Filmmaker Advice: Musa Syeed

Sundance and CAAMFest alum Musa Syeed shares insider tips on successfully submitting to a film festival.

Award-winning director Musa Syeed, whose work includes Valley of Saints and The Big House, is no stranger to the festival circuit. His films have graced the screens at Sundance, Tribeca and the Berlinale. He has been deeply involved with CAAM and CAAMFest, serving on the Comcast Narrative Competition Jury at CAAMFest 2014 and, most recently, is the Artistic Director and lead instructor of CAAM’s newest initiative, The Muslim Youth Voices Project. Since 1982, the annual festival has been an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers as well as a vital source for new Asian cinema. Submit now and join us at the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian and Asian American films.

Musa Syeed. Photo by Omar Mullick.
Musa Syeed. Photo by Omar Mullick.

Musa Syeed’s on CAAMFest:

I’ve been lucky to participate in CAAMFest a couple times now, and I always enjoy the festival’s community spirit and excitement. Not only is the film selection great, but the overall programming is fun and forward-thinking.

Syeed’s tips for submitting to festivals :

Get to know the community behind the festival. Lots of film festivals, big and small, have an institution behind them that runs programs all year long. CAAM is a great example of this. By participating in their non-festival screenings, workshops, and other programs, you can get to know the people behind the festival before it starts. Then when it comes time to submit, you’ll already have started a conversation. And even if you don’t get in, at least you’re plugged into a supportive community that may very well help with your next project.

Musa Syeed’s first feature film, Valley of Saints, won the 2012 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Other works include the shorts The Big House (Sundance), Bronx Princess (Berlinale), and A Son’s Sacrifice (Best Short Documentary, Tribeca). He has taught film for Williams College and the Tribeca Film Institute. Syeed was a Fulbright Fellow in Egypt and is an alumnus of the Tisch School of the Arts and the Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies Department at New York University.

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