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April 18, 2012
RoundupsVideo Production

Submit To Film Festivals – Fifteen Fests You Should Enter

Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca.  You’re familiar with these big film festival names, but what about the other influential film festivals showcasing innovative new work?  In this post, discover where YOU should be submitting your film!

So, you’ve completed a film project.  Now it’s time to submit to film festivals!  In this post, we’ve rounded up prominent film festivals that are both accessible AND affordable.  Each of these film festivals is open to public submission and showcases a wide variety of independent film genres/styles.

Whether you’re an accomplished filmmaker, or just looking to break into the business, these are excellent film festivals to submit your work.

Have suggestions for additional film festivals?
Please share in the comments!

Action on Film International Film Festival

Submit to Action on Film Festival

Action on Film is a multi-genre international film festival that takes place each year in Long Beach, California.  Started in 2005, this relative newcomer to the festival scene showcases over 400 films.  The rising acclaim of the event coupled with low prices for submissions makes the Action on Film International Film Festival an attractive venue for filmmakers to showcase their work.

Ann Arbor Film Festival

Ann Arbor Film Festival Submit

Ann Arbor is well-known as the home of the University of Michigan, but in recent years it’s received acclaim for another local attraction, the Ann Arbor Film Festival.  The AAFF has created a name for itself by being one of the premiere festivals for experimental filmmaking (although the festival showcases a wide variety of genres). Established in 1963, the festival is one of the longest running film fests in North America.

Atlanta Film Festival

Atlanta Film Festival

The Atlanta Film Festival is an Academy Award qualifying festival that occurs each spring in Atlanta, Georgia.  One of the largest film festivals in the U.S., the event hosts an audience of over 25,000 yearly.  Submission into this festival is competitive with only 150 or so films being accepted out of the nearly 2,000 applicants.  Films come from a variety of genres and styles including independent, international, animated, documentary and short-form.

Austin Film Festival

Austin Film Festival

What makes the Austin Film Festival unique among other festivals is its emphasis on screenwriting.  In addition to filmmaking awards, the festival celebrates innovative work in both screenplay and teleplay writing.  The AFF also includes a conference component with breakout groups and talks led by leaders in the television and film industry.  The Austin Film Festival is often attended by Hollywood heavyweights and is known for being a launching point for gifted screenwriters and filmmakers.

Cinequest Film Festival

Cinequest Film Festival Submit

Are you a maverick filmmaker?  New and independent filmmakers are celebrated each year at this San Jose, California festival.  The bar is set high for entry, as only about 200 out of 2000 entrants made it into the most recent competition.  Festival organizers note that many films debuting at Cinequest have gone on to receive distribution with movie studios.  The Maverick Spirit award is given each year to the filmmakers whose work is most innovative.

Florida Film Festival

Florida Film Festival

The Florida Film Festival highlights some of the best work in independent film and is the premiere film fest in the southeast U.S. region.  The weeklong event features special guests, forums, speakers, networking parties and over 150 screenings of creative long and short-form films.  Films that receive top prizes from the Florida Film Festival will qualify for Academy Award consideration.

Independent Film Festival Boston

Independent Film Festival Boston

The largest film festival in New England, Independent Film Festival Boston is a juried competition that takes place each spring.  IFFB showcases a variety of genres in narrative, documentary and short formats.  The best films receive Grand Jury, Special Jury and Audience Awards.  IFFB is attended by well-known film personalities (past guests include Steve Buscemi, Will Arnett, John Waters, Sir Ben Kingsley) and is one of the fast growing festivals in the U.S.

Maryland Film Festival

Maryland Film Festival

The Maryland Film Festival showcases narrative, documentary, animation and experimental movies from filmmakers around the world.  Emphasis is placed on filmmaker attendance to the festival, with every North American entrant in attendance to present his or her work.  Each annual festival also features two unique screenings, a vintage 35mm 3D film and a silent film with live accompaniment.

Nantucket Film Festival

Nantucket Film Festival

This Ben Stiller backed festival is quickly becoming one of the most exclusive fests in the US.  The Nantucket Film Festival commemorates notable screenwriters with their annual Screenwriters Tribute.  Another highlight of the festival is a Late Night Storytelling presentation, where actors and filmmakers tell tales completely off script (former storytellers include the Farrelly Brothers, Jim Carrey and Tina Fey).  This festival is on its way to becoming one of the “big ones”.

Nashville Film Festival

Nashville Film Festival

The Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) is a juried fest that occurs each spring in Nashville, Tennessee.  As one of the oldest festivals in the US, the festival showcases a diverse mix of films during the weeklong event.  Given Nashville’s long-running history of music, each festival features a special showcase of music-related films.   Awards are given for outstanding narrative, documentary, short and music related entries.

New Orleans Film Festival

New Orleans Film Festival

Unlike many other festivals that occur each spring, the New Orleans Film Festival occurs each year around mid-October.  Backed by the New Orleans Film Society, the festival features a variety of events and parties to coincide with the screenings.  Recently, camera packages and cash prizes were awarded to the best narrative, documentary and Louisiana-focused films.

San Antonio Film Festival

San Antonio Film Festival

As one of the premier annual fests in the south, the San Antonio Film Festival (SAFILM) showcases narrative, documentary, animation and experimental films.  The festival is juried, but also awards a significant amount of Audience Choice awards to outstanding films.  Students looking to show their work can enter the College or High School Films categories.

