Northern Frights Festival: Northern Ontario’s Premier Horror Film Fest

Northern Frights Festival: Northern Ontario's Premier Horror Film Fest

David Briggs is the founder of Distant Field Productions, a local film production company specializing in horror. Their first feature, Black Forest, was shot in and around Sudbury with a local cast and crew. It’s now available on DVD and from Vimeo On Demand. Their second feature, Sleepwalking, is scheduled for a Spring, 2017, release.

David also founded the Northern Frights Festival, which is entering its second year on Oct. 22. The event is happening at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, and the plan is to make this an annual Sudbury event.

When did this idea to start Northern Frights come about? Is this type of festival something that you have always wanted to bring to the north?

The idea for the festival came about when we were touring our first film, Black Forest. We shot Black Forest in and around Sudbury, and we wanted to do something cool for its release, so we decided to take it on a rock and roll film tour. We premiered it in Sudbury, and brought it to almost every town between here and Sault St. Marie. The was the Northern Frights Tour, and everyone had a great time bringing our little indie flick town to town.

After the tour ended, the idea to create an event that would showcase horror to Northern Ontario fans started simmering on the backburner. Eventually, that came to a boil, and the first Northern Frights Festival was born.

The main purpose of the fest is to create an event that highlights great indie horror, and also to provide a place for up and coming filmmakers to showcase their work. At Distant Field Productions, we’re all about local, grassroots films, because we know how difficult it is to make a movie. The Northern Frights Festival is our way to help spread the word about the amazing talent in the North, in Ontario, throughout the country and the world. Our aim is to bring the best horror to the fans, and we’re just getting started!

I also got tired of always having to go to Toronto, London, or Hamilton to attend similar events. Not that I mind the trip, and those fests are awesome, but I wanted something a little closer to the heart. Plus, there are a ton of ravenous horror fans in the North, so it’s time to save them some gas money. Horror is closer to home than ever!

Were there a lot of submissions? What is the selection process like?

For a festival entering its second year, I was pleased with the amount of selections we received. There was enough to make selecting the lineup a challenge, because there were so many great flicks. We had submissions from around the world, and of the ones that made the cut, I think people are really going to dig them. There are a lot of world premieres, Canadian premieres, and Ontario premieres as well, so we’ve been lucky that these filmmakers are into what we’re doing up here. It’s an honour to be placed on the cutting edge like that, I mean Sudbury will be the first to see them! That’s pretty cool to me.

As for the selection, we’re all horror fans, so we know what we’re looking for. Basically, we aimed for a mix, so we have some zombies, some psychos, body horror, ghost horror, comedy horror, the list goes on. We’re screening forty short films, so there’s a  little bit of everything to satisfy the discerning horror fan.

Next year the festival will be bigger and better, so we’ll definitely be bringing the feature films back. This is our first year in Sudbury, so we wanted to keep it to one day while we get out feet wet.

This is the second time you have hosted this festival, where did it take place last year and why did you make the switch to Sudbury?

The first Northern Frights Festival took place in Elliot Lake, at their Civic Centre. It was awesome, the theatre was beautiful, and we had a secondary screening room. It was twelve hours of terror, non-stop in two rooms. I’m planning on bringing that vibe back for next year’s event. So much horror your eyes will bleed. Fix you up ’til the next Halloween.

Elliot Lake was really supportive, we had the City sponsoring us, and that really helped us get off the ground. We couldn’t have done it without them, and it gave us a great start. Trust me, there’s a bit of a learning curve putting on a festival, so the help was appreciated.

I decided to move the festival to Sudbury for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious, Sudbury is a lot bigger, so there are definitely more horror fans. Plus, it’s more central, closer to North Bay, Parry Sound, and so many other towns. And I’ve been shooting films with Distant Field Productions in Sudbury for years now,  and have met a lot of cool people, and have had some great times in the city. Sudbury is great, I’ve been coming here all my life as I have a lot of family here. It’s just a great place with lots of cool events, and a great local film culture. We’re happy that it worked out to bring the fest to the Sudbury Theatre Centre. And we’ve had some great support from  the Downtown Sudbury BIA, which is sponsoring the event. For our first time in the city, it was really great to receive that kind of support from the community.

How many different categories are there and what do the winners receive? 

There are lot of categories, ranging from favourite actress, to best gore, that kind of thing. The full list is on our site. Mostly, we give out certificates and laurels to commemorate the winners in these categories. We can’t give many cash prizes, because at this point, renting theatres and promotion takes everything we make.

However, we do have an amazing prize that we’re really proud of. It’s called the Larry Dahlstrom Northern Horror Short Film Award. It’s donated by his daughter, Heather, in memory of her dad, who was a big horror fan. The award goes to the favourite film shot in Northern Ontario, and the winner gets $500. Which is really great, as it encourages a lot of people to get the cameras rolling, and we’re all about the grassroots. So if you’ve always wanted to make a film, there’s some incentive for you!

Are there any films that you are most excited to see? Which films should we be sure to check out?

Oh man, the lineup is so good this year. As mentioned we didn’t have time for features this time out, so we went with the shorts. And there are some amazing works. I definitely have some favourites, but you’ll really have to see them for yourselves. We’ll have to continue this conversation at the festival!


Emily Franceschini is a craft addict, Public Relations graduate and lover of all things purple. Her free time is spent taking photos of her dog and searching for the perfect cup of coffee. She’s a regular at Old Rock because who could resist their delicious Creme Brûlée latte? And yes – it is probably her 4th coffee of the day.

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