Documentary Film Festival Recognized by National Publication

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has been recognized by MovieMaker magazine's annual list of "Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee," which showcases festivals around the world.

"It's fantastic to be recognized by probably the most widely read film magazine," said Courtney Pledger, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival executive director. "This gets the name of the festival out there all over the world and hopefully a broader base of submissions.

"To be placed in their top list is a great honor and, I think, it's a recognition of what they view to be the 'rising stars' (of festivals)."

According to a news release, MovieMaker magazine is the nation's leading resource on the art and business of making movies and the world's most widely read independent film magazine with an international five-times yearly distribution of 44,000, a readership of more than 160,000, and a direct print subscriber base of more than 10,000. The magazine's award-winning website,, receives more than 1 million visitors per year.

Pledger said documentary filmmakers are "faced with hard decisions when it comes to their festival budgets and festival choices," with the film festival's goal being to make those filmmakers feel supported and "part of the HSDFF family."

Early deadline for entries is Wednesday, with the extended deadline set for July 1. Entry fees range from $35 to $70, varying from features to short films, and all entries go through a screening committee.

"So far now, with early deadline being the lightest, we're way over where we were this time last year," Pledger said, with probably 75-100 more submissions than this time in 2014.

HSDFF is an Academy-qualifying festival in the category of Documentary Short Subject. Recipients of the festival's Spa City Best Documentary Short Award will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Annual Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.

Th Academy contacted HSDFF in 2013 after that year's event and in January 2014, they were called and congratulated for being added to the list of designated festivals for Documentary Short Subject. Later in 2014, Pledger learned the designation was retroactive, so they were able to award filmmaker Kerry Kolbe, "The German Who Came to Tea" from 2013, thus making 2015 the third qualifying year for the Academy Awards.

"I think it really has an impact from a couple different angles," Pledger said, adding if one has a short film, they are going to look to see the festivals they might want to attend where their film might win and instantly qualify for the Oscar long list.

"That definitely makes us very attractive to filmmakers of shorts," she said. "It's kind of like being given an honorary crown. Even if you're not entering the shorts, it's a badge of honor and quality that I think has an impact all the way around."

The festival hosts several film juries, Spa City Best Documentary Feature, Spa City Best Documentary Short and Spa City Best Sports Documentary, made up of distinguished members of the international filmmaking community, and special guests and industry leaders look at the status when considering attendance to a film festival.

"We have a lot coming back," Pledger said, and not just repeat guests from year to year, but even a decade later. "It's nice because some of them will call and say, 'I don't have a film this year, but can I be involved? Can you put me on a jury or give me a job? I want to come back to Hot Springs.'"

It truly becomes like family and Pledger said "over time, that's how festivals really do grow -- those continuing relationships."

Considered by many filmmakers as a "summer camp for documentarians," the festival is a true "walk festival" utilizing Low Key Arts as a secondary venue to the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa.

"We are an intimate festival, even though we have 100 films," Pledger said. "The filmmaker lounge we have has been an incredible hit," serving food and refreshments all day during the festival for all-access passholders and sponsors to hang out in a cozy environment between screenings. Lasting friendships have developed after people met during the festival, but with this distinction from MovieMaker magazine, Pledger hopes to see continued growth of interest in the festival.

"This list from MovieMaker is so important to us," she said. "That magazine has evaluated hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of festivals around the world and whittled it down it to 50 festivals they really thought were worth the money."

Local on 04/14/2015