Inside the Circus International Film Fest: a Sneak Peek Behind the Curtains - CircusTalk

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Inside the Circus International Film Fest: a Sneak Peek Behind the Curtains

Whether you are new to the idea of bringing a live art form onto video or are an avid watcher of all circus films, you have probably wondered: what makes a great film stand out from the competition? In this exclusive message, the team behind the Circus International Film Festival reveals the work that goes into evaluating circus films… and how to judge them for yourself.

As we enter our third year of showcasing circus films from around the world, our small international team of volunteers stays true to our original goal of honoring circus through the medium of film and video. We work tirelessly throughout the year to coordinate all aspects of the film festival, connecting through group chats and frequent Zoom calls. We have enjoyed watching the Circus International Film Festival (CIFF) grow and evolve as we continue to wow the circus community with the incredible films we showcase each year. In this exclusive look behind the scenes of film fest production, we invite you to enter our world.

As a festival, we are passionate about creating opportunities and fostering diversity within the growing circus filmmaking community. We often distribute fee waivers to those in need to eliminate financial barriers. In the past three years, we have presented films from six continents and 32 countries to an audience of over 175 viewers. Our filmmakers hail from around the globe and come from all walks of circus life; from the rural aerialist to the city-dwelling diabolo master, we showcase it all.

One of the most exciting aspects of this film festival is seeing how the circus filmmaking community has really upped its game in the past years. We are overwhelmingly impressed by the incredible innovation our filmmakers showcase, pushing circus as a unique film genre to develop in new and exciting ways.

Inspired by the high quality of submissions, we have increased the filmmaking standards necessary to be accepted into the festival. As the first step in our selection process, each CIFF team member reviews every submitted film for content, storyline, and innovation. We then check that they are of high cinematic quality while propelling the world of circus films forward to new heights. We ensure that every film utilizes circus as an integral element of the storytelling mechanism instead of an unimportant aspect of a larger film story.

After we review the films and select the highest-quality candidates, we send out acceptance letters. We then pass the baton to our jury members. Our jury features esteemed filmmakers, actors, jaw-dropping Cirque du Soleil performers, students at various prestigious circus schools, choreographers, show directors, stunt performers, Guinness World Record holders, casting crew, and storytellers from all over the world. Learn more about our jury and read their bios on our jury page.

Throughout February and March, the jury members in each category watch every film in its entirety, scoring it using a provided rubric. To give you a taste of what we look for, categories include music/sound quality, narrative, and use of circus performance. Our jury members score every film in each provided category on a scale of 1-10. When their collective jury decision has been made, we present the “Juried Choice” award, sometimes including runners-up, to be presented on World Circus Day 2023.

To say we were incredibly impressed as our team reviewed last year’s 97 submitted films is a vast understatement. We quickly discovered that there were simply not enough awards to go around to all the films of exceptional merit, so we made a new category of honors. Joining the Juried and Audience Choice Awards for the first time in 2022 was an entirely new distinction; the prestigious Founder’s Award. Selected by the three original team members of the Circus International Film Festival, this award recognizes those pushing the world of circus filmmaking forward in new and exciting ways. It features three films that stand out to us as something just a little bit special and deserving of additional recognition.

But what about you? Join us as an audience member to receive access to this year’s 42 selected films sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning between March 14 to April 15. All audience members can join an exclusive Discord chat for effortless 24/7 connection with a community of circus film aficionados right at your fingertips. For just $25, your ticket will provide you with all this and more. Finally, we transfer the power to YOU as you cast your vote for the CIFF Audience Choice Award in each category.

We could not be more excited for you to join us for the 2023 Circus International Film Festival. This year’s films, covering topics ranging from human rights to behind-the-scenes of professional circus productions, will delight and inspire you as you venture deeper into the emerging world of circus and film. See you down the road!

Emily Fulton
Festival Assistant
Insta: @circusinternationalfilmfest

P.S. Get your tickets here.

Main image: headshots of three CIFF team members, clockwise, from bottom left: founder Marisa Diamond, festival assistant Emily Fulton, and communications director Jonathan Meehan. Images shared by Jonathan.
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Circus International Film Festival

Circus International Film Festival started in 2021, born out of a worldwide pandemic and a hunger for creative expression​. Our founder, a filmmaker and circus artist, realized the need for a film festival dedicated to circus, after years of submitting my circus films to film festivals under the Music Video, Dance, or Experimental categories. CIFF exists for circus artists and filmmakers alike. We are here to support and honor bringing the art of circus to the medium of film.