What makes this film festival different from all other film festivals?
The most distinguishing characteristic of Zero Film Festival is that it is the first and only festival exclusive to self-financed filmmakers. With cheap digital technology, the production side of filmmaking was essentially set free, but distribution and festivals still are able to hold a monopoly and bottleneck filmmakers without the proper connections and budgets. Zero just levels out the playing field.
Because of the unique nature of the festival, we have seen a great response from filmmakers, and are fortunate to be able to show films from five continents, all made with the same level of ingenuity and passion.
Zero Film Festival holds annual events in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, acting as an effective "network" festival. We also have free booze for all attendees, and I think this fact alone makes Zero different.
What's the submission process like? There must be a balance, I imagine, between being democratic about offering opportunities and curating a selection that holds interest...
We don't use the term submit or submission. At Zero it is an honor to receive films we are able to consider for programming. Filmmakers are drawn to the festival, so we have a large pool to program from which makes my job a lot easier. The snag lies with feature films. It takes a lot of patience to wait for the right film to come along, but they are there.
Are there any ZFF alums you can point to as success stories? Exposure for their films, or creative partnerships fostered?
Most of our feature filmmakers have gone on to small theatrical runs or some form of distribution. My favorite success story is the filmmaker Lovisa Inserra, who went from 8mm films around Brooklyn to shooting a financed feature on location in Bangkok. There is something in the community, where even if successes appear to be small, value can be found in finding new creative partners. I've seen alumni come back with a new film featuring another filmmaker from across the country who they met at Zero. That to me is success.
Below is one of the Zero Film Festival's trailers, which doubles as a trailer for a nonexistent film and was produced by Zero alums Sunset Television; along with the other trailers, it'll play in between blocks of films throughout the festival: