Recognizing a need for greater transparency in a values-led programming process and seeking a tool to aid staff in making programmatic decisions for the organization, the curatorial staff of the New Orleans Film Society convened over multiple sessions in 2020 to collectively draft this living document of programming practices, with a specific investment in countering extractive storytelling, championing stories from those living outside of major production hubs, and supporting the creative leadership of storytellers closest to the stories being told. Designed to reflect the practices currently employed, this document is inherently subject to evolve and develop to reflect the ongoing thinking and approach that our team has in relation to our curatorial work.
We seek work from impassioned storytellers who create from spaces of urgency, importance, and a desire to share their unique perspectives.
- While we acknowledge and respect that nuanced storytelling can come from many different sources and perspectives, we strive to decenter privilege and whiteness and prioritize artists who have been historically denied access to resources and opportunities within the industry–including Southern artists, women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities.
- We look for evidence that filmmakers have built their production teams with inclusivity in mind, ensuring a plurality of perspectives and exhibiting a commitment to a more diverse creative landscape.
- We look beyond stories of struggle and trauma, particularly those featuring Black and brown communities, and instead offer space for narratives of cultural strength, spiritual depth, and shared humanity.
We counter extractive storytelling by championing regionalism and supporting the creative leadership of those closest to the stories being told.
- We shift our attention away from the mainstream and toward stories from those working in spaces outside of and often ignored by centers of power.
- We recognize that South Louisiana and the American South more broadly are sites where stories and inspiration have been thoughtlessly mined by “outsiders,” a harmful practice that sidelines artists with a stronger connection to the region and frequently results in stereotyping and a lack of authentic representation in the work.
- We believe that important insight and nuance result when filmmakers tell the stories that they’re closest to: films inspired or informed by their own lived experiences, or about communities of which they are a part.
- We respect the role of the moving image as a cultural record of our communities, and we seek to ensure that these histories of our region are addressed with care for those whose stories are being told.
- We hold artists accountable to respecting the subject matter of their work, including the individuals, cultures, and communities they are addressing.
We acknowledge the injustices and deleterious effects of traditional curatorial work of arts institutions like our own and seek new ways of envisioning our programmatic practices.
- We recognize that qualitative notions of “artistic merit” and “aesthetic quality” are informed by a racist lineage and hierarchical systems designed to maintain a white, ableist, and hetero-normative perspective on art and the world.
- We seek to expand our understanding of how excellence can reveal itself through artistic approaches and techniques such as language, visual stylings, and culturally-specific storytelling practices that have been historically underappreciated.
- We involve a multiplicity of voices in our programming process in an effort to eschew unilateral decision-making.
- We acknowledge that value is not dictated by prestige or laurels, and thus keep our focus on the potential of the work and the artist and away from institutional affiliations or perceived stature within other filmmaking spaces.
- We understand that programming and curatorial work is a form of gatekeeping–of inviting some artists in while shutting others out; we seek to combat the exclusive nature of this process by building more accessible bridges of opportunity for artists, connecting them to spaces, experiences, and resources that they’ve not been afforded.
- For artistic opportunities including labs and development programs (including Emerging Voices, Southern Producers Lab, South Pitch), we waive all submission fees to ensure access.
- We offer film festival submission discounts to those with a stated need, and partner with organizations and individuals to ensure an equitable disbursement of waivers.
We create space for confrontational art and nontraditional artistic approaches.
- We invite audiences to engage with work that addresses the social and political inequities of our collective past and present.
- We welcome nonconformist and misfit films that often get excluded from other exhibition avenues for not adhering to elitist industry standards.
- We celebrate innovative work that, in its form and construction, offers a rebuke to conventional means of storytelling and forges new storytelling pathways.
- We lift up exciting projects that empower, transform, and, like all great art, encourage reflection and creative response.
Clint Bowie is the Artistic Director of the New Orleans Film Society, where he manages the curation of the organization’s year-round programming. He has served on review committees for ITVS, Creative Capital, NEA, FilmNorth, and Latino Public Broadcasting, and has spoken on panels organized by Sundance Institute, Firelight Media, Center for Asian American Media, Palm Springs International ShortFest, ArtHouse Convergence, and others. He has served on the board of directors for the Film Festival Alliance and Advisory Board for the Overlook Film Festival. He previously worked as a print journalist at publications across the country.
Zandashé Brown is a Louisiana-born-and-raised writer/director and the Artist Engagement & Programming Manager for the New Orleans Film Society. A former fellow of NOFS’s Emerging Voices program, Zandashé now programs narrative works for the Academy Award-Qualifying New Orleans Film Festival as well as year-round events such as the annual South Summit, a convening that seeds conversations and actions around amplifying film and media content in the American South; and the NOFF Filmmaker Summit, a series of panels, talks, and workshops that take place yearly during the festival.
Rashada is a Programmer with the New Orleans Film Festival. She also works as a Production Coordinator in the New Orleans Film Industry. She holds an MFA in Film Production from the University of New Orleans. In her spare time, she enjoys working on short films with her friends to continue being creative.
Greta Hagen-Richardson is a programmer and producer with a decade of experience in the industry. As a programmer, she works to elevate the contributions of storytellers working outside the traditional industry. Currently, Hagen-Richardson is the Director of Programming at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Lead Features Programmer at the New Orleans Film Festival. In 2020, she participated in Project Involve as a Creative Executive Fellow resulting in the completion of three shorts. She is currently producing the short Pearl & Henry and the feature Long Eye with director Gibrey Allen.
Carl Harrison Jr.
Carl Harrison Jr. is an independent director, writer, and producer whose documentary and narrative fiction work address themes of race, freedom, music, and southern cultural traditions. His short films have been featured at film festivals across America including New Orleans Film Festival, Seattle Black Film Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival, Baltimore Black Festival, and many others. He was selected as a 2017 Emerging Voice by the New Orleans Film Society. His directorial debut, Straight Line, is a narrative short that boldly confronts the crippling racial dehumanization that has for centuries been and continues to remain far too commonplace in our society. Beginning in January 2021 Straight Line will be featured on Alaskan Airline flights. He recently received a 2019 Research and Development Grant from the Southern Documentary Fund for his current project Eve’s Garden.
Jon has served in NOFF’s programming department since 2012. He recently moved cross-country to take over film curation at Cinema Salem, an independent theater on Boston’s North Shore. In his spare time, he is a slow reader and novice synthesist.
Amber Love is a filmmaker, documentary editor, and festival programmer based in Chicago, IL. Her work has premiered at the Camden International Film Festival, has played Indie Memphis and the Milwaukee Film Festival, and has been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute and Union Docs. In 2019 she was selected as a NeXt Doc Fellow for her work as an emerging filmmaker, and in 2020 she was selected as a Fellow for the Sundance Institute’s inaugural Art of Editing Fellowship. She has been with NOFF since 2016.
Kate Mason is a writer, performer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her artistic career blossomed in New Orleans, Louisiana where she studied improv, sketch, acting, and drag performance. She is a programmer for the New Orleans Film Festival and co-curator of ImageUnionTV. She received a Bachelor’s in Art History and Archaeology from Boston University and a Master’s in Art History from Tulane University. Her alter ego is Squirt Reynolds and her favorite movie is Mommie Dearest.
Director of Documentary Programming
Kiyoko McCrae is the Director of Documentary Programming and Filmmaker Labs at the New Orleans Film Society. She is also an award-winning independent film and theater director and producer, currently completing a short documentary for the Hindsight Project, a new initiative with CAAM, Firelight Media, and Reel South, and developing her first feature doc with support from CAAM and Southern Documentary Fund. She is a 2017-2018 Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellow and a 2020 John O’Neal Cultural Arts Fellow. She received her BFA in Theatre Arts from NYU’s Tisch School. She is happy to call New Orleans home with her husband Jason and their two children, Manami and Koji.
