Celebrating its fourth year on August 10th-16th this year, Popcorn Frights Film Festival has quickly become Florida’s largest international film festival. The event exhibits horror features and shorts by filmmakers from around the world, and is responsible for many year-round festivities that establish a more inclusive and active horror community in South Florida and across the country. The festival is unique in many ways, down to its venue – a Methodist church from the 1940s that has been repurposed into a theater while retaining its stained glass windows and chandeliers to create an atmosphere perfect for watching horror movies.
Popcorn Frights Film Festival prioritizes inclusion and representation in their programming as well as the community they create for festival goers themselves. We spoke to Igor Shteyrenberg and Marc Ferman, the festival’s co-directors, to discuss this year’s fourth annual Popcorn Frights Festival and how the festival supports an ever-growing horror community in South Florida while attracting audiences from around the world.
Dread Central: I know this will be Popcorn Frights’ fourth annual festival, and I have seen you guys attract bigger and bigger attendances each year despite being relatively new. How do you guys aim to present Popcorn Frights to people who may be hearing about the festival for the first time and how do you keep up that momentum?
Popcorn Frights: One of Popcorn Frights’ original core values was to embrace the brilliant diversity of genre cinema and showcase films that pushed the artistic envelope and redefined conventions. From the get-go, we knew Popcorn Frights’ purpose was not just as a badass entertainment vehicle, but as a theater-going experience that has the capacity to open audiences minds to the fullest potential of film as an artistic medium.
DC: There is a growing number of genre film fests in the world—Sitges, Fantastic Fest, Cinepocalypse, Fantasia. What do you think has made Popcorn Frights stand out among them and brings in so many people to experience it?
PF: By making bold programming choices that push the status quo and sharing our platform with filmmakers, creators, and like-minded artists, we’ve proudly created a festival that’s unlike anything South Florida has ever seen before. At Popcorn Frights, you experience a genre apocalypse exploding on screen with new cinematic invention that takes your breath away. We celebrate the kinds of films that get made against all odds and moviemaking that resists any form of interference.
DC: How do you select which films to present at Popcorn Frights? Obviously, there is an artistic criteria of being “good,” but what makes certain films stand out and make you both say “this has to play at Popcorn Frights?”
PF: We aim to bring a mix of programming that is equally entertaining, eye-opening, and engaging to the festival each year, and this year’s lineup continues that tradition. The standard and diversity of genre filmmaking from around the world is the highest we’ve seen yet. With a record number of submissions to select from, our lineup has never been so competitive or as exciting to program. It’s those films that have the strongest staying power, that we can’t stop obsessing over and that gnaw at us day and night, that end up making our final selection.
DC: What have been some of your personal favorite memories from the past four years of Popcorn Frights?
PF: We have so many favorite moments, but the most gratifying memories are the ones where we have been able to put films in our program that we worked really hard to include that year. For instance, Bone Tomahawk played at Popcorn Frights only 2 days after having its premiere at Fantastic Fest in 2015 and was so amazing to have at the festival so soon after its release. We are also always thrilled to have special guests represent their films during our festival. We had Joe Lynch attend Popcorn Frights in 2017 for our screening of Mayhem, for instance.
DC: The Popcorn Frights team is also responsible for holding special genre screenings throughout the year. Can you tell me more about how this establishes an ever-growing horror community in South Florida?
PF: For the last several years genre cinema has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts, dominating the commercial box office and leaving an influential footprint on popular culture. Yet as the medium was growing in popularity around the world and pushing new boundaries, our South Florida community was still stuck with no seeming outlet beyond the general multiplex. Having traveled to national and international festivals in NY, LA, Austin, Toronto and other metropolitan cities, we saw firsthand how thriving these film communities were and how much influence their respective genre festivals had in positively inspiring new creative talent. As many of our local festivals were sadly reluctant to lend their platforms to support this vibrant film wave, it became obvious it would have to fall on us to do something. So we put our heads together, took a major leap, and launched Popcorn Frights Film Festival through sheer will and imagination. It wasn’t easy, and there were obviously bumps along the road that were pivotal to shaping our identity and vision, which to this day we’re still sharpening to make Popcorn Frights the best possible experience for our film lovers and creators.
DC: What are your ultimate goals for the festival?
PF: In less than three years, with the support of great allies and partners, Popcorn Frights has grown to be the largest genre film event in the Southeastern United States, as well as a burgeoning network for many film lovers in our community to connect with each other and with filmmakers from around the world. As we look ahead, we’re thrilled by the limitless possibilities that genre cinema has to offer to excite, frighten, and enthrall audiences of all ages.