100 Words Film Festival is a democratizing film fest for the Twitter generation

In today’s 140-character cultural climate, it can be quite a challenge to hold an audience’s attention. The 100 Words Film Festival in Charlotte, which made its debut last November, is a film festival for the Twitter generation.

“It’s exactly what it says it is,” says director and founder of the festival, Scott Galloway. “Every film entry has to have 100 spoken words. We’re looking for people who can communicate great stories concisely; any genre, any length.”

Filmmakers have to make a film specifically for this festival, which meant Galloway and his team spent a lot of time reaching out to local groups for this inaugural festival.

“For this first one people were making films for a film festival that didn’t even exist,” he says. “It’s a big ask.” They ended up receiving 60 entries from all over the world and showed 30 in a sold out 730-seat theatre. For this year’s festival they’re hoping to receive hundreds of submissions. He says they are already being contacted by filmmakers and expect this year’s festival, once again being held in November, to be an even bigger event.

The concept, Galloway says, is a first of its kind, which they created and trademarked. Galloway first had the inspiration for this concept by observing his three children – in high school and middle school – and how they consume media.

“I watch the way they watch content. They love short form,” he explains. “I would watch them watch YouTube and inevitably they would scroll down to see how much [time] was left [on the video]. So what if you baked that into the format itself? Short films are now very popular. A generation ago the only place to see shorts was at the theatre no one went to, shown along with the foreign films. Now they’re put front and center.”

But it’s not just the short, attention-span-friendly format that appealed to Galloway. As a filmmaker and industry professional himself – he is also the founder of Susie Films, a Charlotte-based film and television production company that has done work for the likes of the Food Network and PBS – he knows all too well how difficult it is for a filmmaker to secure financing and actually make films.

“When I graduated a generation ago I wanted to make films,” says Galloway. “It took me 15 years to have enough money, resources, and friends to pull that off. I wish I had the chance to make a film that fits this criterion. One of the things we love about this festival is that it democratizes filmmaking and gives everyone a chance.”

The 100 Words Film Festival appeals to both professional and student filmmakers. “Shorts are affordable to make. They do receive an IMDB credit. The film is professionally screened and judged. [The format] allows you to take some chances on different ideas. That opportunity is something professional filmmakers like, and students often don’t have a lot of money so a short is the only option they have.”

Especially for students, the rigid script format provides some valuable professional training. “Creatively it’s easier to get your arms around a short than a feature,” Galloway says. “A lot of student filmmakers are technically brilliant but they struggle with story. From a screenwriting standpoint, forcing them to be concise helps them.”

The film festival is open to filmmakers from all over the world, but it is also a celebration of filmmaking in Charlotte. “There is and always has been a strong film community in Charlotte,” says Galloway. “But this is a national and international film festival. People came in from New York and L.A.” While it might not become the breeding ground for Hollywood’s biggest Oscar fodder like Cannes and Sundance, 100 Words has a definite niche appeal for filmmakers big and small, professional and student, award-winning and amateur.