Screen shot from "Mentiroso," written, directed, and produced by Will Shipley.
Screen shot from "Mentiroso," written, directed, and produced by Will Shipley.

How do you see San Antonio? Imagine how you would convey the experience of your neighborhood to someone else. Perhaps you would focus on its particular culture of music or dance. You might describe its architectural details, tell a story about a neighbor, or share some local history.

You might even tell a tale, realistic or fantastic, of your world’s daily enchantments, thus imparting a sense of alluring atmosphere. The filmmakers who have submitted their work to the San Antonio Neighborhood Film Festival since 2009 have done all this and more. You have the opportunity to join them.

The Festival is now accepting submissions of original films that highlight the diversity of San Antonio’s neighborhoods. The project is organized by the San Antonio Film Commission, a division of the Department for Culture and Creative Development. It aims to both support the local film community and to raise cultural awareness about the featured neighborhoods.

The competition, which began as a part of the San Antonio Neighborhood Tours initiative, has since expanded into a variety of genres, including documentaries and narrative stories.

Director Drew Mayer-Oakes said the films that stand out are those that take a very personal approach to the neighborhood. A tour alone won’t suffice; films need to capture something about the essence of the place. Embed us in your ‘hood. Make us feel like we are there, and glad to be there.

While technical proficiency is essential, films also are judged on their emotive quality. Mayer-Oakes highlights an exceptionally sweet 2012 winner, “Francesca’s Dream,” as a film that succeeds on all these levels.

One of the most remarkable things about looking through the Festival’s archives, all of which are available online, is the vibrant array of interpretations of the theme “neighborhood.” Last year’s Best in Show award was given to John Isaac Rodriguez for his Eastside documentary about the Buffalo Soldiers, “Ready and Forward.”

Others are more whimsical, evocative of San Antonio’s personal magic. Some are cheeky, and some, such as the animated shorts presented by Robert B Gonzales each year, are exceptionally humorous. Some films are not only about a neighborhood, but, as in the case of last year’s winner on the Pony Express Love Letters, present a program that grew out of a particular part of town.

Films must be between three and seven minutes long, and must center around the Northside, Eastside, Westside or Southside Neighborhoods, as the areas are defined by San Antonio Cultural Tours. A new category introduced this year, entitled “My Neighborhood” allows filmmakers to focus on areas beyond the inner city.

There is additionally a “My Favorite Spot” category, for which filmmakers are invited to make a thirty-second, commercial-spot type film featuring La Villita, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, or the Historic Market Square.

You can register to participate online for free, before April 1. Registered participants must then submit films by midnight on May 1. The festival itself will be held in mid June. A committee of industry professionals, including screenwriters and filmmakers, will judge all submissions. Up to seventeen prizes will be awarded, including six $1,500 prizes for the top scoring film in each category, and an award for Best in Show.

This year, why not look around your neighborhood and consider why and how it is unique? Whether or not it leads to a film, it will inspire a sense of wonder in the most familiar of places.

You can find submission guidelines, register, and view all past films online at Further information about filming permits and more is available on the Film Commission website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

*Featured/top image: Screen shot from “Mentiroso,” written, directed, and produced by Will Shipley.

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Gretchen Greer

Gretchen Greer is a freelance writer and photographer, born and raised in San Antonio. She has lived in France and England, and currently divides her time between Texas, London and Burgundy. You can find...