Cape Fear Independent Film Festival

A Chat with Charles McNeil

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak to Charles McNeil, the festival director who has been with the Cape Fear Independent Film Network since its inception in 2000. Mr. McNeil gave me a bit of insight as to what filmmakers and audiences alike should expect this year.


“Please tell us about the festival’s mission statement. What does CFIFF hope to achieve each year with the festival?”

We are a film-makers festival. What we hope for is to get as many filmmakers to attend as possible and get them meeting their audience and networking with each other; they will hopefully have a chance to network and talk to other filmmakers in the area and make connections. If someone has a skill set and someone else has a need for that skill set, we want to make sure those two people meet.


“Over the years, has the general feeling and vibe of the festival changed much?”


Of course, but the heart of it is still there. We [CFIFN] are all filmmakers. We started out wanting to give filmmakers a place to show their film and learn what other people feel about their films. Venues have changed; venues are a little more centered this year. The primary screening location will be the Hannah Block USO building. The USO will also serve as this year’s festival lounge which will give filmmakers an opportunity to network during the festival.


“How many films will be screened this year?”

We had roughly 95 submissions this year and about 15% of those will be shown. We will set apart one night to screen NC films only as well. The winner for the best feature will receive a $500 prize, the best short will receive a $250 and we have a separate entry category for a screenwriting award called “The Don” in memory of friend Don Payne.


“What really drives you personally as the festival director to help build an audience for these filmmakers?”

It’s absolutely the joy of getting someone’s work in front of an audience. That’s why we [filmmakers] do it. We want people to see our work. If you’re a filmmaker watching a screening of your own film, you are going to watch the audience not the film. You want to see their reaction to your work. As the festival director, I get to watch the filmmaker watch the audience. That’s my pay off: I get to watch the filmmaker watching his or her work being appreciated.


For fifteen years, The Cape Fear Independent Film Network has offered filmmakers both locally and around the world the opportunity to present their work to hundreds of moviegoers through the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival. This year, the festival will run from March 10, 2016 through March 12, 2016. Films will be shown primarily at the Hannah Block USO Building downtown and The Browncoat Theatre will also host a block of films in the horror genre. Thank you CFIFN.


For more information about the festival including screening location, film lists, past winners, and how you can volunteer or submit a film next year, go to

To learn about The Don Award, go to


By April Vickery

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