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Drone Film Festival organizers seek applicants for State Fair event

By Eric Reinhardt


The New York State Fair will host its second Drone Film Festival and Competition on Aug. 26 at the New York State Fairgrounds in Geddes. Pictured above are participants from the 2017 festival and competition. Photo Credit: Michael Massurin

GEDDES — Calling all drone filmmakers. The New York State Fair’s Drone Film Festival and Competition is open for entries until June 30.

The competition, which is in its second year, is open to all amateur, professional, and corporate filmmakers who use video from drones in their work.

“Competition is open to anybody in the world,” says Michael Massurin, managing director of the New York State Fair Drone Film Festival. “Last year, we had worldwide submissions.”

The competition “highlights and complements” the state’s investment in growing the unmanned aerial vehicle industry, according to the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Rules, categories, fees, and other details for the competition can be found on the event website at (search for NYS Fair Drone Film Festival), where filmmakers can also upload their videos for consideration.

The drone competition complements Central NY Rising, the region’s “comprehensive strategy to grow the economy,” according to Cuomo’s office. Central New York and the Mohawk Valley are home to New York State’s drone corridor, a 50-mile area “devoted to cutting-edge” research and development for the “fast-growing” drone industry.

The New York State Fair wanted to present an event about drones that would highlight “in an entertaining way” to help people understand what they’re all about, says Dave Bullard, marketing and public relations manager for the New York State Fair.

“We started talking about a number of ideas that we could execute before last year’s fair,” says Bullard, noting that the talks generated the idea for the film festival. 

Both Bullard and Massurin spoke to CNYBJ on March 22.

Bullard notes the discussion included representatives from the NUAIR Alliance, which says it is a “nonprofit coalition of more than 200 private and public entities and academic institutions working to operate and oversee testing of unmanned aircraft systems in New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan.” NUAIR is short for Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance.


Filmmakers can submit videos in eight categories, including “New York State Drones” for films made only in New York. 

“It’s got to be made here in the state somewhere,” says Massurin.

The categories also include “Narrative,” in which drone video helps to tell a narrative story; “Landscape/Architecture” for videos highlighting beautiful or interesting scenes; “Showreel,” in which drone videographers show highlights of their best work; “Sports,” for videos about athletic action; “Student,” for works created by high school or college students; “Corporate/Industrial/Business,” for films that feature drones and/or the people who work with them; and “News,” a new category this year, for videos in which drones contribute to coverage of a news story.

“Drones are increasingly being used to cover news stories,” says Massurin.

In addition, the competition includes a new category: “Drone Photos” for still photographs taken by drones. 

“All of the films do not have to be shot completely with drones … a number of them, it’s just a minimal requirement. Most of the films are five minutes in length. The narrative is 10 minutes and corporate industrial is up to 20 minutes,” says Massurin.

Entry fees for most categories are $25. Student entries cost $5 and entries in the corporate category are $50. 

Gold, silver, and bronze medals will be awarded in each category. The gold medal winners will also compete for the top prize, Best in Show, which carries a $250 award. Winning videos will be screened at an evening ceremony in the Art & Home Center’s Empire Theater on Sunday, Aug. 26.

The inaugural event attracted 83 entries, 27 of which captured awards, according to Massurin.

Last year’s “Best in Show” video, “Cargo Drones in Amazon: Behind the Scenes,” presented the story of using an unmanned aerial vehicle for the first time to deliver medicine needed to save a snake-bite victim deep into the Amazon rainforest. Other gold-medal videos presented new views of the Erie Canal, took viewers inside an expedition to Alaska, and showed the rugged beauty of Iceland.

“This is a blending of technology and film together,” says Massurin. “It’s really appreciating some of the amazing research that’s being done right here in Central New York.”

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