Frequently Asked Questions

What does Heartland Film do? Is it just a film festival?

Heartland Film is a nonprofit arts organization founded in 1991 with the mission to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. Heartland Film is a curator and supporter of purposeful filmmaking, honoring a wide variety of cinema and awarding storytellers from all over the world. The films we select and exhibit – whether they inspire and uplift, educate and inform, or have the ability to shift audiences’ perspectives on the world – all have one thing in common: they are entertaining films that do more than just entertain.

Operating all throughout the year, Heartland Film is comprised of four major program areas:

  • Heartland Film Festival: Heartland Film brings the world to Indianapolis each October during the 10-day Heartland Film Festival. With over 270 screenings of independent films from around the globe, the Festival provides a unique opportunity for audiences to interact with more than 100 filmmakers whose art engages, educates and inspires.
  • Truly Moving Picture Award: Heartland Film honors select theatrically-released films with the Truly Moving Picture Award. Films that receive the Award have the power to promote positive change in audiences’ lives through the transformative power of the art form.
  • Heartland Film Roadshow: The Heartland Film Roadshow travels all across Indiana to offer year-round screenings of select Heartland films to the community. Screening venues include the Heartland Basile Theatre, Indianapolis Museum of Art, JCC Indianapolis, The Palladium, The Historic Artcraft Theatre and others.
  • Heartland Film Institute: The Heartland Film Institute inspires students and young filmmakers through initiatives such as the High School Film Competition and various workshops and seminars at the Festival and throughout the rest of the year.
Why is it important for Heartland Film to exist? How does the community benefit?

Do the movies you watch matter? Do they do more than just entertain? The films we select and exhibit – whether they inspire and uplift, educate and inform, or have the ability to shift audiences’ perspectives on the world – all have one thing in common: they are entertaining films that do more than just entertain.

Heartland Film champions purposeful filmmaking at the studio and independent level, to support and provide a network for filmmakers who create meaningful work, and to inspire the next generation of filmmakers.

Heartland Film is Indiana’s largest and longest-running film organization. Beyond prestige, the Festival welcomes 24,000 in screening attendance and introduces the state to hundreds of filmmakers who may have otherwise never visited. Movie studios consider Indianapolis to be the 27th to 30th movie market even though we’re the 13th largest city in the country. Heartland Film is the crown jewel in the community’s limited movie industry and continues to champion the art form like no other organization around.

Is Heartland Film a Christian and/or conservative organization?

No, Heartland Film is not a Christian organization, nor is it associated with any form of religion. Similarly, Heartland Film is not a conservative organization, nor is it associated with any political group or persuasion. Staff and board come from varied political, religious and non-religious backgrounds, but the organization does not mirror those beliefs.

A common misconception about Heartland Film is that the movies we curate are family-friendly, but not every film we honor is sunshine and rainbows. Specifically, Heartland Film Festival movies seek to inspire, but there can be inspiration in the darkness. For example, recent Grand Prize Winners Cairo 678 (2012) and Hide Your Smiling Faces (2013) are gritty stories about sexual harassment in Egypt and how adolescent boys deal with the loss of a friend in New England, respectively. With more than 130 films to choose from at each of the past Heartland Film Festival events, there is something to satisfy every moviegoer’s appetite (only a select number of films are intended for the whole family, so check out the notes for each film in the Festival’s online or print guide book).

How can I see Festival movies again?

The movies showcased at the Heartland Film Festival are independent films, meaning that they do not have distribution. The only opportunity to see a large share of these films is at film festivals,  where they hope to gain enough exposure and traction to be picked up for a theatrical, television, digital, home video or some other type of distribution. Many film festivals do not support the films which they show after their event takes place, but that is what sets the Heartland Film Festival apart; Heartland Film continuously supports their selections by sharing updates via its website, newsletters and social media. Moviegoers are encouraged to check the status of feature film titles at GoWatchIt.com and to connect with films and filmmakers via social media to stay up to date on the latest news.

The Heartland Film Roadshow screening series is another great way for moviegoers to see these films again. Heartland Film takes Festival films all across the community, hosting 50 – 60 such screenings annually over the past few years. View the complete schedule at heartlandFilm.org/roadshow.

How can I become a volunteer?

You can sign up by visiting the Heartland Film office in Fountain Square, the volunteer sign up page, or by emailing Susan Frenzel at sfrenzel@heartlandfilm.org.

Can I go to the Heartland Film office and see films?

Yes, you can! Heartland Film offers a slate of free short films from past Heartland Film Festivals every first Friday of the month in Fountain Square (from 7-10 p.m.). The 49-seat Heartland Basile Theatre is located in Heartland Film’s office at 1043 Virginia Avenue, Suite 2, Indianapolis, IN 46203. View the complete schedule here.

Additionally, the annual Heartland Film Festival Summer Rewind mini-festival in Fountain Square uses the Heartland Basile Theatre as one of its screening venues.

Are Heartland Film Festival films just from Indiana?

No, the Heartland Film Festival offers world-class cinema and features independent film from all over the globe. Indiana filmmakers are more than welcome to submit their films!

What are short films?

Short films are movies which have a shorter duration than feature films, typically less than 50 minutes in length. The Heartland Film Festival has earned the special designation of being a qualifying festival for the Annual Academy Awards® within the Short Films category. This means that the winner of the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short Film will qualify for consideration in the Short Films category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.

How can I get involved?

Your time, talent and gifts are vital to the future of Heartland Film. As a nonprofit organization we exist by the generosity of people who, like us, believe in the transformative power of film. You can support Heartland Film by making a donation, becoming a member of Heartland Film, becoming a volunteer or becoming a sponsor.

What is the film selection process?

Initially, films are viewed by one of three screening committees (Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature and Short Film categories), which consist of 15-20 volunteers apiece. Committee members, each having taken a critical examination, are hand-selected by Heartland Film staff. A combination of scoring and discussion among these committee members and our artistic director/programming staff  ultimately decide the lineup of the Heartland Film Festival.

From this pool of selections, 10-15 of each category’s highest-scoring films are sent on the Festival Award jury. Consisting of film professionals, academics and critics, this jury will select the five best films within each category. These five best films, or Festival Award Winners, are all in contention for the Grand Prize within their respective category.

The third, and final, jury tier is the Grand Prize jury. Comprised of diverse and tenured Heartland Film screening committee members, this jury is tasked with selecting the top film within each prize category.

Learn more here.

Would I like this festival? Independent film seems like its for old people.

Simply put, if you don’t go you don’t know what you’re missing. If you love movies you will love the Heartland Film Festival. Moviegoers span the gamut from kids to adults, from casual movie fans to hardcore cinephiles. The majority of filmmakers attending are relatively young, generally in their 20s to 30s. Independent cinema in general skews to an experienced audience, but Heartland Film’s demographic continues to grow younger and younger.  

How does a film get the Truly Moving Picture award?

Submissions for the Truly Moving Picture Award are received directly from studios and producers for consideration. Films submitted to Heartland Film for TMPA consideration are judged against the organization’s mission on their overall artistic and technical quality. Each film is screened by Truly Moving Picture Award jury members and Heartland Film staff. Note that not every major release is submitted to Heartland Film for consideration.