutional structures that discourage those with the least access and resources from submitting their films, much less have them be seriously considered. While money and resources can sometimes be instrumental in producing great work, they are no substitute for – and, in fact, often wind up being an anathema to – creativity, insight, and a commitment to bettering our communities.
As such, TQFF encourages anyone and everyone to make and submit work that fits with our mission to our festival. We will continue to do our best to reduce and remove barriers to production and distribution of work by queer and trans artists, we will never charge submission fees, and every film submitted will be watched by our programming team and considered for inclusion in the festival.