SLO Film Fest Again Named One of The 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee

MovieMaker Magazine announced today its coveted “50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” and the SLO Film Fest was added to the list for the 6th time in 7 years.

“SLO was one of the very first film festivals to go online, a story you can read about here. It deserves a lot of credit for putting safety first and cancelling its live component early, out of the abundance of caution that soon became the norm. And it earned praise for a quickly assembled online program that balanced anti-piracy concerns with its goal of supporting filmmakers. We can’t wait for it to be able to resume.” (MovieMaker Magazine, April 28/20)

We also recently sat down with MovieMaker Magazine to discuss “Online Film Festival Dos and Don’ts” with festival friends Melanie Addington of the Oxford Film Festival, and Michael Cain of EarthxFilmListen to the full discussion here.

It’s very unusual for a film to win both the juried and audience award at our Festival, and back in 2011 those awards were presented on the same evening too. We festival organizers were feeling very excited about this big winner not just because it was a great movie but also because the director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite was attending the festival that weekend as well! We anticipated her great surprise and inevitable touching acceptance speeches when the awards were presented. 

But the surprise was on us! The humble, first-time director had skipped the award ceremony to enjoy a nice dinner in SLO, thinking there was no way her film would win anything. Fortunately, our intrepid team led by Nancy Ross Joynt managed to find her as she finished her meal and she arrived late (and very happily surprised) at the Awards Night After-party at the Monday Club. We celebrated her victory with bubbly along with that year’s King Vidor Award recipient, Greg Kinnear.

Gabriela went on to fame a couple of years later when she released her 2013 controversial documentary BLACKFISH, which focused on the captivity and cruel treatment of orca whales at SeaWorld. This was truly a movie that mattered, and it was instrumental in changing policy and awareness about this issue around the world. It was nominated for a BAFTA award that year too!

Gabriela recently directed her first narrative feature, THE FRIEND, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year, starring Jason Segal, Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson.

Thank you to our 2020 sponsors for their loyal support of the SLO Film Fest and for looking for ways to also support our community in these challenging times.Today’s Sponsor in the Spotlight is one of our 2020 Producer Sponsors, French Hospital Medical Center.

French Hospital Medical Center, has been transforming medicine on the Central Coast by investing in today’s most advanced equipment and procedures. Beyond Health is a movement to treat the mind, body, spirit, and community, creating wellness and happiness for every life we touch. They have been expanding their services, providing new medical capabilities, recruiting the best doctors, and doubling our capacity for more complex conditions. During the pandemic hospital workers and more have stepped forward to support our community. 

“We are proud and privileged to to serve our community. Every day, we are witnessing generous acts of human kindness as our community cares for one another in countless ways. It is so inspiring to know that when we get through this together, we will be stronger than ever.”
Donate to the Emergency Support Fund

We hope you’re enjoying the Best in the Fest films, please send us your feedback or let us know what your watching! You can still view past weeks Best in the Fest Films here.

Wendy, Skye and the SLO Film Fest Board and Staff

Purchased tickets for the 2020 Film Festival? We have several options for you! Please visit here to explore ticketing options.

Join Us For This Week’s Best In Fest Movie: Skid Row Marathon

We discovered this gem at the Napa Valley Film Festival in the fall of 2017. I knew it was going to be a definite audience award contender at our festival and sure enough, it scored higher than any other movie in the festival that year. Director Mark Hayes and producer Gabriele Hayes came to the Festival for a few days and happily received the award at our Closing Night ceremony. Unfortunately the subject of the film, the amazing Judge Mitchell was just coming back from another overseas marathon trip that weekend so he wasn’t able to attend.

