WorldFest History

WorldFest was founded over 50 years ago as Cinema Arts, an International Film Society in August, 1961. WorldFest became the third competitive international film festival in North America, following San Francisco and New York. WorldFest is the oldest Independent Film & Video Festival in the World. It evolved into a competitive International Film Festival in April, 1968. It was founded by award-winning producer/director Hunter Todd to present a quality film festival for the Independent filmmakers. Hunter Todd has been honored with more than 115 international awards for creative excellence in film production, and he has been the producer, director, writer and/or cameraman on more than 300 motion picture and video productions. The mission/vision statement of WorldFest is to recognize and honor outstanding creative excellence in film & video, to validate brilliant abilities and to promote cultural tourism for Houston, to develop film production in the region and to add to the rich cultural fabric of the city of Houston. All members of the WorldFest staff are filmmakers.

WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival (now it’s 48th year!) continues with its totally dedicated Independent Film screening format for the upcoming April 10- 19, 2015 unspooling at the flagship AMC Studio 30 Dunvale Theaters. WorldFest will screen just 55-60 feature film premieres, with a complete and absolute emphasis on the American and International Independent feature films and with a continuing annual spotlight on an individual country and its films. WorldFest also offers competition in TV Production, Documentary, Corporate & Business Films, Student & Experimental, TV Commercials, Film & Video Production, Music Videos, New Media (Interactive, Web Sites & 3D Productions), Screenplays, Print and Radio.

The late, great Chuck Jones, with his wife Marian, Kathleen Haney and Hunter Todd.

The late, great Chuck Jones, with his wife Marian, Kathleen Haney and Hunter Todd.

WorldFest is one of the oldest and largest film & video competitions in the world, with more than 4,500 category entries received from 37 countries in 2006. Actually WorldFest is 12 Major film & video competitions in one event, unlike Cannes, Sundance and Toronto, which are just 2 competitions for shorts and features only. Because of our 12 major competitions and the 200+ sub-categories, WorldFest does give a lot of awards, but they are both earned and deserved. No awards are given in any category unless the scores from the juries are high enough to place for honors. Overall only 15-20% of the total category entries actually win an award at WorldFest. However, everyone attending the Grand Awards Gala wins an award, as we only invite the actual winners, which makes for a delightful and enjoyable evening, since there are no disappointed “nominees” that do not win anything. Those that do not win an award are informed by email or letters prior to the festival.

WorldFest Artistic and Program Director Kathleen Haney stated, “We feel that it is impossible to properly emphasize individual films when the festival screening schedule is too large. We must consider both our festival audience and our independent filmmakers. A huge slate of 150-300 films cannot possibly do justice to each individual film. Further, it is impossible to see more than 50-60 films (with four shows a day) in a ten-day festival, so it is foolish to program more than that.” Haney continued, “We will concentrate on only the very best, selecting new American & Foreign Independent films that truly deserve a premiere at WorldFest. By doing so, we can concentrate on the films and their filmmakers and enable our faithful audience the opportunity to see each and every film!” All 35mm films and Digital entries are screened at the AMC Meyer Park Theatre, WorldFest – the Indie Film Festival for the New Millennium!

World Premiere of "Jericho" with stars (L-R) Leon Caffee, Kateri Walker and one of the many cowboy extras.

World Premiere of “Jericho” with stars (L-R) Leon Caffee, Kateri Walker and one of the many cowboy extras.

In addition to honoring a different country each year, WorldFest will continue with its annual Short Film Showcase, a special review of 100+ new short and student films…from the festival that discovered Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ang Lee, John Lee Hancock, Randall Kleiser, Ridley Scott, Robert Rodriguez, Robert Townsend, The Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone and David Lynch with their very first awards. WorldFest has emerged as the oldest film festival management in the world, with the same continuous director for 39 consecutive years. A few other festivals are older, but they have had as many as ten different directors. WorldFest is uniquely the only film festival in North America that is staffed and managed totally by filmmakers. All staff members have active film and video production experience, which gives them a very unique point of reference in relation to the entering filmmakers and their work. WorldFest, founded in 1961, is the oldest Independent film festival in the world, and the 3rd oldest film festival in North America.

Most USA Film Festivals today have emerged as no more than unpaid publicity agents for major studio distributors. WorldFest continues to move forward to present the true independent film and its filmmaker, offering a new venue for directors searching for an independent forum for their works. WorldFest will have a special emphasis on new, premiering films that are seeking a distributor. The Festival also screens DVD video via Wagner Media & Christie DLP Digital Projection, one of the major sponsors of the festival.

Director Lionel Chetwynd and wife, Actress Gloria Carlin, from Varian's War, a special Showtime/Sundance Channel World Premiere.

Director Lionel Chetwynd and wife, Actress Gloria Carlin, from Varian’s War, a special Showtime/Sundance Channel World Premiere.

By having a small, highly selective schedule of new Indie Short & Feature films, the festival can help the film gain reviews and a distributor, rather than merely act as a preview platform for an upcoming release from a large US distributor. Most of the so-called ‘Independent Films’ featured at Sundance are quite frequently fairly large-budget films produced by special “Indie” divisions of the major studios. In fact, the majority of films featured at Sundance and other “Indie” Festivals actually already have their distribution in place. The 120-page WorldFest program book is distributed free of charge to the public, all attending filmmakers, all studios and every major film festival in the world and to every known major film & video distributor in the world. The WorldFest program book has become an invaluable reference document for film acquisition and review.

“Small is Beautiful” for the 40th Annual WorldFest, where simplicity is the byword, and a relaxed intimate atmosphere surrounds a special selection of superb new feature and short films. The opportunities for networking and contacts are exceptional. The detailed 120+ page program book & schedule features a special grid-guide for the film-buffs that will assist them in viewing all the films. Seminars include Cinematography, Casting, Distribution, Directing/Producing, Writing and more.

Remi Lifetime Achievement Award Winners (L-R) Herb Lightman, Editor Emeritus of American Cinematographer Magazine, Andrew Laszlo, Cinematographer, Hunter Todd (Capt, USCG, ret) Chairman & Founding Director ~ WorldFest

Remi Lifetime Achievement Award Winners (L-R) Herb Lightman, Editor Emeritus of American Cinematographer Magazine, Andrew Laszlo, Cinematographer, Hunter Todd (Capt, USCG, ret) Chairman & Founding Director ~ WorldFest

Among the remarkable number of WorldFest discoveries, we include just a few, listed in alphabetical order: John Alvidson, John Badham, Ralph Bakshi, Carroll Ballard, John Boorman, Marty Brest, Michael Cimino, The Coen Brothers, Bryan De Palma, Jonathan Demme, Michael Demme, Atom Egoyan, John Frankenheimer, Leslie Linka Glatter, Charles Guggenheim, John Lee Hancock, Hal Hartley, Randall Kleiser, Ang Lee, Spike Lee, George Lucas, David Lynch, Paul Mazursky, Steve Poster, Robert Rodriguez, John Sayles, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Robert Townsend, Will Vinton, Peter Weir, Hugh Wilson and hundreds more. The winners this year will be the Spielbergs of tomorrow and you can meet them before they are famous. WorldFest-Houston…”Fiercely Independent” WorldFest is one of the oldest film festivals in the world, founded in 1961 as a film society.