When we conceived the Diamond in the Rough Film Festival there was no question that we were going to host it in a real movie theater. That was not as simple a decision as it might sound.
There are different kinds of film festivals these days. One type which has been gaining in popularity is the Online film festival. Online film festivals usually have you post a Vimeo or YouTube link to their website in order to showcase them. Then, people log into it and vote on each posted film.
Now obviously doing the online method cuts down a film festival's costs significantly by not needing a venue or worrying about selling tickets to get folks in the seats. Sometimes these online film festivals can give out some decent prizes because they can pour all of their submission fees (hopefully!) towards them.
Online film festivals do not seem to be very picky with their submissions since they have the unlimited space of their web hosting and not finite theater rental hours. In the past DITR has submitted a couple of short films to online film festivals and have ALWAYS been accepted. So if you need some ego stroking and some film festival laurels to put on your movie poster, online film festivals can help with that.
But with online film festivals there is no "audience", no excitement, no "buzz", no lights dimming. It's a one-way street between the viewer and their computer monitor.
The other type of alternative film festival is what I call an Awards Fest. These are festivals to be entered solely to win some type of award (Best Actor, Best Direction, etc.). They sometimes have an online screening component but plenty do not. If you want to spend money hoping to get an Award Winner! laurel and an IMDB credit (to be fair, some of these have some cool prizes as well), maybe you'd want to spend some money on entering one.
But to us here at DITR, a film festival means screening in a movie theater. On the biggest screen with the best sound system we can possibly get. The main reason for this is for the filmmakers themselves. We feel it is an important part of the learning experience of making films. Projected movies look and sound very different in a theater than on a computer or flat screen television. The filmmaker gets to experience their film in a unique environment which then creates a unique
perspective. It is amazing how differently a movie plays in a theater with a captive audience focused on it. No pausing it to use the restroom or to loudly ask a bunch of questions while the characters on screen are providing answers to said questions or to predict entire plot points out loud well before the movie even gets underway or to get up and toast a pop tart.
I have made movies that were praised by an audience of two when played on my computer monitor in my office only to have massive flaws exposed on the big screen with an audience.
A movie theater. In the dark. With a bunch of strangers. Your movie playing up there for all to see. There is no substitute.