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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: Portland, Oregon

Ideal Film Submissions: Open to any film style, genre and length. We’ve had a four-hour film and a 20-second short. Send in your narrative, documentary, short, feature, music video, animated, web, advertising spot, TV series, ultra-short and more. We look for a unique focus. Sure, we like to be inspired, but we like to cry and get angry too. We like to feel all the feels (hope, love, relief, action, laughter, learning and more). We salivate over films with great stories and fresh takes on the new and the old. We want to discover your love and passion for filmmaking. Yes, we like undiscovered subject matters, underrepresented ideas, people, voices and emotionally uplifting and soul drenching premises. But at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than watching a submission that has a strong story, character, cast, script, acting, timing, lighting, sound, soundtrack, visuals, as well as a million other strengths. Your film may not have everything but it will have a mixture of something and that’s what really excites us. We can’t wait to watch your film.

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Filmmakers who don’t update their contact info.


Festival Location: San Luis Obispo, California 

Ideal Film Submissions: Documentaries, narrative features, films about social justice including women’s rights, racial equality and LGBTQIA+ stories, winemaking, lifestyle, food and sports. 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Overly long documentaries, not reading submission requirements, lack of research about our particular festival.  


Festival Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Ideal Film Submissions: We love genre films, documentaries, films with diverse casts (and crew), LGBTQIA+ films, challenging films, films directed by women, innovative films, traditional narratives and non-traditional narratives, late nighters, early morning-ers, animation, international films, family friendly films and controversial films — we love films of all kinds, there’s no ideal submission.We work for our lineup to be as diverse in content, style and form as the filmmakers that make the films… But it won’t hurt if the film features a kitten or pizza.  

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Getting a fee waiver request two weeks before the festival (and way after the call for entries has closed). Not kidding, it happens.

Slamdance Goes Online — and to Joshua Tree — for 2021

The Slamdance Film Festival will go online this year, with an invite-only gathering in Joshua Tree, California.


Festival Location: Park City, Utah

Ideal Film Submissions: A Slamdance film isn’t just a good film. We are a scrappy, alternative, DIY artist-led festival that values outsiders, true independence, raw talent over technical skill, personal vision, unique perspectives, and advances to the filmmaking form. We want to find and support exciting, groundbreaking filmmakers, even if they are still developing their craft. We have helped launch the careers of filmmakers including Christopher Nolan and the Russo Brothers, and look to kick off more new voices each year.

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Don’t ask us to update your screener if you’ve made new edits to your film! Submit when you are ready to fully stand behind and be judged by what you are turning in, even if it is a work-in-progress cut. It is unfair to other filmmakers who wait and pay the higher submission fees, and difficult for our small admin team to manage.


Festival Location: Minneapolis

Ideal Film Submissions: Music-related Documentaries 

Film Submission Pet Peeves: Films not having anything to do with music (fiction, documentaries, and shorts) and not being able to contact the person who has submitted the entry.

Demystified Studiofest Jess Jacklin Charles Beale Lowam Eyasu Ryan Oksenberg what film festivals want

StudioFest co-founders Charles Irvine Beale and Jess Jacklin also created the video series “Demystified,” presented by MovieMaker, which offers even more transparency about how to break into film.


Festival Location: Varies (StudioFest is a traveling festival)
Ideal Film Submissions: StudioFest is unique in that it awards its winners financing and production of an original feature film. For us, the ideal submissions show a unique and innovative approach to storytelling and an ability to create and collaborate on a small budget. The best submissions clearly show that the creators are ready to take the next step into the realm of professional filmmaking.
Film Submission Pet Peeves: Filmmakers pitching and submitting their films outside of the submission platform. We personally watch and read everything that comes through the platform, but cannot consider anything not submitted through it.

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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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