The Summary:
The First Contact Film Festival is a short film festival in New Jersey open to fantastical and imaginative genre films. The festival has been running for 6 years and attracts high quality films, passionate filmmakers, and engaged audiences.

Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, fantastical, and magical films are all appropriate. Think of a party where the Twilight Zone, The Dark Crystal, Alien, Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Conan the Barbarian, and Tales From the Crypt were all invited to a party. And then they all brought friends. Stephen King is mixing the drinks. Don't worry, we have plastic on the furniture.

First Contact is an IMDB qualifying festival.

The Story So far...

About 8 years ago, Claire LaPlaca Brammer and Hugh Brammer, had the brave and doomed idea to open a sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery bookstore in Astoria, Queens– Enigma Books. It was a great little spot, but the pressures of having a small bookstore with New York City overhead was a lot to deal with.

Being fighters, they started booking events to attract people to the store and reached out to me to host film events. I did and we were successful. But, just like in the old cartoons, a crazed, mustachioed landlord showed up and rained on everyone’s parade. The bookstore was closed (truth be told, I don’t know if he had a mustache but if he didn’t, he should have).

Undaunted, Claire and Hugh began organizing events just like they had done but outside of the store. Then 4 years ago on a cold Valentine’s Day, Claire and Hugh hosted a con named First CON-tact with the idea of giving a space to local creators of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. Plus they had some awesome cosplayers.

They asked me (Mark Boutros) to handle the film event and The First Contact film festival was born.

For the first two years, it was a curated event with myself as the sole judge. We expanded in 2017 and we switched to a juried format with an independent jury chair that year. 2019 will be our third year as a juried festival and fifth year running.

The theme of the festival is the odd and bizarre- Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy are all included in this as is live action and animated films. If I had to pick one word that would describe the genre, that word is fantastical. If I had to pick another, that word would be imaginative.

The festival has always been for emerging creators and will continue to be so. I grew up listening to punk and hardcore music in the late 80s and 90s. I remember the small clubs and bars being the ponds that let that strange ecosystem thrive. The goal was to create that for filmmakers (and the con had the goal of doing that for the written word and graphic novels). To that end, we keep both submission and entry fees low. We have expenses, but the all-volunteer staff are dedicated to making the best possible festival while keeping it as accessible as possible.

There are others that I feel I have to give a mention for doing a lot more than I ever have or could for the ecosystem. The first is Todd Staruch with Grindhouse in Union, NJ and the second is Elsie Martinez-Ginsberg and Adam Ginsberg with the Macabre Film Faire on Long Island, NY. The First Contact festival doesn’t want to copy what they do (and we never could), but I consider them brothers and sisters-in-arms. Macabre is glitzy and big and fantastic. Grindhouse is a blast. It is curated and hosted like only the Horror Nerd (Todd’s nom de plume) could and is held at a restaurant/bar venue where they have delicious food, big TVs, and live entertainment. First Contact is scrappy. In the woods. In an old camp near a lake. Like the characters of some of the films we screen, you might not make it out alive, but if you do my goal is to make it worth while for both the filmmaker and the fan.

This is a festival of passion. We attract passionate audiences and passionate filmmakers. I am astounded at the quality and talent of the films and the engagement of the audience. I would love for you to be a part of this amazing event.

-Mark Boutros
Festival Director

Awards & Prizes
All accepted film makers will be eligible for Juried Awards and Prizes.

Best Short Live Action
Best Short Animation
Best Director
Best Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Visual FX
Best Practical FX
Best Sound
Best Original Score

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress

(other possible awards as are merited)

Rules & Terms

All submissions must come through FilmFreeway and submitted digitally.

Must provide short synopsis.

Films, TV pilots, episodes, web series, etc... are all welcome.

We don't care how old the film is, but premieres will be given extra priority.

All Films must be complete.

Low, no, and micro budget films are welcome and encouraged.

If your film is selected and you do not provide a media file that meets our specifications (see below) in a timely manner, we reserve the right to select another winner.

All submissions must be in the English language, or come with English subtitles baked-into the file. (We will not decode Closed Captioning)

We understand that film concepts come in many resolutions and sizes. To properly respect that, we ask that if your film is accepted, it comes to us already mastered or re-mastered in a standard 1920x1080, 16:9, MP4 format. Use letterboxing and side-bars as needed, but we want to make sure your film plays as you intend an audience to see it on our projectors. We do not accept DVDs, Blu Ray, or physical media of any kind.

If we do not receive your film in a proper format in time for us to program the festival, we reserve the right not to play your film during the day of the festival.

By submitting a film, promotional material or images, the submitter acknowledges that consent has been obtained from any and all owners, creators, writers, producers and/or other authorized representatives and that permission of any copyrighted or trademarked materials or content (including music and any stock media) has been granted.

If you use any copyrighted or trademark materials or content including music or stock media, you must properly list these in your credits and notify First Contact at the time of submission. We will not accept films with music or images improperly taken from other films, television, recordings, or other media. This includes works of satire and parody.

When submitting to the festival you are agreeing that, if selected and the invitation accepted, you allow us to screen the submitted film during the dates of the festival. FCFF will not pay any screening fees for presentation of the film during the festival. The only exception would be if there is a negotiated agreement preceding the submission of the film to FCFF.

The First CON-Tact Film Festival, at its sole discretion, reserves the right to waive, alter, add, delete or make exceptions to the submissions requirements and eligibility.

Overall Rating
  • canva ma

    Good job at the festival. great communication!

    May 2020
  • Jennifer Trudrung

    Great job with communication and supporting filmmakers! Thank you for going on line with the short films and showcasing our work.

    May 2020
  • Lola Rùi

    I can say that I have really enjoyed participating in this festival. the organizers are very friendly, the communication with them is very good and the selected films that I could watch the day of the event (this year online due to Covid) were very interesting. Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to the organizers!!!

    May 2020
  • Quentin Daniel

    Thank you for this great festival! This year, the festival was done online and everything was very well organized! Great communication :)

    May 2020
  • Constanza Garcías Solé

    It was amazing. Thank you so much♥♥

    May 2020