Best Online Film Festivals

6 Best Online Film Festivals in 2023

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Online film festivals flourished in 2021, and it looks like they are here to stay!

Some festivals have closed, but many are now a hybrid of online and in-person events. If you have a film that needs to find an audience, online film festivals are your safest bet. 

So whether you have made a feature, short or experimental film, there will be a festival out there for you. Just be sure to read and follow the submission rules.

We’ve put together a list of online film festivals to consider entering this year, including a list of free film festivals online that you can join right away. Try them out and maximize your creativity.

1. Aesthetica 

  • Final Deadline: June 7th
  • Categories: All Categories
  • Festival Date: York, 2-7th November

Aesthetica short film festival was listed as one of our Best UK Film Festivals. It plans to be a hybrid festival this year, showcasing selected films online. 

The festival is looking for bold, powerful stories from all over the world. It is a Bafta-nominated festival, and despite its name, it accepts feature films and shorts.

2. Cannes  

Cannes online short film festivals
  • Final Deadline: April 26th
  • Categories: Features
  • Festival Date: 6th-17th July

Festival De Cannes is one of the most influential festivals in the world. It was forced to cancel last year but is re-opening at a later date this summer. 

Submissions for short films have closed, but features can are still accepted. Furthermore, you can still apply to the film market Marche Du Film, which will have pre-screenings to distributors, as an online festival in May. Not to mention a win at Cannes will only elevate your career. 

3. Cheltenham

Cheltenham short fim festival
  • Final Deadline: April 16th
  • Categories: All Categories
  • Festival Date: 24th-5th June

Cheltenham international short film festival was one of the first online short film festivals of 2020. They are fully prepared to go online again if necessary.

All film types are accepted, and there will be masterclasses, workshops and also special events. When entering film festivals, it is a good idea to submit to a mix of top tier and local festivals. After all, there is no guarantee that you can get into a major festival. Still, you can find an audience with smaller local screenings. 

4. EFN

free film festivals online
  • Final Deadline: April 11th
  • Categories: Short Films
  • Festival Date: Quarterly

Emerging Film Night takes place seasonally and aims to support upcoming directors. It’s quickly adapted to restrictions and will be solely taking place online this year.

You can watch the festival via a live stream on their Facebook page. There are many prizes to be won, such as a free copy of Final Draft, film critique, and exclusive film marketing. If you have a short film made within the past three years, it is eligible for submission. 

5. Ealing

Ealing online film festivals
  • Final Deadline: October 4th
  • Categories: Short Films
  • Festival Date: December 4th

Only a year old, Ealing Film Festival had to deal with a lockdown during its opening night. Although they aim to have an in-person event, plans are in place to operate online. Online short film festivals are likely to stick around for some time. 

You can enter with any short film under 15 minutes made in the last three years. There are no notable awards (or cash prizes), but the judges are professionals working within the film industry. 

6. Toronto

Toronto International Film Festival
  • Final Deadline: May 14th
  • Categories: All Categories
  • Festival Date: 9th-18th September

Another major film festival is ready to roll offline. Toronto International Film Festival is making plans to do a hybrid of both in-person events and offline screenings. 

Highlights include lectures, workshops, industry support and many awards. The festival typically sees over 100,000 people attending and attracts film distributors on the lookout for films to buy. It’s good to know that you are not missing out on opportunities even if you can’t attend this year. 

Free Film Festivals Online

If you are interested in entering a festival but low on cash, try out one of these free film festivals online. These don’t have big cash prizes or awards but can film shared with a new international audience. 

You can also find out what festivals are still active and taking submissions through Film Freeway

Remember, before you enter any festival, carefully read the submission rules. Some film festivals desire premier status. For example, if you enter into free film festivals online, you might be disqualified from major festival screenings. Below are some of the free film festivals online, but you can search Film Freeway for more events.

Wrapping Up – Online Film Festivals

Film festivals allow you to market yourself and your work to a broad audience. As an indie filmmaker, you need to enter festivals to find distribution and sell your film.

Online film festivals are a convenient way to showcase your film during a pandemic. However, they will likely stay around for many years to come.

People have been critical of film festivals for some time. Both for environmental reasons and because it is costly for filmmakers to travel to festivals worldwide.

Perhaps online film festivals are the solution to this problem.

Will you be entering any online film festivals this year? Let us know in the comments.

Amy Clarke
Amy Clarke
Amy is a former script supervisor. She writes about careers in the film industry. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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