How to submit to film festivals

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So you’ve made a movie. Congratulations! It’s a huge accomplishment, and you deserve some recognition for it. One of the best ways to do this is to submit to film festivals. But how do you submit to film festivals? Let’s walk through the process together.

Make sure your movie is ready

There are a few things you’ll need to do to make sure your film is ready to be submitted to festivals. Of course, many of these things are normal post-production tasks, like color grading and sound mixing. However, one of them is tightening up your run time. We’ve heard time and time again that length is a huge factor in terms of what gets into a film festival; organizers want to show as many high quality films as they can, so if your short film is 40 minutes long–exactly the cut off time for most festivals–they’re less likely to pick yours. Now, some narratives need that amount of time to tell the whole story, and that’s okay, but it’s something to be aware of. Making your film as short as possible ups your odds a lot. If it hurts your heart too much to edit your film down, make a director’s cut and a festival cut. It makes it sting a little less.

Determine your goals

The why of submitting to film festivals is as important as the how. There are lots of reasons you might submit to film festivals, and knowing your reason(s) will help you select which film festivals you want to submit to. Reasons include

  • Getting exposure
  • Networking
  • Traveling alongside your film
  • Winning cash prizes
  • Prestige 
  • Finding distribution for your film

You likely have other reasons for submitting to film festivals, too. Think carefully about your reasons before you proceed any farther.

Look into genre film festivals

Obviously this only applies if you’d made a genre film. Plenty of film festivals accept genre submissions, but some of them focus on them; for example, Screamfest focuses on horror. There are tons of other horror festivals, as well as comedy; submitting to these festivals is a way to make your genre work for you.

Plan your strategy 

This might not hold true if your goal is, say, finding distribution for your film. This is why it’s imperative that you are clear about your goals. Only a few film festivals really attract the attention of film distributors, and you probably already know which ones they are: think Tribeca, Sundance, and SXSW. This is where you need to be focusing if distribution is your goal.

If your goal is to network and attend as many film festivals as possible, you might want to find film festivals within a certain radius that you can realistically travel to. This way you can meet other filmmakers in person and make connections. 

You’ll also need to keep an eye on the timeline of each festival. When is it open, when is the event, and when is cheapest to submit? We have a giant spreadsheet with lots of information about our favorite festivals. 

Work on your budget

Submitting to film festivals costs money. You need to make sure you have the funds to submit. If you are planning on traveling to film festivals, you need to have the cash for that as well. Calculate your costs carefully, pricing out each festival. 

Submit your work

After all the work you’ve just put in, this is the easiest part. Take your list of film festivals and go ahead and submit! We love how easy Film Freeway is, and paying for Gold membership makes it cheaper to submit. Go ahead and get your work out there! We’re proud of you!

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi


Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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