A Note About Our Programming Practices

Hi friends,

As your friendly neighborhood HBFF programming director, I wanted to quickly clarify some things about our programming procedure.

There’s a lot of scary stuff online about icky festival practices. I want to stress that Guy and I take your films very seriously. We do everything possible to keep our programming as fair and transparent as possible. So here I’ll break down our process, so you know what to expect when your film enters the HBFF submission pool.

Who evaluates my film?

At minimum, both Guy and I will watch your film. Your WHOLE film. Not five or ten minutes. The entire thing. It’s good practice, first off, but mostly we just love doing it!

We also typically have a few volunteer screeners who add their input. We do not pawn off films on our screeners—we just believe having extra voices makes us better programmers and film lovers.

Who decides whether my film makes it in the festival?

Once we have watched every entry, Guy and I work together to decide which films are the best fit for the festival.

Our evaluation spreadsheet includes catch-all categories (technical, story, and acting) as well as a larger area for specific notes. We consider how the film functions overall, what interests us about it or what we think doesn’t quite work.  All of this is subjective, of course, which is why we try to get as many opinions as possible, and why Guy and I make final decisions together.

Should you be rejected and want to know why, shoot us an email and we’ll happily provide these notes for you.

Who judges the accepted films for category awards?

We’re thankful for our volunteer team of judges, consisting of filmmakers, academics, and industry professionals. These judges select category winners from the films we select for the festival.

We’re still finalizing our panel for 2019. If you’d like to join us as a judge this year, please let us know! The more the merrier.


HBFF does not and will never take a fee waiver rejection as cause to overlook your film.

I don’t even look at trailer links included in waiver request emails unless I suspect they might be able to fluff a block or fill a niche. (Check our FAQ section for more info about waivers.) If you get a waiver rejection, it’s because your request doesn’t fit our waiver guidelines, not because I didn’t like your film. And if you choose to submit anyway—which I hope you do! —that rejection will NOT factor into how we evaluate your film.


Many festivals offer fee waivers to films they’re particularly interested in. Guy and I occasionally dabble in this, but not often. For example, in the past we’ve reached out to surf related films and horror films in order to make sure we have niche categories filled. We’ll probably do this again. But we promise that we will always privilege submitted films over curation. We’re way more interested in the surprising, exciting, delightful work y’all send our way! Curated films will never account for more than a handful of our selection.

I hope this is a useful snapshot into our work at HBFF, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. I’m so lucky to see all the amazing films you wonderful folks create, and genuinely wish you all the best as you continue to make gorgeous, important art. Submissions are still open until May 1, so keep ‘em coming!



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