"We're giving Fiction Podcasts the Film Festival treatment."
- Neem Basha, President, New Jersey Web Fest
In the Spring of 2019, I approached Neem Basha to grab a cup of coffee. At a Starbucks on Wall Street, I told him about an under-served community of web content creators. Neem is the founder of the New Jersey Web Fest, one of the top-rated Film Festivals in the world for web series. What I explained is that during my time making both Fiction Podcasts and Web Series I had found the Venn Diagram of creators in both mediums to be a circle. Both communities are vibrant, inventive, beautifully creative, diverse, and unbelievably supportive of each other. However, Web Series have Film Festivals, Fiction Podcasts have no comparative experience. Neem's festival has a reputation for being one of the most creator-focused and uplifting festivals on the Web Fest circuit. I told him that these creators making incredible pieces of Audio Fiction deserved to feel as special as the filmmakers do at the NJWF. He looked at me from across the table and without missing a beat he said "I'm in. How do we make this happen?"
Whether it's The Hunted: Encore (my action comedy, rock musical, mockumentary web series about NYC vampire slayers), Encounter Party! (my podcast of 6 professional voice actors battling through an epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign set inside the Magic: the Gathering realm of Ravnica), At the Table: A Play Reading Series (my podcast producing new plays from emerging playwrights as audio dramas), or any of my other projects, what defines my work is the community in which I make it.
In 2018 I traveled the world going from festival to festival with The Hunted: Encore. On my various trips I got to know so many incredible creatives (and their stunning work) from around the world. We would attend screenings of each other's series and hoot and holler. We raised many a glass late into the evening while workshopping ideas. We attended panels with experts in the field and learn so much together. We all celebrated the awards each others' shows won, and found ourselves planning how we could be better to win those we lost. Truly that year of festival-hopping is one of the highlights of my creative career and it inspired me to improve myself and my work in almost every way.
There are incredible Podcast Conventions (I had an amazing time at PodTales in 2019), and Awards such as the AudioVerse Awards that allow audiences to vote for their favorite shows, however nothing that specifically offers the Film Festival experience. As I got to know the Fiction Podcast community more closely, I found myself wishing that someone who deeply cared for creators would step in and fill that hole. Neem Basha was the perfect person to talk to.
The Hunted: Encore was lucky enough to win Best Score/Soundtrack and Best Comic Fantasy Series at the New Jersey Web Festival. When I tell you that what Neem has built in New Jersey is best-in-class worldwide, I mean it. He set out to make a Festival experience that celebrated each and every accepted creator. Every person shines, and win or lose at the Awards Gala, friends are made for life. I went to festivals all over the world and had an incredible time, but no one makes you feel as special as the New Jersey Web Festival. This is not a mistake, this is by design. Neem saw the love and support of this community and designed a Festival experience to celebrate it.
Here are some testimonials from Web Series creators on the New Jersey Web Festival's FilmFreeway Page:
I've joined the NJWF as an Executive Board Member to build the first "Film" Festival for Indie Fiction Podcasters. If you're a Fiction Podcaster, I hope you'll consider submitting to join us in New Jersey in September.
Your submission will be reviewed by impartial industry professionals (I will not be a judge for acceptance, nor will any judge be a submitted creator). Those accepted will have the opportunity to come to New Jersey for a weekend of panels, seminars, networking events, and we will even have screenings just like you would for Film. This is not going to be a separate wing from the Web Series Film Festival, we are working to create the first true "Web" festival where content creators from all different mediums and backgrounds will have the chance to meet, celebrate each other's work, and #FeelTheMagic of the New Jersey Web Festival together.
In a time of COVID it's hard to know what the world will look like in September. There will be a 2021 New Jersey Web Festival in some form. We will, however, make sure that the Festival celebrates all our creators, whether they are in person or not. Every decision we make will stem from our fundamental values of supporting, celebrating, and focusing on creators.
In the coming days we'll be rolling out more information and some surveys so that the community we're here to support can help dictate the content of the Festival! Submissions close on April 6th, 2021 so be sure to submit soon!
Photo by Danny Bristoll
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