Zuri Obi is a Haitian-American artist raised with deep cultural roots in magical realism. As a multidisciplinary filmmaker, her work strives to situate the viewer within surreal spaces that challenge conventional ‘truth’ and ‘reality’. As a Camerawomxn, she has collaborated with artists such as Solange and Lizzo, and as Creative Producer, her projects have screened at notable film festivals, including Sundance and won top awards at New Orleans Film Festival, AFI and BlackStar. Currently, she is developing her forthcoming documentary “How to Breathe Underwater”, which is a personal mother-daughter healing journey as explored through dreamwork.
Kenneth Renaldo Reynolds
Kenneth is a film producer based in New Orleans. His work focuses primarily on southern independent projects and working with southern-based filmmakers.
Stephanie Tell is a Programmer in the Narrative Shorts category of the 2021 New Orleans Film Festival, where she has worked in various capacities since 2018. Currently she is writing a PhD through the Screen Studies program at the University of Melbourne, Australia, focusing on cultures of masquerade on film. Her research interests broadly span liminal studies, affective histories, and ritual aspects of the screen experience. Previously, she was a senior curator for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, and a freelance arts writer and critic. In another life, Stephanie lived on a warm, dry rock as a contented land iguana.
Amada is a Central American filmmaker and film programmer. As an artist that has grieved displacement due to armed conflict, Amada is passionate about exploring the body-earth territory, memory and collective storytelling. For six years Amada was programmer for the Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, S.C., and her documentary work has been exhibited at BlackStar Film Festival, Femme Frontera, and Skirball Cultural Center in LA amongst others,. She is a 2021 Rockwood/JustFilms Fellow, a 2016 NALAC Leadership Institute fellow, and a Brown Girls Doc Mafia member. Currently, Amada is developing their first feature film in El Salvador.
Rachel Lin Weaver is an interdisciplinary media artist working in video, experimental documentary, sound, installation, and performance. Her projects explore personal and cultural memory, resilience in the face of adversity, landscapes and people in flux, and ecological systems. She is influenced by her upbringing in wilderness areas and rural communities in poverty, and finds many useful metaphors in the natural world. Weaver’s projects have been shown in many cities in the US as well as at exhibitions in nearly 30 countries since 2010. Her work is held in numerous private and public collections. In addition to her art practice, Weaver is an active documentary filmmaker. Her research is centered on creative decolonization and fighting for inclusivity, and she actively collaborates with indigenous communities. Weaver is currently Assistant Professor/Chair of Creative Technologies at the School of Visual Art at Virginia Tech and is also the curator of Cinema Reset, the new media program of the New Orleans Film Festival.
- Submissions Open: January 15, 2021
- Earlybird Deadline: February 10, 2021
- Regular Deadline: March 17, 2021
- Late Deadline: May 19, 2021
- Extended Deadline: June 18, 2021
- Notification Date: August 20, 2021
- Event Date: November 5 – 21, 2021
- When can I send in an entry to be considered for the New Orleans Film Festival?
NOFF is accepting submissions through June 18, 2021. We cannot accept any submissions after that date.
- How do I submit?
FilmFreeway is the exclusive method for submitting films for festival consideration. We do not accept submissions via emailed links.
- If I submit, what are my film’s chances of being selected?
In 2019, we received just over 5600 submissions and selected 218 of those to screen at the festival. In 2020, we received 4655 submissions and selected 160 of those to screen at NOFF.
- What percent of the NOFF lineup comes from submissions?
We strive to program as much of the lineup as possible from submitted films. In 2020, 95% of the lineup came from submitted films, and in 2019, 92% of the lineup was from submitted films. The remainder were mostly end-of-year “prestige titles” that came from studios and distributors.
- Will someone actually view my submission?
Yes. We take the screening process extremely seriously. Members of our programming team watch every single film from start to finish, and every film is considered and discussed by the staff before a final decision is made.
