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What Film Festivals Want: Festivals Tell Us Their Ideal Submissions and Pet Peeves

What Film Festivals Want: Festivals Tell Us Their Ideal Submissions and Pet Peeves

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What Film Festivals Want

What do film festivals want from moviemakers submitting films? The fact that you’re asking that question already puts you ahead of lots of filmmakers who haven’t considered how to make their films as appealing as possible to film festival selection committees and judges. This list of what film festivals want will hopefully give you an inside advantage: advice from the festivals themselves.

We’re posting this on January 1, 2021 — Happy New Year, by the way! — in the hopes that this will help you achieve your resolution of getting your film into a fantastic festival this year. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of the many wonderful film festivals across the globe, so we’ll be updating this list throughout the year. (If there’s a particular festival you’re interested in, please let us know in the comments.)

Though the advice here is specific to each festival, some of it is good advice for submitting to all festivals. For example: “Dear sirs” is a bad way to start your cover letter. “To whom it may concern” isn’t great, either. Make sure judges can view your film easily — and find you easily when it’s time to deliver some good news.  And judges will love you if you can tell a beautiful story concisely.

You can learn more about all of the festivals — or submit your films — through FilmFreeway. We’ve included links.

With that said, here’s what the first 20 film festivals on our list told us about what they want from you. Congratulations on getting your work out there — and good luck!


Festival Location: Bentonville, Arkansas 

Ideal Film Submissions: Films that represent inclusive storytelling on and off screen. Films that have a director, writer, or producers that are female, non-binary, BIPOC, or persons with a disability. Films that have prominent roles that are inclusive and diverse. Films that have subjects often underrepresented in media. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Disregarding the inclusion criteria for BFF submissions, and films that provide very little information about the filmmakers and film crew. 


Festival Location: Big Bear, California 

Ideal Film Submissions: Feature and short narrative films and documentaries 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: No pet peeves, we’re just chill bears sharing the best independent films and music. 


Festival Location: Hico, Texas 

Ideal Film Submissions: Feature and short narrative films and documentaries that highlight an “outlaw” spirit and/or represent Texas filmmaking. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Filmmakers that are difficult to contact or locate after they have submitted their films. 

Also Read: 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry 2020

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  1. Ned Cordery says:

    OK we hear the Festivals now for the Festivals to hear this film maker. Tell us how many entries you receive and how many are screened for the previous year. Tell us now many entries are requested by the Festival to be screened by-passing the entry process. Detail your screening selection process. We are tired o being financial fodder particularly to the big name festivals where less than 5% of entries are screened.

  2. Pat Pawlak says:

    Great article but what about distributors/film makers pet peeves? Had a film that sold out at a certain film festival. THey wanted the print so I agreed if they paid for shipping both ways they could screen the film. Estimated they made $10,000 off the screenings but they refused to send the print back.

    Holy cow, I saw that four (4) programmers from that festival were staying at the Carlton in Cannes ($500 a night, minimum 10 night stay) right after their festival but they refused to honor their agreement to ship that print back (due to”lack of funds”?) but they had no problem spending at least $50,000 on themselves at the most expensive hotel in Cannes (air fare, food,etc.) .

    That film screened at another festival at 1,500 seat theater twice, standing room only. I was there estimating the film made that festival $35,000 +. I could go on how some of these festivals are really taking advantage now with these submission fees.

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