Critics loved this documentary and it won many awards from festivals around the country, including the Palm Springs, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Film Festivals.
“It’s a brilliant piece of documentary cinema.”– Michael Moore, Academy Award winner
“Highly motivational…Illustrates how rehabilitation can be fostered in the most unlikely ways.” – The Hollywood Reporter

Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization! We could not put on a festival without them! For many weeks prior to our 2020 film festival we had multiple volunteers who came out to support us from helping us directly in HQ to planning events. Special shout out to Luann McDonald, our amazing swag bag coordinator and Pat Harris who planned many of what would been incredible events this year and Mona Jennings, sponsor and volunteer in our HQ! We’d also like to thank our amazing board for their year round commitment, learn more here.


Thank you to our 2020 sponsors for their loyal support of the SLO Film Fest and for looking for ways to also support our community in these challenging times. Today’s Sponsor in the Spotlight is one of our 2020 Executive Producer Sponsors, BHE Renewables.

Did you know that Berkshire Hathaway is the largest owner of solar/wind/geothermal energy production in the U.S.? And that they have the largest solar farm in SLO County? Topaz Solar Farm is located in Carrizo Plain, and is not only the largest in SLO County, but also one of the largest solar farms in the world.
Our Festival is proud to say that they have been one of our largest and most loyal sponsors for many years now, so please join us in thanking them for their amazing community support!

Stay tuned each week for more of our Best In Fest line-up!

Wendy, Skye and the SLO Film Fest Board and Staff

Purchased tickets for the 2020 Film Festival? We have several options for you! Please visit here to explore ticketing options.

Take A Trip Down Memory Lane with Ten Years of “Best in Fest” Movies

Each year our audiences have the opportunity to vote on their favorite movies throughout the festival. The movie that gets the highest score of all is dubbed the BEST IN THE FEST! Being voted the audience favorite is a very high honor, and besides the obvious bragging rights, winners get a two-night stay at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Beach along with the coveted Best in the Fest laurels. 

We are having some fun digging into the archives now to share ten exceptional films with our festival audiences over the next 10 weeks. They were incredible movies when they won…and they still are!!

In March of 2014, we were thrilled to present BOTSO, a locally-produced film featuring 92-year old Morro Bay resident, “Botso” Korishelli. To the delight of the audience that day, Botso was in attendance. When it went on to win the Neil Travis Best in the Fest award, no one was in the least bit surprised.

Made by a team of local filmmakers led by Tom Walters (SLO Film Fest board member), Hilary Grant and David Thayer, the film has garnered awards and praise wherever it has been screened. It was the NY Times Critics Pick in the fall of 2014 – “…an enchanting film.” The Hollywood Reporter called it “…a deserving homage to a life well lived” and the LA Times praised it, saying “He created a world of musical magic!

It is available now at no charge for one month (April 15 – May 15) courtesy of the producers.

Did you miss film festival day? You can still join us until Sunday, April 19th for the screening of PHOENIX, OREGON. When you purchase a ticket for only $6.50 using the link below, proceeds will be split with the SLO Film Festival!

We had three very successful screenings of COLLISIONS at last year’s festival, and are excited to share the news that it has been nominated for a NAMIC Vision Award. The NAMIC awards honor “programming that reflects the lives, spirit and contributions of people of color that mirrors the diverse composition of the viewing audience.

COLLISIONS is partnering with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) to support their Immigrant Worker Safety Net Fund – to provide the immediate financial support so desperately needed by workers and their families during this time.

From now through April 30, 50% of proceeds from sales of “COLLISIONS” will be donated to this fund.

Thank you to our 2020 sponsors for their loyal support of the SLO Film Fest and for looking for ways to also support our community in these challenging times.

Today’s Sponsor in the Spotlight is our 2020 Presenting Sponsor Hotel San Luis Obispo the home of our Festival HQ and Lounge.

The management and staff of Hotel San Luis Obispo have been supportive and excited about the SLO Film Fest since opening their doors last October. We were one of the first organizations to have an event in their ballroom when we presented “The Weird and Wonderful World of Industrial Musicals” and it became obvious that the hotel’s exquisite setting and location would be ideal for our Festival Hospitality Lounge. As a bonus, they agreed to let us use an empty space at the corner of the hotel for our Festival HQ. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to reap the full benefits of our partnership with Hotel San Luis Obispo, but just want to thank David, Lydia, Zoe, Marissa, Ryan, Kirsten and their entire staff for making us all feel welcome and well cared for! We look forward to future collaborations with this exciting new world-class hotel property.