- Who will watch my submission?
Every submission is viewed at least once by a staff-level member of the NOFF programming team in addition to one to three times by a member of our volunteer screening corps, comprising film industry professionals, filmmakers, avid moviegoers, film students, longtime festival submissions screeners, and New Orleans Film Society staff members.
- Do you offer any waivers or discounts on entry fees?
We only offer a small number of fee waivers each year, to special cases (e.g. alumni filmmakers, filmmakers based in countries that cannot legally send money to the U.S.; financial duress). We also work with a number of partner organizations to ensure that underrepresented communities in filmmaking are able to submit free of charge. We are also very generous with offering discounted submission fees, and these are granted on a case-by-case basis. All inquiries regarding discounts should be addressed to email@example.com. Additionally, NOFF incentivizes filmmakers to submit early (so that we can start the review process early). The earlier you submit, the more inexpensive the submission price.
- What kinds of films are you looking for?
We seek to program a diverse slate that represents a variety of themes and content. We are particularly interested in new work from filmmakers from different backgrounds. We encourage you to fully read this document outlining our “Programming Practices.” As for genre, NOFF has no preferences and programs from all genres of film. We habitually screen horror films, comedies, period dramas, thrillers, etc. No matter what genre you’re working in, your film will be given equal weight and consideration.
- Do you have a special category for films made by youth?
No, NOFF does not have a designated youth-produced category, but youth are encouraged to submit their work and we regularly program student work.
- My project is episodic — do you have a category for that?
We encourage filmmakers of episodic work to submit the pilot episode in either the narrative short, documentary short, or animated short category, depending on where it best fits. In the past, NOFF has programmed both longer, television-length pieces as well as shorter webisodes and other formats. If selected, our programming team will work with the filmmaking teams to determine how many episodes to screen at the festival if more than the pilot is available.
- Would it help if I sent a press kit for my film?
No. In fact, most press kits submitted with films will be skipped over in favor of simply watching the film itself. However, we do suggest including a cover letter on FilmFreeway explaining why you’re interested in sharing your film with NOFF (do you have some connection to New Orleans? are you especially interested in reaching a New Orleans audience? do you think that your film aligns with what we stated we seek out in our Programming Practices? have you heard good things about NOFF from fellow filmmakers? were you drawn in by our description on a website?). We also like to know more about who is behind the film (what’s your background? why are you telling this story?). That information can be helpful as we make our final decisions.
- Can I email you a Vimeo link as part of my submission?
Because our submission review process involves almost 70 staff and volunteers, we need the screener of your film to be accessible directly through FilmFreeway, where it can be assigned and tracked throughout the season. It is not helpful to reach out directly through email to members of our programming with information about your film or with a link.
- My film was completed last year. Is it still eligible?
In order for the film to be in competition, it must have been completed on or after June 1st, 2019. If your film doesn’t meet this requirement and you would like to petition for an exception, email us with more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I submitted my film last year, but it wasn’t accepted. Could I re-submit this year?
We discourage filmmakers from re-submitting their films unless substantial changes have been made. Do you feel that your film is effectively a different film than the version you submitted last year? If not, we suggest that you don’t re-submit it.
- Does NOFF consider works-in-progress?
Yes, we often consider films for selection that aren’t 100% complete, especially cases where films are picture-locked but awaiting final color and/or sound. If you’re confident that your film will shine even with incomplete or missing elements, go ahead and submit. We do not, however, feel comfortable assessing films that are not picture-locked or are missing major scenes.
- Can I send an updated edit of my submitted film?
If you make substantial changes to your film after it is submitted, you may send us an updated version. However, depending on how far along the film is in our selection process, we cannot guarantee that the newer version will be screened. If you submit a film and then send us a new version months afterward, chances are that the original version will have already been seen by a member of our team, and we don’t have the resources to re-screen a film that’s already been watched and considered. That said, we often revisit films in the final stages of the selection process, so it is possible we will want to see the newer cut. In short, there are no guarantees, but you’re welcome to send it just in case.
