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Tips for Applying to Student Film Festivals

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 12/24/2010

Here is a look at how students should approach the film festival scene.

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    The Student Film Festival Scene

    Film festivals are the most essential part of the independent filmmaker experience as this is where your work gets seen, awarded, and even possibly sold. For the student filmmaker in film school, who is trying to hone their craft and make a career for themselves, this is also crucial so that their student film work does not just remain a school project. Instead, this work is supposed to help them make a name for themselves and push them into their film career goals. Student film festivals and competitive film festivals that accept student work are just as important as their regular coursework and should be just part and parcel of their educational experience. Here are a few tips for those who want to begin their process of applying for student film festivals.

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    The first thing that you will need to do is to get organized. Right now the best way to do this for student film festival submissions is to go to, an online service created by the IMDB. With you will create a profile for your student film with all the relevant crew, press, story, and contact information. This process takes quite a while, but will be used in all of your student film festival applications. From here you will then start looking through all the available festivals, with a focus on those that give special clearances to student films or student film festivals specifically.

    Make sure that all of your physical materials, such as the press kit and DVDs, are ready. When you submit with the online service your application and payment will go online, but you will still have to send in the DVD and other materials through a regular mailing system. Some student film festivals allow for an online upload of a digital movie file, but this is still very rare.

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    Film Festival Choices

    The student film festivals you choose to submit to are really going to be based on your situation specifically. The first thing that should be considered is the price. Most film festivals have a fairly hefty submission price, and this is a major obstacle for student filmmakers. What you should do is look for the largest number of free film festivals, or film festivals that are free for student filmmakers. Make sure to put these all on your Wish List and prepare for those submissions. Try to submit to as many free film festivals as you can as this raises the chance of your film being seen and will not force you to go broke.

    From here you will then want to give the priority to a few well known festivals that are going to be financially feasible for you. This will often be determined by how low the student film fee is, or when you are submitting it. will allow you to have an early submission date for many festivals, and this may have a cheap fee or even have that fee waived altogether. Try to find as many of these as you can and see if you can then submit to them before the cost becomes unreasonable. Several of the larger film festivals will actually make it free as a standard for student filmmakers, even though it is not a free film festival. Cannes is a good example of this, and it should be a good option for student filmmakers.

    You may also want to look into areas that will allow you to attend without much trouble, such as student film festivals that are in relevant locations for you. If the film festival pays for travel and accommodations that is also great, but less common for student film festivals and short films in general.

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    Student Film Awards

    When you are applying for student film festivals you should take a good look at student film awards also. Many of these are going to be academically focused, such as the Student Academy Awards. They are not going to have the same kind of public screenings as professional and student film festivals will, but they will often be a major place to get your work seen by industry professionals and to build your resume with awards and recognition. Many student film awards are regionally location, and you may want to just go for different film awards in general that will allow students to enter.