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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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!