We hope you enjoy our Watch at Home films! Stay home and stay healthy!

Wendy, Skye and the SLO Film Fest Board and Staff

Purchased tickets for the 2020 Film Festival? We have several options for you! Please visit here to explore ticketing options.

Join us for Film Festival Day!

We’re so excited to announce in partnership with the Film Festival Alliance and the independent streaming platform Theatrical At Home, the inaugural Film Festival Day!

On Saturday, April 11th, film festival audiences from across North America will join together for a virtual screening of the independent film PHOENIX, OREGON and filmmaker Q&A. When you purchase a ticket for only $6.50 using the link below, proceeds will be split with the SLO Film Festival!

We’re participating in the first FILM FESTIVAL DAY, with 29 other film festivals across the US, an initiative of the Film Festival Alliance, a collaborative community of mission-driven film festivals, and Theatrical At Home.

More than 175 film festivals across North America have been cancelled or postponed as a result of COVID-19. Movies unite us in a way that no other art form can and film festivals play an essential role in connecting our community to support the works of independent storytellers. Please join us in a celebration of our communities, our audiences, independent filmmakers and what makes the film festival experience so unique.

April 11, 2020
Start the Film: 3:00pm PDT
Join the Q&A: 5:00pm PDT


Defying midlife haze, two friends, a graphic novelist and a chef, seize an unlikely opportunity to reinvent their lives, quitting their jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the “world’s greatest pizza.” Phoenix, Oregon stars James Le Gros (Drugstore Cowboy, Living in Oblivion), Lisa Edelstein (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, House), Jesse Borrego (Fame, Blood In Blood Out), Reynaldo Gallegos (Triple Frontier, American Sniper), Diedrich Bader (Napoleon Dynamite, Office Space, Veep), and Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express, True Romance).

It’s been an interesting few weeks for all of us and we want to let you how much we appreciate your support during these difficult times. Over the next few weeks we have some additional fun things planned to bring the SLO Film Fest to your home, so keep an eye on your inbox!

We hope to see you “digitally” at Film Festival day this Saturday!

Wendy Eidson & Skye McLennan
SLO Film Fest Director & Associate Director

Purchased tickets for the 2020 Film Festival? We have several options for you! Please visit here to explore ticketing options.

Watch Now, Our Winners From Our Student Competition!

Each year, since 2008, our Filmmakers of Tomorrow Showcase has given creative young filmmakers all over the world the opportunity to have their short films seen in a theatre and compete for cash awards. Films 10 minutes and under are submitted by youth filmmakers, from elementary through high school, and each year we choose 15-20 films that are screened all together on Sunday afternoon before the awards presentations that evening.  

This year, we didn’t have a chance to screen them at all due to the festival cancellation only 5 days before we were slated to begin. A number of the filmmakers in this category would not have been present anyway, since they live as far away as Iran, China, France and Poland. But San Luis Obispo county filmmakers were very disappointed not to be at the festival sharing their films and there was no awards ceremony for the seven winners in a variety of categories. Each film gets a cash award of $100, courtesy of program sponsors Mechanics Bank, San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and Pacific Wildlife Care.

We just wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS to all the filmmakers who had official selections in this showcase. We are delighted to share the following award-winning films with you here, and hope you enjoy the ingenuity, creativity, and talent of these young filmmakers. Feel free to send us any feedback and we’d be happy to share it with them. 

Happy Watching!

Wendy, Skye and Filmmakers of Tomorrow Judges, Grace Tucker & Tasia Trevino-Hill

Purchased tickets for the 2020 Film Festival? We have several options for you! Please visit here to explore ticketing options.

