~~~ LAST CHANCE! ~~~



Fall, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, photo by Medford Taylor


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Can’t wait until the Moondance 2013 call-for-entries in December?

NOW, through November 30, 2012, Moondance is offering you the opportunity to get your submission in right now for this special Early-bird competition! Here’s the deal: Submit your screenplays, short stories, TV pilots, films, music & etc. (see all competition categories) for the lowest discounted entry fee of the year, only $25, during October & November 2012. Postmark deadline November 30, only for the “FAST-FORWARD EARLY-BIRD” contest. Regular entry fees start December 1, 2012.



Here’s what you can win:

  • All “FAST-FORWARD EARLY-BIRD” winners, finalists & semi-finalists will receive an official certificate of your project’s award status!
  • All “FAST-FORWARD EARLY-BIRD” winners, finalists & semi-finalists will be listed on the December 2012 blog & website!
  • All “FAST-FORWARD EARLY-BIRD” winners, finalists & semi-finalists can get 2 free 2013 Moondance film festival movie tickets (a $30 value)!


For submission info, go to:

EARLY-BIRD Application not available via





If you would like to have your award star & official winner certificate mailed to you, please go to to pay the postage. $10 for US addresses & $20 for foreign addresses. Remember to also EMAIL your mailing address & the title of your winning 2012 project. This offer expires December 31, 2012. *Award stars & certificates are sent to 2012 winners only, not finalists & semi-finalists.



If your submitted project was chosen as a Moondance 2012 Winner, Finalist or Semi-finalist, please feel free to download the Moondance laurel graphic to use in your publicity. This offer expires December 31, 2012.



If you’d like to order a full-sized, full-color original Moondance NYC 2012 poster, co-designed by Joe Gilpin, Jr. and Elizabeth English, please go to to place your order. The cost is $25 each, plus US or foreign postage. This offer expires December 31, 2012.



The Michael Weise publication, “FILMMAKING FOR CHANGE, How to Make Films That Transform the World”, by Jon Fitzgerald, is a marvel, a revelation, and a must-read, for film buffs, indie filmmakers, film festival programmers, studio heads, film distributors, and screenwriters! This important book entertains, informs, inspires, encourages and educates the reader. Filmmakers, writers and composers are vocal and active participants in the social forces that can shape our culture. Films, scripts and music can all greatly contribute to a healthier society, and these creative works should encourage the active involvement of audiences to connect and act collectively to address social and environmental challenges. Sign up now for the MWP newsletter and get your complimentary e-book: ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MOVIE MAKING MASTERCLASS. You can also check out our free filmmaker resources. There you’ll find sample budgets & forms, course outlines, and more…



In our continuing efforts to promote top-quality original filmmaking, writing and music composition by talented artists from around the world, the Moondance International Film Festival is very pleased to announce that our festival competitions have brought in great submissions, in all categories, from: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curaçao, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Lithuania, Malta, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Serbia/Montenegro, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tasmania, Turkey, United Arab Republic, the UK, the USA, Venezuela, Zambia, and more!



The November 5th Moondance blog is really a masterpiece…. and I don’t say that lightly.  The insider tips article on how to get an agent is the best help I’ve ever seen for screenwriters – new or old-timers.  It is brilliant piece of work.  This alone is well worth the price of the 2013 competition entry fee.” ~ LORNA KANTER




Adventures in Judging
Film Entries in a Film Festival

(Ways to Better Your Chances of Winning)

By Elizabeth English

~~~ Make sure your entire submission package is festival- friendly! ~~~

PREPARATION TO SUBMIT TO A FILM FESTIVAL: Send in your entry as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the last day of the entry deadline.
 Send your film in the format required by the festival. If they ask for a preview DVD in NTSC format, don’t send a PAL format. Do not attach a paper label directly to the face of the DVD! Paper labels very often cause the DVD to stop, stick, and/or pixilate. Have the title and other info printed onto the DVD, or handwrite it with a marker pen. Most film festivals will not accept or preview DVDs with paper labels. Don’t make the festival wait while you try to get back your lone screener from another festival!

FOR MAILING: Package your screener safely, and send it, and with your WAB tracking number, if you have one,  on the DVD or the box (or entry form, release form, & entry fee, if not via WAB) in one envelope or box, if using WAB’s submission service. Do not use those padded envelopes filled with grey shredded kapok, as it can damage DVD. It also makes a big mess when opened. Use correct postage.

