Rethinking the Film Festival: Strategies for Documentaries

Filmmakers are constantly asked to have a festival strategy. But, beyond submitting to the broadly-known film festivals, collecting press clippings, and hoping to sell your film, what constitutes a sound festival strategy? What are the options for films that don’t seem like easy film festival fare and how do you structure your outreach to find the right audience for your film?

This panel will delve into niche festivals to help you think through the ways that these specialized fests can be useful in connecting with audiences, supporting the impact goals for your documentary, and developing ongoing relationships with organizations that you can draw upon for future projects.


Romola O. Lucas is an attorney, and avid Caribbean/indie film enthusiast. She is the Managing Director of the Third Horizon Film Festival and the Executive Director of the Caribbean Film Academy (CaFa), whose mission is to create platforms to support and share the voices and stories of the Caribbean. As CaFA’s executive director, she manages the organization’s programming – promotion, exhibition, production, and distribution of Caribbean films. 

Michelle Materre has a professional background spanning more than 30 years’ experience as film producer, writer, arts administrator, and distribution and marketing specialist. Early in her career, she was a staff writer/producer for Henry Hampton’s Blackside Productions, and an assistant story editor for MGM/UA in the feature film division. As a founding partner of KJM3 Entertainment Group, Inc., she directly managed the marketing and positioning of 23 films including Daughters of the Dust (Dir: Julie Dash). Her film series, Creatively Speaking, has presented works by and about women and people of color for twenty one years. In February 2015, Creatively Speaking co-presented Tell It Like it Is: Black Independents in NYC 1968-1986, with The Film Society of Lincoln Center and it was awarded the Film Heritage Award by the National Society of Film Critics. Materre co-curated with BAMcinématek staff One Way or Another: Black Women Filmmakers 1970 – 1991. Richard Brody of The New Yorker listed the program as “The Best Repertory Series of 2017” in his “Best Movies of 2017”. The National Society of Film Critics honored the series with the “Film Heritage” Award of 2017. Materre is Co-Producer and Educational Outreach and Distribution Coordinator for Black Women in Medicine (Dir: Crystal Emery).  In addition to holding a position as Associate Professor of Media Studies and Film at The New School where she has been teaching since 2001, Materre is currently the Director of the Bachelor’s Program for Adults and Transfer Students at The New School. Materre is a current member of the Board of Directors of Women Make Movies; former member of the Board of Directors of New York Women in Film and Television; a recipient of the “Distinguished Teaching Award” from The New School in 2005; a recipient of The Pen and Brush Society’s ‘Accomplished Women in the Arts’ Award; as well as a featured artist in the much-acclaimed annual journal documenting contemporary artists, Artist and Influence.

Tracy Schott is a producer/director and founder of Schott Productions, and has created hundreds of film and video projects, including television commercials, web-content, corporate communications, theatrical and event content. She directed the Emmy-nominated Dream Weddings on NBC affiliate WGAL for 3 seasons. Her award-winning documentary film Finding Jenn’s Voice, is the centerpiece of the community engagement campaign of Voices for Change, which seeks to educate professional audiences on the risks of intimate partner homicide. Schott is also the Creative Director of ReadingFilmFEST, an intimate film festival in Reading, Pennsylvania which focuses on supporting independent filmmakers.

Kelly DeVine (Moderator) has served as the Artistic Director of the Global Peace Film Festival since 2006 and curates films with local, national and international groups, creating a community-centered hub that educates and inspires, while providing the resources to citizens to become change agents. DeVine has consulted for impact projects for noted, award-winning documentaries such as BullyHow To Survive A PlagueRevolutionary Optimists and others. DeVine also consults with filmmakers regarding story, impact, and festival/distribution strategy. She regularly serves a as reader for numerous grant programs including ITVS, and on juries for film festivals. 

Produced by Nina Streich, Kelly DeVine, Savanna Washington and Nyasha Laing

Hosted by the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute

Special Thanks to Marcia Rock, Director of News and Documentary
at the NYU Arthur Carter Journalism Institute and
Chair of NYWIFT’s Documentary Committee

April 17 @ 6:00pm
6:00 pm — 8:00 pm (2h)

NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10003


$15 for NYWIFT Members
$25 for Nonmembers
Register by prepayment online

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.