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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 Evolution Mallorca

Evolution! Mallorca festival founder and director Sandra Lipski with winners at the 2017 festival, before social distancing was a thing.


Festival Location: Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Ideal Film Submissions: Films that represent the festival’s mission: Bridging Cultures & Bridging People. This can can be reflected in the storytelling, the shooting locations and the cast and crew. The idea is to find films that are inclusive, diverse, and invite the audience to experience a variety of languages and cultures. Ideal film submissions are very complete — they include a synopsis, logline, short director’s bio, one great screenshot, etc. They also include the filmmaker reading the small print regarding possible subtitles and screening fee regulations so you know what you’re signing up for. All festivals are different!

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Incomplete submissions can hurt a film’s first impression. So can a lack of research! A quick two-minute research session before each submission, to double check that your film truly fits the festival’s criteria, can save you and the festival time and money — and increase your success rate.


Festival Location: New York City 

Ideal Film Submissions:  Unique, powerful, captivating films and scripts in any category and genre, about anything or anyone under the sun, especially something or someone we might not know about. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Absolutely none! Go ahead and shock, surprise, enlighten, inspire, motivate or amaze us!  No subject is off limits.  


Festival Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas 

Ideal Film Submissions: As the longest running all-documentary film festival in North America, HSDFF is a filmmaker-focused festival that aims to elevate under-represented voices from the American South and around the world. As we prepare for our 30th anniversary in 2021, we are committed to using our platform to share stories that inspire, inform and challenge our audiences. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: HSDFF is an Academy Award-qualifying festival in the documentary shorts category. Length is a factor when it comes to our shorts and we would like to remind our submitters that in order to qualify, shorts need to be under 40 minutes (including credits) and must not be streaming. Every now and then we have to disqualify films because they are already online and it breaks our heart to see this happen! 


Festival Location: Lake County, Illinois, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee  

Ideal Film Submissions: Things we haven’t seen before. Or things we have seen before, but from a different angle, or a different viewpoint. Anything that keeps us guessing. It’s even better if it goes somewhere we didn’t guess.  

Film Submission Pet Peeves: James Brown said it best when he sang “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin.’” We love long shorts, but not shorts that feel long.  

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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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