SLO Film Festival Featured in MovieMaker Magazine

“The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival was one of the countless public gatherings that changed its plans because of COVID-19 — but it didn’t cancel them. Instead, it went online, becoming one of a growing number of temporarily online film festivals.

“I doubted that many filmmakers would agree to sharing movies in this public way, but decided it was worth asking,” SLO festival director Wendy Eidson told MovieMaker. “I put together an email to all the filmmakers and got an amazingly positive response almost instantly.”

The festival, in an idyllic town is Coastal California, may be a model at a time when many film festivals — from the cancelled SXSW to the postponed Tribeca and Cannes — decide the best way forward. Several are making the best of things with pivots to online, for the time being.” (From MovieMaker Magazine)

Read more here:

Announcing our 2020 Festival Winners

Cancelling the 2020 SLO Film Fest only 5 days before our opening night was a very difficult thing to do. But we are very fortunate in a way. Unlike other festivals that don’t have an online option, we’ve been able to share many of the festival films with pass holders this week. We’ll also continue to share the news as many of the of this year’s movies are released on various online platforms in the coming months.

It’s not ideal. We know that the personal experience of a film festival cannot be duplicated, but at least we’ve found a temporary way for the show to go on!

Needless to say, we’re very happy and proud to present a virtual Awards Ceremony this year as well…and a very international one too!

It was very gratifying to hear so many of our judges this year say what an amazing mix of films we had and how difficult it was to come up with a winner in each category. So, at the risk of sounding a bit corny, I want to stress that ALL of the festival films are winners this year simply because they were official selections in each of the competition categories. The winning films scored the highest points with the judges, but all of our filmmakers should be proud that they were worthy competitors in an outstanding year of festival films.

Let’s have a big round of applause for our 2020 filmmakers, and this year’s winning films!

Congratulations to all!

Wendy, Skye and the entire SLO Film Fest team

PS: Please take some time to watch and read the lovely acceptance speeches sent from around the world. They are a great reminder of why we do this. Movies Matter!

A St. Patrick’s Day Greeting from the SLO Film Fest

Ironically, we were trying to not focus on St. Patrick’s Day for this year’s Opening Night and instead had decided on a Nashville theme.

But now that March 17th is finally here, all I really want to share with you are these lighthearted St. Paddy’s themed videos – and the promise that we’ll be back in 2021!

Award-winning films in George Sidney, Central Coast and Filmmakers of Tomorrow competitions will be announced on our website on Sunday at 6pm

Stay safe, healthy and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

See you at the movies…bye and bye!

Wendy and the SLO Film Fest clan

PS. While you’re stuck at home, please enjoy some wonderful free films from our new sponsor MUBI!(Below)
And if you’re interested in watching a selection of our Festival films from today through Sunday, you must be a festival pass holder. A limited number of Movie Fanatic passes are still available and will give you special access. Click here to purchase.

We’ve partnered with our friends at MUBI to give you a free month of great cinema. With this curated streaming service, you’ll have access to an ever-changing collection of beautiful, interesting, and incredible films. All hand-picked by their curators. It’s like your own personal film festival – streaming anytime, anywhere. To claim 30 days free, visit

SLO FILM FESTIVAL 2020 Has Been Cancelled

As of this morning, the San Luis Obispo Public Health agency, in accordance with State health guidelines surrounding the impacts of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 has asked that the SLO Film Fest be cancelled. We are incredibly sad to have to now convey this news but the March 17-22 will not be happening as scheduled.

We will begin the process of working with filmmakers to find new ways to share variations of the festival’s program in the future, when it is safe to do so.
On behalf of our staff, volunteers, sponsors, vendors and many more who have been working hard for many months to present what was set to be our biggest and best festival ever. It is truly heart-breaking but we know this is the right plan of action at this time. We appreciate the love and support we get from our community and appreciate your patience as we sort out the aftermath and determine the best way forward. There will definitely be ways to share some of these exceptional films with our audiences.

