The Heartland Film Festival: How to Enter Your Film in the Festival

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Competition Categories

The Heartland Film Festival began as a small festival in 1992 in Indianapolis. It has grown into a ten-day event showcasing independent films from all over the world. The Heartland Film Festival takes place every October and awards over $100,000 in cash and prizes to the top entrants.

The Heartland Film Festival presents the Crystal Heart Awards to select filmmakers who best exhibit the mission of the festival’s positive message. The top award, the Grand Prize Award, recognizes the best dramatic feature film at the Heartland Film Festival.

Other award categories at the Heartland Film Festival include Best Documentary Feature, Vision Award for Best Short Film, Audience Choice Awards, Pioneering Spirit Awards, Truly Moving Pictures Awards and High School Film Competition Awards.

The winners of most of the awards must be present to win the cash and prizes for their films. The only award that is not included in this restriction at the Heartland Film Festival is the Audience Choice Award. The festival announces this winner at the closing ceremonies. The Heartland Film Festival sends the prize to the Audience Choice Award winner after the festival ends.

How to Enter Your Film

Filmmakers can enter their films in festival through the Heartland Film Festival’s website or the Withoutabox community. Deadlines for entry stretch from May through June of each year for the October festival.

Entry fees for feature films, as of 2010, start at $45 with an early bird discount up to $70 with the extended deadline. Short films start at $15 while high school entries for feature films are as low as $15 as well.

Filmmakers can send submission copies to the Heartland Film Festival as a secure online screener or DVD (Region 0 or 1). If accepted, the filmmakers must submit exhibition copies of the movie on Blu-Ray, HDCAM or 35mm formats. All films must have a completion date of no earlier than one year before the submission date.

Feature films submitted to the Heartland Film Festival range from 50 minutes up to 150 minutes. The Heartland Film Festival will notify all filmmakers of their decision to exhibit the films by the start of September.

Festival Events

Outside of the competition categories, the Heartland Film Festival also holds a number of special non-award screenings and conducts networking opportunities for filmmakers.

The Heartland Film Festival chooses one film each year to be the Opening Night film and includes a question and answer session with the filmmakers and a reception immediately following the event. The festival also offers a filmmaker’s brunch and family movie event.

The Heartland Institute Workshop allows Heartland Film Festival award winning filmmakers and Official Selection filmmakers to discuss the filmmaking process from script to screening. The workshop also includes educators and experts talking about the filmmaking process in a variety of topics.