At the moment, I am swamped with preview copies of new films by and about artists, all in consideration for HCAF 2015. I solicited each and every one of these from their creators or distributors, after noticing them in the schedules of other festivals, seeing them reviewed in Variety and elsewhere, or having them recommended to me by festival partners, board members, and colleagues in the field.

None of them came in unsolicited, and this puzzles many filmmakers, since it is not the way most festivals do business. Most festivals have an open call for submissions, and filmmakers check the website of festivals or festival submission services like WithoutABox to find out about the festival’s deadline, entry fee, and interests.

Filmmakers who wish to have their films considered for our program receive the following message:

The Houston Cinema Arts Festival is a curated festival and does not conduct an open call for film submissions. Our artistic director solicits preview screeners of films that fit our mission to present “films by and about visual, performing, and literary artists.” We are particularly interested in films of high artistic quality that benefit from theatrical presentation, and we give special consideration to films made by Texas filmmakers. If you have a new film made in the past two years that you think may be of interest to us, then please do send an email with a description of your film, with links to reviews if available, to If the film seems promising, then we will contact you and request a screener link and no entry fee.

 I see the Houston Cinema Arts Festival as a “temporary museum,” a term Oberhausen Short Film Festival Director Lars Henrik Gass has used to describe curated festivals. It’s an exhibition of cinematic art that attempts to cover a broad range of art forms, and also contains mini-exhibitions around themes like “street photography” in 2014 and “space” in 2015. As curator, I select all the films, but not entirely on my own, since I solicit ideas and jointly program with many festival partners, including Marian Luntz at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Mary Magsamen at the Aurora Picture Show, Evan Wildstein at the Asia Society, Ryan Dennis at Project Row Houses, and many more.

iss044e001198 There is one, brand new exception to this rule and that is the CineSpace competition, which is our open call for films that rework sounds and images from space supplied by our partner, NASA. The deadline for entries is July 31, and there are substantial prizes of up to $10,000 and no entry fees! We expect many submissions, and so a pre-screening committee will join me in reviewing the submissions and making recommendations to the competition’s judge, Richard Linklater. You can expect to see the top films from this contest at a special screening during the HCAF week.