Seattle International Film Festival

Seattle International Film Festival

Seattle’s annual international film festival is one of the longest and most attended, spanning over 3 weeks with over 150,000+ in attendance in recent years.  Entry into the fest is highly competitive, but entry is accessible with low entry fees for filmmakers.  Cash prizes are award to the best films in each major category.

Sonoma International Film Festival

Sonoma International Film Festival

Each spring, the Sonoma International Film Festival showcases nearly 150 independent films.  Set in the beautiful California wine country, the three-day event includes industry mixers/networking events and filmmaking discussion panels.  The fest puts an emphasis on foreign and international features and shorts.

Tall Grass Film Festival

Tall Grass Film Festival

Wichita, Kansas’ Tall Grass Film Festival celebrates innovative independent filmmaking.  The mission of the fest is to showcase a variety of films that may not otherwise get a viewing audience through traditional theatrical screenings.  Tall Grass is heralded for fostering a friendly and accessible environment for filmmakers and audiences alike.

Submitting to film festivals is one way to get your work scene by a diverse and engaged audience, as well as gain recognition and possible distribution. If you’re not quite ready to submit your film to the likes of Sundance and Cannes, the innovative and emerging fests listed above are excellent opportunities to get your work seen!

Have you attended or entered a film festival that didn’t make this list?
Let us about other festivals in the comments!

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  • Mcrx8150

    My son is filming his 2nd movie this summer, but the first one to be specifically for a film festival.  This list is excellent.  Do you just meet the requirments of the festival and submit a film?  Is there anything else that he should know about.  Any “site” for information or somewhere he could ask questions if he needed some help…thanks a lot

    • Nannette Lipinski


  • billstreeter

    I don’t happen to believe any film festival is worth the time and effort to enter. They’re largely just self sustaining excersizes that do little to promote small independent filmmakers. You’d be better off putting some energy into online promotion and distribution or ooking your own screenings in non traditional venues. 99.9% of all films at any festivals will generate absolutely no buzz, or will get picked up for distribution or sold. If your motivation for screening it is to just have your film seen, release it for free online. If you want to make money skip the festivals and work on promoting your film and self distribution on DVD and online. Festivals often aren’t worth the entry fees you pay to enter them. Huge waste of time. Don’t bother entering a film fest unless you’re invited.

    • Danny Greer

      Thanks for your input, Bill. That’s an interesting take on it. Although some festivals do generate a bit of income through application fees, others are simply trying to cover the cost of organizing and orchestrating the event. I personally think festivals provide a unique venue to get your work shown to interested viewers…but I would agree that filmmakers should be choosy when picking which festivals to enter. Ease of sharing video online is changing the way we get work seen…and sold.

    • Daniel Lowe

      Unfortunately, I have to agree with Bill. Film festivals actually seem to enjoy making filmmakers suffer in order to submit their work. Film festivals also seem to “know what they want”, and if you’re some random person submitting your film, they act like you’ve walked in on them in the bathroom.

      I’ve gotten in arguments with virtually every film festival I come in contact with, in the past a major problem was that they could only accept films on DVD, which kills the night-sky, high quality time-lapse footage that I’ve shot at 5K.

      Recently, the Asheville Cinema festival (where I live) told me my film was “fantastic”.. but they said they “just can’t fit it in”.. and then added a similar film of longer length from an out-of-state filmmaker.

      So my film, which was invited to the Vermont International festival, can’t make the cut at my local festival… this is the stupid, insane politics of film festivals!

      I got frustrated with this whole process and founded my own film festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Chronos Film festival… the irony here is that as a board member, I wasn’t allowed to screen my own work.

      If you’re a film festival reading this and you want to offer some truly *different* content (think: Baraka, Samsara, National Geographic), check out my work at

      • Daniel Lowe

        P.S. this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but try getting your films screened at related events that are NOT film festivals. For example, I’ll be showing my work at the International Dark Sky festival in Harmony, FL.

        • Danny Greer

          Solid advice. Thanks for sharing Daniel.

  • Pingback: 10 Tips for Submitting to Film Festivals |

  • Michelle is also a good one for not just environmental films, but films that were green-produced.

    • Danny Greer

      Thanks for sharing, Michelle.

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  • Tom Sargent

    There are independent film festivals that offer free submissions for filmmakers, my local festival for example (

    While I agree to some extent I don’t see why filmmakers shouldn’t make use of the festival and online route to promote their film. If you make the effort festival are still a great place for networking, promoting and the experience of watching your film in a cinema in front of an audience makes it worthwhile on it’s own.



  • Kathryn Freeman

    Hi. Thanks for this list and also for the useful comments below. I am choosing to be naive at this point and would like to submit my short film. Can any of you more experienced artists recommend festivals that consider somewhat traditional films. In other words- my film is not avant garde nor breaking new ground. It is just a good story told simply and beautifully (in my opinion). I would deeply appreciate any advice as it is hard to tell how to get a read on the festivals. thanks!!!!

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  • john


    short film ‘UNKNOWN’


    I Love Only Production

    Its a story around a boy’s life, whose name is Alex. who is Hacker/cracker. And he love to create/write computer programs. After receiving an unknown letter & call something happened unbelievable – After putting lots of efforts he finished it his own way.

    its one man show n best available resources

    Director’s work


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