Like many non-profit organizations and small businesses, these developments will deeply impact SLO Film Fest creating a significant financial loss. For that reason, we are requesting that festival-goers please consider converting their festival pass and ticket purchase into a donation. However, all 2020 passes will be honored for next year. 

Individual tickets will be offered a voucher good for a future event or the next edition of the film festival. We will be in contact with all patrons over the course of the next few weeks to offer more details regarding ticketing.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as the organization navigates this difficult time. Any questions can be sent to

Thank you,


SLO Film Fest adds special guests for Sundance Hit DINNER IN AMERICA

We are very excited to announce that the stars of Adam Carter Rehmeier’s DINNER IN AMERICA, Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs, have just been confirmed to attend next week’s film festival. Rehmeier’s audacious crowd-pleasing comedy stars Gallner as an on-the-lam punk rocker who connects with a young woman (played by Toni-nominated Skeggs) obsessed with his band. They go on an unexpected and epic journey together through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest. The film features a cast of favorites including Pat Healy, Hannah Marks, Jennifer Prediger, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Lea Thompson. 

Marks, who stars in the Closing Night selection, Benjamin Kasulke’s BANANA SPLIT, will also join Rehmeier, Gallner, and Skeggs, for the Sunday, March 22 screening at 4:00PM at the Fremont, for what promises to be a very entertaining post-screening Q&A.

The 26th Annual SLO Film Fest will wrap up with an awards celebration for Central Coast Filmmakers, Youth Filmmakers of Tomorrow and the coveted Audience Awards, to be presented by Festival sponsors. Following the awards will be a screening of BANANA SPLIT.

BANANA SPLIT, directed by Benjamin Kusulke, stars Hannah Marks, Dylan Sprouse, Liana Liberato and Luke Spencer Roberts in a comedy about two high school senior girls who develop the perfect kindred spirit friendship with just one little problem: one of them is dating the other’s ex.
Comedy | 88 min. | PG-13.

Presented by Paco y Amigos and City of SLO
Also Sponsored by Coast 104.5

Sunday, March 22 – Screens with PASO: A GOODBYE STORY
6pm | Awards
7pm | Movie + Q&A Fremont Theater, SLO


Last year was our first year at SLO Brew Rock, quickly becoming one of the hottest venues in town. The Rock features fantastic food on site, a full bar, and a new distillery, Rod & Hammer’s SLO Stills where you can taste spirits cut with Pacific Ocean! Check out just a small preview of our amazing line-up at The Rock!

Vertical Harvest (VH) is a highly innovative but risky experiment in growing crops and providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities. Plants and people grow together in this intimate portrait of one community’s attempt to address timely and pressing issues around local food production, inclusion and opportunity.


A visually beautiful film that offers a recipe for tolerance and hope. Combining Arab and Jewish chefs and asking them to collaborate on mouthwatering local dishes. Film is paired with Middle Eastern appetizers.


An on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band unexpectedly fall in love and go on an epic journey together through America’s decaying Midwestern suburbs. Recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2020.

A man on the verge of a promotion goes out to celebrate and takes a mysterious hallucinogenic drug that begins to tear down his reality and expose his life for what it really is. This complex story, which drags star Justin Long (TuskLive Free or Die Hard) through some unconventional hardships, keeps you guessing. 

Did you know?
Our Newbie pass is good for the SLO Brew Rock and Fremont Theatre!  It can be used by one person for four regular screenings, or by four people for one! Or any combination that adds up to 4 uses. Only $40!

Make sure to grab your Opening Night: Nashville Comes to SLO tickets soon as these are selling fast!  Pre-sale tickets for Surf Nite are no longer available, but you can potentially purchase tickets at the door, we suggest arriving early!

In regards to COVID-19, we are still currently planning to continue the festival as scheduled.  Please read our current statement here.

Movies Matter!

Wendy Eidson & Skye McLennan
SLO Film Fest Director & Associate Director