Call for work: new Oregon-based poetry film festival Cinema Poetica

Poetry film festivals are pretty thin on the ground in North America right now, so I was excited to hear about a new one set for October 28 in Ashland, Oregon as part of the Ashland Literary Arts Festival and sponsored by a newish journal called The Timberline Review. Like most film festivals, Cinema Poetica is set up as a contest, and submissions are via FilmFreeway, but the guidelines make it clear that they’re open to decidedly DIY, low-budget, poet-produced videos. It’s not entirely clear whether more professionally made poetry films are welcome, but they don’t appear to be excluded by the rules and terms per se. Instead, I think the “challenge” is intended to encourage adventurous poets with crap equipment to give it a go. But it might be worth querying the editors before submitting more polished work.

There are several other unique features of this contest, mostly reflecting the typical mindset of an American print literary magazine (e.g. the assumption that the poem is essentially textual, preceding the video, and the requirement that it be previously unpublished to be considered for publication) so I’ll take the liberty of reproducing their guidelines in full:

Cinema Poetica logo

Cinema Poetica

The Timberline Review is excited to host Cinema Poetica, a film festival celebrating the cinema of poetry, an emerging short-film genre.

Make a one- to three-minute film featuring a poem you’ve written, or perhaps a poem you wish you’d written, as the dramatic narrative.

It’s poetry. Budget is limited. Technology is what you can shoot on your phone. There aren’t going to be any car chases, stunt doubles, FX, studio overdubs, 35 mm stock, or spaceships.

The Cinema Poetica Challenge

Strip it down to the poem. Strive to make your film not “polished,” but ever more raw, primitive, visceral, surprising, intuitive.

Start with the poem and let the poem be your guide. Shoot in real time. Shoot in real locations. Shoot in color. Incorporate location sound into your film. If you’re going to use music, make the music on camera. Use natural lighting. Use a handheld camera. Forget about special effects and optical filters.

Keep it low-tech and keep it real. Focus on the content of the poem.

For very basic access to editing tools, here’s a good – and free – editing app designed specifically for mobile devices — Adobe Premiere Clip.

Rules and Terms

Film must include a poem narrative and not just include the poem but be grounded in it. In other words, dramatize your poem.

All film submissions should be made through Film Freeway. Ready to submit?

Regular submission period runs August 1st through September 30th, 2017.

Maximum running time is 3 minutes.

Poems can be in any language, but if not in English, you must provide English subtitles.

No filmed readings, please.

If the underlying poem is not the submitter’s own original work, by submitting your film you acknowledge and warrant that you have obtained any and all necessary permissions from the author of the work, which must include the right to record and perform the poem you’ve used in your film.

Judging Criteria

All  films will be evaluated by an independent group of filmmakers and poets. Films judged to best exemplify the Cinema Poetica challenge will be screened at the festival, receive additional recognition, and be considered for the Grand Prize* and Audience Favorite.


Grand Prize winner receives a $250 cash prize and possible publication in The Timberline Review.*

Audience favorite receives a hand-drawn broadside of the poem.

Top ten finalists receive special mention and promotion on The Timberline Review website.

*To be considered for publication, poem must be previously unpublished in the English language.

The Festival

Films will be screened throughout the day, October 28, 2017, in the Hannon Library, on the Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland, Oregon, before an adoring public of indie publishers, authors, filmmakers, editors, and artists celebrating the independent spirit of film, literary, and visual arts. There is no admission fee. All are welcome to attend.

The Grand Prize winner, if present, may be invited to join a conversation about poetry and film with our judges and editors.

And Saturday evening at 6:00, it’s a party! Stay tuned for all the details.

The Gallery

Browse some examples of filmed poetry.


Get more information about the Ashland Literary Arts Festival, or contact if you have any other questions.

The Fine Print

Cinema Poetica is a film contest, open to all, sponsored by The Timberline Review, a literary journal published by Willamette Writers, a 501(c)3 organization, based in Portland, Oregon.

Timberline Review editorial staff and members of the Willamette Writers Board of Directors and their immediate family members are not eligible for the Grand Prize.

All films remain the property of the submitter. The Timberline Review and Cinema Poetica retain the right to publicly display any film submitted to the Cinema Poetica film festival, for non-commercial purposes. The Timberline Review retains the right to publish, at its sole discretion, any underlying poem submitted to Cinema Poetica.

Special Thanks

Kim Stafford, Brian Padian, Cascadia Publishers, Mercuria Press, and our partners, Willamette Writers, Ashland Literary Arts Festival, and Film Freeway.

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