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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


Festival Location: Shreveport, Louisiana  

Ideal Film Submissions: In order to have a shot at the world’s largest cash prize for a short film, filmmakers must shoot an original 5- to 15-minute short film in northwest Louisiana. All narrative genres are accepted. To compete at the festival and win the $25,000 grand prize, your rough cut must be selected into the Top 20 films. The Top 20 Film Prize Finalist films are then judged during Prize Fest by industry folks and a general audience looking for innovative indie filmmakers wanting to elevate to the next level. Winning films have always featured strong stories with good sound. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: The Film Prize selection process is one of the most thought-out and well-executed processes in the indie filmmaking world. If chosen for the Film Prize Finals, filmmakers are tasked with creating a sales and marketing campaign for their film tailored for the Film Prize Jury (50% of the vote) and Film Prize attendees (50% of the vote). One of the biggest mistakes a filmmaker makes is when she/he doesn’t engage with the magical Film Prize process of emulating the real-world experience of creating and promoting the film. The filmmaker misses out on the chance of winning $25,000 cash, and on a one-of-a-kind film festival experience.   


Festival Location: Mammoth Lakes, California

Ideal Film Submissions: Films that have a strong visual style, heart, specific point of view, and a fresh approach to the medium. Risk taking.

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Derivative style. Predictable storytelling. Films with stock characters. On the nose writing. Bad sound. An overly long and poorly written synopsis.


Festival Location: Naples, Florida 

Ideal Film Submissions: Films emphasizing the visual and performing arts, inspirational films, and films that have humor and heart.  

Film Submission Pet Peeves: When the password changes on a submitted film screener without anyone letting us know the new one.  

Festival Location: North Bend, Washington
Ideal Film Submissions: Since the festival is held in the town outside of Seattle where David Lynch’s Twin Peaks was shot, NBFF is always eager to receive stories and filmmakers that are pushing the boundaries of cinematic craft, whether in a documentary, narrative, or downright bizarre experimental project. The fest also offers a discount to encourage Pacific Northwest-based filmmakers to submit, and puts an emphasis on programming diverse voices from the BIPOC, Queer, and female filmmaking communities.
Film Submission Pet Peeves: Disregard for submission criteria and guidelines. 


Festival Location: Atlanta

Ideal Film Submissions: Filmmakers who know what kind of festival we are and who take the time to send a cover letter addressed to individuals on our programming team.  

Film Submission Pet Peeves:  Filmmakers who don’t know what kind of festival we are (specifically non-LGBTQ titles) and send cover letters with the salutation “To Whom It May Concern.” 

Oxford Film Festivals

The view from the Oxford Film Festival, one of many festivals where you should not address your cover letter “Dear Sirs.”


Festival Location: Oxford, Mississippi  

Ideal Film Submissions: Tightly edited, cohesive, gorgeous, fantastic unique stories. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: “Dear sirs” in the cover letter, sending the trailer but not the film, putting a faulty password to “test” if we are watching; and submitting in the wrong category — no, your 5-minute short is not a feature.   

What Film Festivals Want continues on the next page.

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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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