Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals + Submitting Tips [July 2018 Update]

Adrian Țofei, January 28, 2015

Latest Update: July 19, 2018

While researching film festivals to submit my movie Be My Cat: A  Film for Anne, I decided to make a public list to be useful to fellow filmmakers as well. It’s now reaching almost 5,000 Facebook shares and 1,000 monthly visitors. I am constantly researching festivals and updating the list, taking into consideration all the other lists available (see below), the opportunities the festivals offer to indie filmmakers, the quality and number of films selected in previous years, the number of years running, their status in the film industry, the location, communication, hospitality and safety, the quality of the information on their websites and social media, the entry fee, submission process and selection process, the number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers and other recommendations.

I only included international genre film festivals with live screenings: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, underground (but underground focused on horror/dark films, not on abstract/experimental films), found footage. For all the festivals, regardless of type, check out my Top 100 International Film Festivals (some general festivals have very popular sections for genre films).

Tips on Submitting to Festivals:

  • Keep your genre feature film below 90 minutes if possible and never above 100 minutes. Festivals are commercially oriented and don’t wanna risk boring their audiences and fading away in popularity.
  • Keep your genre short film below 10 minutes if possible and never above 15 minutes. Festivals prefer to screen a bigger number of shorter short films instead of a single longer short film.
  • Ask for fee waivers before submitting. Unfortunately, a lot of festivals view paid submissions mainly as a source of revenue and select/invite most of their films from other sources like contacts, recommendations, other festivals, sales agents etc. Write to festivals and ask them if they are interested in your film. If they are, they may give you a fee waiver. If they don’t give, they might be either not interested, or interested but principled. Try to find out which case applies and act accordingly, also considering your total submission budget and how much you want that festival.
  • Don’t fall for partial discount offers received via email, thinking they are personalised and the festival is interested in your film. Most of the times they are not, those are public discount codes listed on the submission platform or mass-sent to filmmakers. When a festival is interested in your film, they offer you a 100% discount code or fee waiver. The partial discount is just a marketing strategy.
  • Keep the cover letter very short – about three phrases of essential info if possible. Programmers are very busy and might not read long letters. Same for the film’s synopsis – try to synthesise it in one catchy phrase if possible.
  • Include in the short cover letter the best things about your movie and yourself, to catch the programmers’ interest, like known actors, past known films of yours, awards and other festivals, anything else unique or sensational about your film.
  • Some festival programmers won’t watch your film entirely and might reject it based on the first 10-20 minutes. Try to have a powerful beginning or one that shows potential for a powerful development and entices the viewer to watch more.
  • For feature films, it’s very important to have the world premiere in a big festival. All the selections after the world premiere will be in smaller or similar festivals, never in bigger festivals. Plan carefully your world premiere, don’t settle for a little-known festival if you think your movie can do more than that.
  • The best festivals to premiere your genre feature film are actually not the ones in this list, but the top 10 general festivals in my Top 100 International Film Festivals list. A lot of them have extremely powerful and popular sections for genre films.
  • If you’re looking for a distributor for your genre feature film, I’d say you have about 95% chances of getting it if you have the world premiere in one of the top 10 festivals in my other list, about 75% chances if you have it in one of the top 5 fests in this list, 50% in the top 25 in this list, 25% in the top 50, 15% in the top 100.
  • For short films, the size/importance of the world premiere festival has little importance, it’s good to accept all the selections/invitations, because shorts can build up momentum by going to a lot of small festivals before finally being accepted to a big one. Also, don’t forget to consider the general festivals that have sections for genre short films.
  • When you get accepted and/or win an award in an important festival, email the other festivals you are waiting a decision from and inform them about your success (but try not to bother them with too many emails).

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Before starting the top 100, here are the lists that helped me make mine, with codes to identify in which lists each festival is mentioned:

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Top 5 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

  1. Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival – Sitges, Catalonia/Spain, 51st year in 2018 – RHoFa7, AfEFFFF, R100, FIAPF, MMGenre5, MMHoFa, MM25, HR20
  2. Fantasia International Film Festival – Montreal, Canada, 22nd year in 2018 – RHoFa20, SuEFFFF, R100, IW100, MMGenre5, MMHoFa, MM50, MM25, nomMMHoSF5, HR20
  3. Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival / BIFFF – Brussels, Belgium, 36th year in 2018 – RHoFa7, AfEFFFF, FIAPF, MMHoFa, HR20
  4. Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival / BiFan (formerly Puchon / PiFan) – Bucheon, South Korea, 22nd year in 2018 – RHoFa7, SuEFFFF, R100, MMGenre5, MMHoFa
  5. Fantastic Fest – Austin, Texas, US, 14th year in 2018 – RHoFa20, SuEFFFF, R100, IW100, MMGenre5, MMHoFa, MMHoSF5, MM25, HR20

Top 25 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 6th to 25th)

Top 50 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 26th to 50th)

Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 51st to 100th)

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