Why Should I Support Family-Run Film Festivals?

Published in
5 min readSep 13, 2019


By Anna Hanson, Director of Operations for Dancing Spider Film Festival

There are 8,643 reasons to avoid working with your siblings.

There are two reasons to give it a shot though: 1) Your siblings are qualified. 2) They will work for free.

Film festivals require complete faith from both the filmmaker and the audience. When it comes to submitting a film, there’s no budget big enough to cover entry fees to every single festival, and when it comes to viewers, there’s no guarantee your film will find them. If you’re looking to test the waters of a film festival for attendance, you likely don’t want to be stuck with a massive program to sift through, not knowing where to start. Look no further than family-run film festivals. Your time, energy, and film would be arguably better served by submitting to and/or attending a family-run film festival. Here’s why:

Submitting to Family-Run Film Festivals

Dedicated Viewership

If you’re submitting to multiple festivals, especially if you’re a student or new-ish filmmaker, you want as many eyeballs on your project as possible. If the festival is a “Mom and Pops Film Festival,” you’re almost guaranteed four eyeballs. If the festival is run by a gaggle of non-competitive but highly opinionated (and stubborn) siblings, you’re guaranteed a minimum of 10 eyeballs. At Dancing Spider Film Festival, we start with a screening committee and then each of us will force the others to watch the films we loved. Then we’ll kick it to our pals with similar taste just to corroborate our opinion and then re-share it with the group with the new (blind) confidence (confirmation bias) that our like-minded friends provided. Finally, we will argue against our darlings and decide what will play best at the venue and with the audience.

Varied Programming

Unless you’re a family of actual clones, you likely have a different perspective and a little different taste from your siblings. That means all of the eyes watching your film are going to take something different away from it. There are three of us at Dancing Spider and we’re all going to connect with a different part of your film. We’re all going to hit on a different theme but not every joke or note of subtext will land with all of us. Submitting your film to a family-run festival is a good way to play the odds of your work finding it’s kin in a program.

Personal Attention for your Film

We discuss each submission at length and run it by most of the film people we know and then table it for later, mull it over, and then return to it for a final decision. You can rest assured that your submission is taking up a lot of brain space and a lot of conversation capital with a family festival.

My brothers and I started a film festival at a drive-in movie theater four years ago and our relationship has since been tested on an almost daily basis. Suffice it to say we are in a constant state of communication — some effective, some not, some constructive, and some (most) not, but we chat a lot and the lion’s share is about our festival and probably about the film you submitted.

Attending family-run festivals

Personal Boutique Experience

If you are dipping a toe in the festival waters, consider attending a small and manageable one for your first go. The benefits of attending a family-run festival is strictly a numbers game. We’re everywhere. There is no division of labor on site which means we’re all doing everything (I never said we’re efficient). And if one of us doesn’t have the answer to your question, the person with the answer is one text, or more likely, nine paces away at any given time. You’ll be greeted several times by the fest founders because they’ll be shocked and delighted that anyone came at all! There aren’t that many family-run festivals in the country, and there’s nothing to suggest they’re anything short of a miracle when you encounter them. Ask any one of us. I’ll say it again….it’s a miracle. It really is most of what we talk about, look forward to and work our hardest for. It’s to build a place where you can step outside your comfort zone for an affordable price and a reasonable timeframe.

Supporting Local Community

Dancing Spider would be nowhere without the support of our network and since the beginning we’ve prioritized supporting other people doing their own thing. All three of us are blessed to know so many people paving their own way and it’s a joy to be able to watch them make strides. It’s a conscious effort from all of us because we know firsthand how hard it is to make something out of nothing. If your friend is launching their own fashion line, buy whatever the thing is! If it’s expensive, then add it to the budget and get it in a few months. You know full well it’s expensive because it’s probably them doing it all alone and taking up all of their free time. Your cousin starts a sustainable screen printing company? Shut up and buy a shirt. A pal starts a fundraiser to get her comedy show to a fringe festival? Give them your money immediately. Point being, even if you think it’s a terrible idea, offer support because you might be wrong and they’ll never know if it could have worked unless they try. Unless your mom wants to start an Etsy store…some things just aren’t worth it.*

If a network is a reflection of the person then we have no excuse not to bolster the creators and innovators. It’s our responsibility to support the things that lend themselves to the type of world we want to see. If you want less mass-produced stuff and more connection, then it’s our responsibility to spend our hard earned money at places with better mission statements. Y’know, like the ones who are trying to build a community for storytellers on the plains of rural South Dakota and Minnesota. HINT HINT.

*Anna loves her mother very much and would somehow summon the strength to help if needed.

Anna and her brothers started Dancing Spider Film Festival as an offshoot of their publication. Nosebleeds Magazine showcases up and comers in the entertainment industry.