Waterfront Film Festival

The Waterfront Film Festival originally took place annually in the town of Saugatuck, Michigan in the United States for 14 years. In 2013, for the purpose of expansion of the festival, the Waterfront Film Festival is held in the town of South Haven, Michigan. The festival is in its 15th year as of 2013.

Ranked as one of the top 5 film festivals in the world by SAGIndie in the Screen Actors Guild Magazine, the Waterfront Film Festival draws thousands of movie lovers and filmmakers to the small resort town of Saugatuck.

The festival has garnered large support from the community and it has become part of the area's tradition. The festival includes over seventy independent movies at seven unique and picturesque venues around the town. It takes place the second weekend in June and runs for four days. The festival accepts entries of shorts, animations, full-length features and documentaries nationwide and also holds a competitive screenwriting competition and a Michigan Lodge focused on showcasing Michigan filmmakers. Additionally, the festival hosts a number of educational seminars ranging from documentary filmmaking to promoting movie making in Michigan.

Sponsors for the festival include Kodak, MGM, National Endowment for the Arts and the Screen Actors Guild. Some of the high-profile Midwestern premieres that Waterfront has hosted in the recent past include: 2006 Academy Award Winner March of the Penguins, Napoleon Dynamite, Grizzly Man, Pittsburgh, Open Water, The Descent, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Sundance Grand Jury Winner Primer, Academy Award Nominees Murderball and The Story of the Weeping Camel and a Michigan Premiere of the Academy Award Winner Born into Brothels. Past guests include Academy Award Nominated Director Jason Reitman, as well as actors Justin Long, Jonathan Silverman, Wendie Malick, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Waterfront is a volunteer-run nonprofit event. All donations and proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales go directly to the operational budget of the festival. All donations are fully tax deductible and allow for the continuation of the festival in the following years.


The Waterfront Film Festival was founded in 1999 by siblings Hopwood DePree, Dori DePree, and Dana DePree, along with Kori Eldean and Judy Smith. The founders, with help from L.A. and New York entertainment professionals, created the Waterfront Film Festival to provide a “middle coast” venue for independent filmmakers eager to show their work to sophisticated audiences. The festival is not judged or adjudicated but rather an opportunity for filmmakers to informally connect with their audiences.

Prior to the festival, the pleasant coastal town of Saugatuck did not even have a theatre, but it welcomed the festival with open arms. A variety of cozy inns surround the venues that show the films and everything is within walking distance, allowing traffic to remain light and keeping the laid-back feel that is synonymous with the festival intact.


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