Do not send the submission as registered mail. This often requires the person at the festival who gets the notice of registered mail to go to the post office & stand in line to sign for it. Usually, the mail carrier will not leave the package if no-one is available to sign for it, and it may be sent back to you.

US post offices have a good option: Delivery Confirmation notice. It’s a lot less expensive than registered mail & you can track the package online, to see when it was delivered, and even get a print-out that it was delivered properly, for your records. If you want a confirmation that your submission was received, please send (with your submission package) an attached post card with US postage (if entering a US competition). Write on the postcard: your name and address in the mail-to area, and on the back or in the message area, write: (name of festival) has received the film (title of your entry) on this date_________. Or request email confirmation.

Do not send an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) with your submission for return of your preview video or DVD, if the festival or competition announces that they will not return preview submissions. You’ll be wasting the postage. If you are sending your film to the US from another country, note on the customs declaration that the film has no (or $1) commercial value, or is a commercial sample, so the film festival is not charged a customs fee, in which case, the festival will probably refuse to accept your entry at all, and it will be discarded by the post office or returned to you. Please remember to write the WAB tracking number on the DVD and the box, not just on the mailing envelope, , if using WAB’s submission service.

ENTRY FEES: Attach the check or money-order with a paper-clip (don’t staple it in) to the front of the official entry form, if you have not paid via WAB. If it’s for a US festival or competition, make sure the funds are in US dollars. Don’t just toss the entry fee into the bottom of the envelope, as it may be missed. When sending a money-order, write your name on it, so we know who it’s from. When sending a check from someone else or a production company, write your name and the title of the submission on it, for the same reason.

CONTACT INFO: Be sure to add your current email address to your submission form. If you have a spam filter, add the festival’s email address to your white list, so you can receive emails from them. If you change your address, phone number or e-mail address, please let the festival know this right away, so they can contact you if your film is selected for screening. Send e-mail addresses for all others who may want to be notified of the film’s status in the contest.
 If the festival has a news blog, subscribe to it, and read the blog when it arrives in your in-box.

MEDIA PACKAGES: If required for previews, send several publicity stills via e-mail, or a CD Rom with titled stills of your film in the submission package. If not required for previews, don’t send publicity materials. If your film is selected for screening, the festival will ask you for stills for their print program and media promo. The film stills need to sell your film to an audience, and make them want to see it. Use the best quality photos you have, and label them.

LABELING YOUR FILM: Please label the jewel-box or sleeve the DVD or film comes in, as well as printing the info directly on the DVD. The festival needs the following information on all film labels: Title of film, name of filmmaker, format, running time of film & genre (narrative feature or short, documentary, animation, etc.).

BUDGET FOR ENTRY FEES: Plan your film production budget to include film festival entry fees as the main method of marketing your film and your work.

Don’t ask the film festival to waive or reduce the entry fee for you. If the festival has a scholarship program available, it will be announced, and you can apply for it. Most film festivals are made possible by the entry fees collected.

BE PATIENT: Do not call, write or email the film festival to see if they’ve watched your film and if they liked it. Do not ask for comments or critiques unless the festival has announced they will give them. If you want a written or oral critique on your film and the festival charges a fee for that, add that amount to your entry fee.

Most film festivals will email you about your submission status, and will announce the winners, finalists and semi-finalists on their website and/or blog.

ATTEND THE FILM FESTIVAL: If your film should be a finalist or winner, and is selected for screening at the film festival, plan to attend the screening and participate in the festival by watching others’ films, too, as a courtesy to both the film festival that is promoting your film and to the other filmmakers.

Attending a film festival, and actively participating, is the best way to network.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS: If your film is not in English (for a US festival), do not have it dubbed into English. Use English subtitles, instead, written by a native English-speaker. Most festivals will not preview nor screen a dubbed film.

HAVE A GREAT, EYE-CATCHING TITLE & GRAPHICS FOR YOUR FILM! The title & graphic images should be memorable and unique, whether it’s a narrative fiction feature, a short, a documentary or animation.

HAVE A GREAT LOGLINE &/OR MINI-SYNOPSIS FOR YOUR FILM! This should also be memorable and unique, and sells the film to the festival programmer, and the audience, making them want to see your film, whether it’s a narrative fiction feature, a short, music video, a documentary or animation.