- If I submit later in the year, are my film’s chances of getting selected lower?
Our programmers keep all selection slots open until after every film has been screened. So, while we screen and review and discuss submissions continuously, all season long, we don’t make any final decisions about what will screen until after everyone has seen everything and we’re about to announce our lineup for the year. Submitting later in the submissions cycle will not hurt your chances.
- Is it possible to get feedback on my film once it has been screened?
Our policy is not to offer written evaluations of films submitted to NOFF. The purpose of our review process is to allow our programmers to discover new voices and exciting films with a strong point of view, so it would be against our best interests (and yours) to offer one-size-fits-all advice with the goal of making your film “better.” This is a subjective process, and the decisions of our programming team reflect our own opinions, thoughts, and values. Just because we decide to pass on a film does not mean that we think it is a “bad” or “weak” film.
- Does my film have to be a world premiere?
No, NOFF does not require world premiere status. We want your film to reach the audiences it deserves and do not wish to hold it back from that by requiring any kind of premiere status.
- What if my film has already been in virtual festivals?
Not a problem. We’re happy for your film to receive virtual screenings prior to NOFF.
- Is my film still eligible if it’s available online?
Yes. We regularly program submissions that have already gone live on Vimeo or YouTube.
- If selected, will my film be screened in person or online?
We believe in the power of communal viewings that festivals offer and seek that out when possible. In 2020, we launched a series of outdoor screenings for about half of our lineup, and all selections were also made available through an online platform. In 2021, we are planning to continue a hybrid model, with a combination of in-person screenings (outdoor and/or indoor, depending on City regulations and audience comfort levels) and virtual screenings.
- When will I find out if my film has been selected to screen at the festival?
Our target notification date is August 27, 2021. You can expect to receive an email from us by that date about your film’s status.
- If accepted, will NOFF offer a screening fee for my film?
In 2020, NOFF launched an initiative to pay all accepted filmmakers a screening fee. Short filmmakers received $100, and feature filmmakers received $250. We intend on continuing to offer screening fees to exhibiting filmmakers in 2021.
- If my film is accepted, what do I get in terms of hospitality from the festival?
In the past, NOFF offered accommodations to filmmakers from all accepted films—both shorts and features, but in the age of COVID restrictions and our interest in keeping audiences and artists safe, we have discouraged filmmakers outside of the New Orleans area from traveling for the festival and are thus not offering hotel accommodations or travel stipends at this time.
- If accepted, will I be able to view other films at the festival?
Yes! All accepted films receive two complimentary All-Access Passes to make the most of the festival, with additional passes for your team members available for purchase at a deep discount.
- Are there any awards offered by the festival to filmmakers?
Every year, the festival offers jury awards to films in different categories. The total value of prizes awarded in 2020 was over $100,000 in camera packages, film stock, production services, cash, and software. (Fun fact: One of NOFF’s earliest winners was a documentary by first-time director Todd Phillips, who has gone on to direct The Hangover and Joker.)
- Who decides which films win the jury awards?
Three jurors are chosen for each film category and they come to a decision regarding which film will win the jury prize. Jurors for these awards represent some of the most talented leaders in the industry, including the likes of Oscar winners Melissa Leo and Tia Lessin; producer Effie Brown (Dear White People); industry writers like Aisha Harris, Nigel Smith, and Manuel Betancourt; Independent Lens producer Lois Vossen; Charlotte Cook of Field of Vision; producers Michael Gottwald and Josh Penn (Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild); and godfather of Third Cinema Kidlat Tahimik.
- Have a question that’s not covered here?
Email us at email@example.com, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Due to the festival’s Oscar-qualifying status, the recipient of the festival’s Documentary Short Jury Award, Narrative Short Jury Award, and Animated Short Jury Award will be eligible for consideration in their respective categories of the Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the films otherwise comply with the Academy rules.