Various Artists TV

The Various Artists Independent Film Festival (VAiFF), a Chicago-based competition festival for independent filmmakers worldwide, begins taking submissions November 1 for the “fall season” of its inaugural festival, slated for October 7-8, 2017, at ShowPlace ICON in the South Loop. The festival is sponsored by Various Artists TV, an independent network and website launched earlier this year in Chicago. The network streams films and shows from independent filmmakers and gives viewers the option to vote for their favorites; it also provides production services to independent filmmakers or small business owners looking to “crew up” a film, TV commercial, web series, or music video.

Omar McClinton, CEO of Various Artists TV, tells me that adding a year-long competition and festival to the network’s developing roster of projects felt like a natural progression. “Artists are all in this together,” he says. “We are all looking for that opportunity. It’s no longer a ‘studio system’ where there are more producers than distribution outlets. The Internet is limitless.”

Various Artists Independent Film Festival

In each of the four submission quarters (fall, winter, spring, and summer), the VAiFF review committee will select semifinalists and post the films on for public screening. After a 30-day voting window, the films with the highest number of positive social media votes will secure the nominations for that quarter, receive cash prizes, and advance to the festival competition to vie for the top prize in their respective categories. All submissions must be under 45 minutes, not including end credits The nine competition categories are:

  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Horror/thriller
  • Foreign
  • Documentary
  • Animation
  • Children/family content
  • Music video
  • TV/web series pilots

A panel of judges will select the top nine films at the festival; among the confirmed judges are producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix), writer and producer Bob Gale (the Back to the Future trilogy), and video-effects producer Joyce Cox (Titanic, Avatar, The Dark Knight).

According to McClinton, combining the familiarity of independent film screenings and competitions with the convenience of mobile streaming and the ease of social media also lent itself to extending the submission process. “The competition is a year long, so we can make the best of the opportunity the Internet gives us and bring exposure to as many filmmakers as possible,” McClinton notes. “We also include social media as a way to engage people from around the world who may not normally be exposed to the festival world.”

Another unique characteristic of VAiFF is the lack of expiration date on the festival entries. “If a filmmaker spent their money, blood, sweat, and tears on a project that happens to be over two years old,” McClinton says, “does that mean the project is no longer eligible for competition? Until VAiFF, that was [largely] the case. But if a film is ‘great,’ it’s great, and needs to be seen and given its time.”

For more information on VAiFF, including submission guidelines and rules for each category, visit