We’re all about independent horror. That means, we’re looking for horror films made by small indie studios, and even student filmmakers. Independent filmmakers are the lifeblood of the Horror genre. Commercial horror is a genre often stuck in a rut; it’s the independent filmmakers who innovate and create new horrific ideas, and who become the new masters of horror. Clive Barker, Wes Craven, Eli Roth, Kathryn Bigelow, John Carpenter, Jennifer Kent, and many more notable names, all came out of left field with small indie films that changed the face of horror. More than any other genre, horror relies on new filmmakers with new ways to scare us. It’s our goal to showcase and foster the next generation.
Are you part of that next generation of horror masters? Submit your short or feature-length horror (or dark fantasy/horror-oriented urban fantasy) film to us through FilmFreeway. We chose FilmFreeway as our submission platform because they embrace independent filmmaking, as well as new technologies, and they make it easy for filmmakers to submit their project to the best film festivals around the world.
For screening films prior to selection, we will only accept FilmFreeway streaming screeners. We do not accept mailed DVDs or other media. We have several judges, some in different areas, and a streaming screener through FilmFreeway ensures that we’re all looking at the same thing, and voting on the same platform.
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
We’re looking for fresh scares and films that delve deep in the darkness. What this means is fluid, but can range from supernatural horror to dark fantasy. Give us new dark worlds, on the Earth, beneath it, outside it. Give us sunny afternoons filled with dread, nights filled with the unknown. Give us vast vistas of horror, or small moments of fear.
All the recent films we love right now are so far outside the box, it’s hard to even classify them: The Babadook, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Kill List, Jug Face, You’re Next. Even our favorite classic horrors virtually created new genres: Hellraiser, Re-Animator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Prince of Darkness, Near Dark, Hostel, The Blair Witch Project.
IF YOUR FILM IS SELECTED
If we select your film for exhibition, it will be projected on a big screen, in a historic movie palace, in front of a horde of independent horror fiends. You will be invited to attend and take part in a Q&A (a pass to the festival will be provided, but travel and lodging will be up to you, but we will have hotel suggestions).
We recommend that any filmmaker (submitting to any festival) have at least these three versions of their film available and ready for download at a moment’s notice:
- DCP (with 5.1 audio, if possible – stereo isn’t the best for large theaters, so you should consider a 5.1 mix, or at least a L, R, Center mix)
- Apple ProRes 422 (not HQ, just plain 422 is high enough bitrate for projection) with either 5.1 audio or stereo sound
- 1080p HD or 2k H.264 MP4 of at least 10Mbps with STEREO sound
Most festivals will ask for one or sometimes all three of these if your film is selected, and you can help the process move along faster, if you’re ready with links as soon as you’re selected, rather than having to take time to render, export, and upload. You may only have a few days to get download links to a festival, so you should already have these formats covered and uploaded to a service like Google Drive or Dropbox, when you start submitting. At Portland Horror, we can make a DCP for you, if you don’t have one, but if you do, it’s easier for everyone.
We recommend you learn about video bitrates, since we’ll ask about that, if you’re selected.
All films should be available for download in 2k (preferred) or 1080p HD digital formats (SD is too yesteryear, and doesn’t project well, while 4K makes huge and difficult to transmit files that are more likely to glitch on theater equipment and don’t look much better when projected on a screen). We also prefer 24fps, but can sometimes accommodate 25fps (but you should be making your film in the 24fps international film standard, not 25 (derived from PAL broadcast standard 50) or 30 (derived from NTSC broadcast standard 60fps)… both are obsolete and create unnecessary difficulties in exhibition. 24fps is the way to go. For those of you in Europe with 25fps films, we can take those files, but we often must do frame rate conversions on our end to make the film play nice with US equipment… you can help us by having a 24fps version available).
If your film is selected, we’ll ask you to make your film available to us by download through services like Google Drive, Dropbox, WeTransfer, or MASV (our favorite, because it’s the only unthrottled service, which means uploads and downloads are far faster on each end). If you’re ready with one of those as soon as we select your film, your film will be announced sooner, get listed on our Website and facebook page quicker, be included in our teaser trailers, and get programmed earlier, all of which gives you better exposure.
The films we most often select are short films, 10-15 minutes in length, with great pacing, scares, and atmosphere, plus solid technical qualities like good sound and picture, and which are not already available to the public through streaming sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Nail all that, and your chances are excellent.
We also select the most vibrant, horrifying, and technically accomplished horror features from many horror sub-genres. A submitted feature should be particularly solid technically, with excellent sound and picture (a feature with poor sound will almost never be selected), a unique premise with significant tension and notable atmosphere, and relatively quick pacing. We expect features to be edited very very tightly, and are more likely to select those 90 minutes or under. We like to show a variety of genres, so will typically choose a mix.
These are all just tips; we seriously consider films of all shapes and sizes, and are always surprised by the films we select to exhibit! Also, while those points may sound like we’re just saying “make a good movie,” we encourage you to consider each point: pacing (“kill your darlings” and edit tightly to keep the story moving – poor pacing is our number one reason for rejection), video quality, and sound quality (a muddy picture or difficult to hear dialogue will turn off a festival audience, and jury, quicker than a concession stand with no popcorn). Beyond that, tell us a compelling story we haven’t heard before, fill it with great characters, and we’ll be hooked.
We love all horror, and we want to see what you’ve got, but show us something unique. If you’re making the next iteration of a crazy family flick, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, another romantic vampire waste, like Twilight, or yet more paranormal researchers in an abandoned asylum, to keep our attention, the crazy family better be from another dimension, the romantic vampires might be serious sado-masochists, and the abandoned asylum could be an ancient starship that pre-dates the rise of humankind. Getting the idea? We’re interested in films that will set the next trend, not copy yesterday’s great films.