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Nathan Fleet of Hamilton Film Festival

Festival / Interview / by Festival Formula

Nathan Fleet is the creative director for Hamilton Film Festival. A film festival in its 13th year held in Ontario, Canada hosting an exceptional selection of international and Canada made movies. Nathan gives us his thoughts on drones, the best coffee in Canada, and how to run a successful film event.

  • Tell us about your festival

We’re one of the rare arts events that isn’t NOT FOR PROFIT. That doesn’t mean that we are raking it in, not at all. It just means that we aren’t run by a board of directors, we don’t discuss things in committee and we also get ZERO (0) money from government agencies, so we kind of sit on the edge and we like that.  What the means for the filmmaker is that we 100% love doing it and work to create the kind of event that we would attend. (I’m also an active filmmaker) What started as a little indie night of films has turned into a 9-Day festival, 150 movies and a now 3 year old film market as distributors are noticing our hidden gems!

  • What made you start your film festival?

The festival started without me in a cool, historical venue called The Staircase. It is a 100+ year old former hydro-substation that two awesome people (Hugh MacLeod and Kathy Garneau) purchased and turned it into an arts-hub. They would also have film screenings there and I would attend and help out. In 2004, I sat with the manager and we decided to call it the Hamilton Film Festival and that was that.

Hamilton Film Festival Creative Director, Nathan Fleet
  • What are you most looking forward to in your next edition?

Always looking for those hidden gems. And I remember them all when I see them. If it was year 1 or year 12, I remember the gems. That is always the most exciting when you see a film and the programmers send you notes about something great they saw. To toot your horn, Festival Formula has been responsible for sending some of those our way!

  • What have you learnt the most from being involved with a film festival?

Take it slow. Build on your strengths and let go of the weaknesses. Fine tune, just a bit, each year.

Oscar-winning Special Effects Artist Colin Chilvers
  • How does your selection process work?

My instructions to the team is simple.  If you like it, say you like it. Watch the movies as you would any other movie.

Once we have all the recommended film titles from the programmers, we start to fit them into our time slots. Unfortunately, even some of the liked films just can’t make it in due to space but believe me, it goes until the last minute before we announce.

  • What’s your protocol for sending out rejections?

With Film Freeway, we customize the letter. It’s “form” but very difficult to personalize hundreds of letters. We do offer the filmmakers the opportunity to reach out once the fest is over and we can pass along some notes. It takes time, but we eventually get to all the notes.

  • Length of short film – discuss…

I love a tight 4minute short but I can’t tell you the number of times I have been blown away by a 26 minute short. Always hunting for gems!  4minutes are easier to program as you can fit more in but you can’t deny the audience an amazing 20min short. if it’s good, we’ll aim to make the space.

  • Describe your festival in five words or three emojis

For film lovers and makers.

Michael Pare at Hamilton Film Festival
  • What’s a personal favourite film festival of yours?

I went to Sundance once and loved the vibe. I can’t wait to return. You are on a main street surrounded by mountains. What a location!

It was also funny because most of the celebs just blend in so everyone makes eye contact with you just a little too long because they aren’t sure if you are a celeb or not.

Nathan Fleet and Daniel Baldwin
  • What do you wish more filmmakers did, and didn’t do?


I truly wish that more filmmakers knew WHY they were submitting to our festival.

We can be a great ally if they utilize what we offer but it has to align with their strategy.

Baffling sometimes when I get some pretty nasty demands from filmmakers and I have to remind them “we are NOT that kind of festival”

Most filmmakers are great though.


Please, no random drone shots.

  • What questions do you get asked the most by filmmakers?

Can I get a free submission waiver. I got asked that so much, I did a blog entry on it.

  • What’s your favourite film?

Star Wars (1977) started it all for me. As far as HFF screenings go, The Caged Swallow (Jaskolka) from Poland is my favourite.

  • And drink of choice whilst the festival is underway…?

Relay Coffee (and throughout the year) Local roaster, great people and amazing coffee! Very supportive of HFF!


Hamilton Film Festival is still accepting submissions! Regular deadline 2nd July. Late deadline 31st July. Hamilton takes place 3rd-11th of November. 


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