“Stangeface”, short film by Lynne Vincent McCarthy, Australia

OPENING SCENE: Have a great opening scene and a compelling first 5 or 10 minutes. Don’t start your film with long minutes of credits on a blank screen. Or with these two all-too-common openings: Shot of a bedroom, guy or woman in bed asleep, alarm clock rings, hand reaches out to shut off alarm, clock falls to floor, anonymous feet pad to the bathroom. OR: camera pans across a mantle or table or wall filled with family photos, showing viewer who the story is about. Been done a million times. Be creative! Do something unique!

Catch the festival programmer’s and the audience’s attention!

STORY: Make sure your film has a story. Even if it’s a documentary, it must have a story to follow and keep the viewer’s interest. Select a really good screenplay or story that will be of interest to festival programmer, festival director AND the potential festival audience, who will be glad to have paid for tickets to see your film!

FILM SCORE: Have a fantastic, memorable, original film score. The film score is one of the most important elements of your film.

PRODUCTION VALUES: Be sure to utilize good cinematography, lighting, sound, costumes, hair, makeup, locations, music, sets and props. Make sure the film’s lighting and sound is the same value throughout each scene. Production values count as much as the story, directing, editing and acting. Block out blue outside light, so your film’s colors are natural.

DIRECTING YOUR ACTORS: The actors shouldn’t be perceived as reading their lines and hitting their marks. They should not even be acting, but should BE the character, thinking and feeling and reacting, as the character.

Acting is re-acting, to dialog, situations, action, emotions. For documentary films, avoid all those “talking heads”. Use voice-over visuals to tell your story in a cinematic manner as much as possible.

EDITING: Edit “invisibly”, so that the film segues seamlessly and always flows forward. Edit out all but the gem of the story.

CREDITS: Consider adding the credits to the end of the film, rather than at the opening. Make them interesting, visually, maybe with stills from the film, bloopers, or out-takes, and with music from the film. Film credits shouldn’t be longer than the film! Please keep them short and sweet, and moving quickly.

RUNNING TIME: Make your film as short as possible. Consider ruthlessly cutting that 60-minute film to 30, 45 or 50 minutes!

Be aware that film festivals often want to screen films in one-hour segments, and need time between screenings for each audience to get seated, and then to exit the theater, between each screening.

Let’s fill ALL those seats!!


1. STORY, STORY, STORY! Doc films absolutely need a story, to be of interest to the general audience. A unique story, well-told.

2. And a unique protagonist for viewers to relate to. The protagonist can even be the filmmaker or narrator.

“Alaska Women Mariners” documentary TV pilot, directed by Anna Young

3. LOCATIONS, LOCATIONS, LOCATIONS! Film at interesting, cinematic, unique locations, and let the audience know where the film takes place.

4. Do a lot of voice-overs while showing visuals, scenes…try to eliminate all those boring talking heads!

5. Add in natural, ambient sounds to the sound track.

6. Keep color, lighting & sound even, in all shots, where possible.

7. Have an Act I, II, III (beginning, middle & end), with a good, memorable climax or resolution.

“Afghan Nightmare” feature doc, directed by Klaus Erik Okstad, Norway

8. Imagine you’re doing a fictional, narrative film, and try to end on a positive note.

“Blue velvet in Sinai” feature doc directed by Gulrukh Khan, UK

9. Select a subject or theme for your film project that is of great interest to a film festival programmer and a wide audience, and which will make them enthusiastic about your film’s subject.

10. Edit and cut relentlessly. Keep it as short as possible.

Considering a consultation?

Contact Elizabeth English at:

Visit her blog-site for more info and affordable rates!


EE & Obama, @ 2012 Election Night Victory Party

An Australian Moondance winner commented, on seeing this pic, “I hear that he’s been showing this picture to everybody on Capitol Hill. They all stare incredulously and ask him: Is that really Elizabeth English?“ ;o)



metal sculpture by Charlotte Zink

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you. ~THOMAS JEFFERSON


Mahatma Gandhi

Be as great in act, as you have been in thought.” ~ WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE


To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” ~ FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE


To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” ~ ANATOLE FRANCE


The Brooklyn Bridge

“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ~ THOMAS A. EDISON


~~ Thanks for reading the Moondance news blog! ~~

NOTE: Replying? Have a question? Change the email subject line! Please don’t just click on REPLY, if you want to comment or ask a question about this blog, because your email to me will stack up in Gmail, and I have to scroll through the entire blog to find your email, along with the many others who just click REPLY to the blog. Changing even a word, or adding a /, in the subject line of the email to me will make it arrive as an individual email. Thanks for the email courtesy!

Please forward this news blog to your friends and colleagues!

Mermaid sculpture by Charlotte Zink,


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