Best UK Film Festivals

10 Best UK Film Festivals

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In this article, we look at the best UK film festivals focusing on popularity, genre and entry dates.

So you have spent months (or even years) making your film but what’s next?

Without a doubt, film festivals should be your first destination. Not only can you watch your film on the big screen, but also test it with a live audience.

In addition, your film might even pick up awards or catch the eye of a distributor.

These days the majority of film festivals use Film Freeway for submissions. On there you will find a dictionary of thousands of festivals you can enter.

However, statistically, you are more likely to have your film shown at a local film festival.

To make things easier we have listed 10 of the finest UK film festivals that you can enter this year. Best of luck and make sure to read through the festival guidelines.

→ Sheffield Doc Fest

Sheffield Doc Fest
  • Final Deadline – March 2nd
  • Shorts, Features & Experimental Documentary
  • Festival Dates 4th – 9th June, Sheffield

The deadline is fast approaching for the UK’s largest documentary film festival. Their program includes both masterclasses and networking events.

Furthermore, they also host a marketplace for filmmakers to sell and distribute their films.

→ Raindance Film Festival

  • Early Deadline 24th April – Final Deadline 29th May
  • Shorts & Features, All Genres
  • Festival Dates September, London

The largest independent UK film festival. Raindance is the film festival that British filmmakers particularly strive to be part of.

It is also an Academy Award Qualifying festival. That is to say, if your short film is accepted you can apply to win an Oscar.

→ Iris Prize Cardiff

Iris Prize Cardiff
  • Early Deadline March 30th – Final Deadline June 22nd
  • Shorts & Features, LGBT+ Genre
  • Festival Dates 6-11th October, Cardiff

The Iris Prize is the largest short film prize in the world, awarding £30,000 to the best LGBT+ short film. If you have made a film in the LGBT+ genre this festival should undoubtedly be on your submission list.

As well as prodigious prizes the festival also has industry talks, networking events and parties every night.

→ Aesthetica Short Film Festival

Aesthetica Short Film Festival
  • Final Deadline 31st May
  • Shorts & Features, All Genres
  • Festival Dates 4th – 8th November, York

Organised by one of the UK’s largest arts magazines, Aesthetica is a Bafta qualifying film festival.

Furthermore, you can pitch to some of the UK’s biggest production companies (for instance Film4 and BBC Films). Not to mention the new industry marketplace where you can meet face-to-face with sales agents and distributors.

→ Bolton Film Festival

Bolton Film Festival
  • Early Deadline November 1st  – Final Deadline June 10th
  • Short Films Only, All Genres 
  • Festival Dates 5th – 10th October 2021

Celebrating films from home and abroad, Bolton Film Festival is a BAFTA qualifying short film festival that acts as an amplifier of emerging and established talent.

Through its industry talks, masterclasses and networking sessions it aims to break open the door to a creative industry that many people find difficult to access and navigate.

→ Encounters Film Festival

Best UK Film Festivals
  • Early Deadline March 26h – Final Deadline June 4th
  • Short Films Only, All Genres
  • Festival Dates 20th – 26th September, Bristol

Encounters is the UK’s largest short film festival. It’s a competitive festival and films selected are both Bafta and Academy Award qualifying.

So if you think you have an excellent short film be sure to submit. Altogether the festival promises to be a jam-packed event this year with industry talks and special guests.

→ Norwich Film Festival

Norwich Film Festival
  • Regular Deadline May 31st – Final Deadline June 21st
  • Short Films Only, All Genres
  • Festival Dates 6th – 15th November, Norwich

One of Film Freeways’ highest-rated film festivals to attend. Norwich has the warm community feel of a small festival, while still awarding big prizes. It’s Bafta award qualifying and also hosts several filmmaking educational workshops.

→ Leeds International

Leeds International
  • Early Deadline 6th April – Final Deadline 10th August
  • Short Films & Features, All Genres
  • Festival Dates 4th – 19th  November, Leeds

Leeds International is one of the UK’s longest-running film festivals. It’s a competitive festival both Bafta and Academy Award qualifying.

Specifically, their BFI partnership provides feature film funding for filmmakers based in the North.

→ UK Festival  

UK Film Festival
  • Early Deadline 12th May – Final Deadline 22nd September
  • Short Films & Features, All Genres
  • Festival Dates 19th – 23rd November, London

A long-running film festival in the heart of London. In particular, they have script competitions and aim to get their winning scripts into production.

In fact, five scripts have previously been optioned and gone on to win awards and distribution.

→ Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival
  • 2021 Deadline TBA
  • Short Films & Features, All Genres
  • Festival Dates 17th – 28th June, Edinburgh

Edinburgh hosts the world’s longest-running film festival. Unfortunately, this year’s submission window has closed, but it will open again later this year for the 2021 festival. This year predicts special guests, Q&A’s and networking opportunities.

Wrapping Up – UK Film Festivals

To sum up, if you put the effort into making a film don’t leave it sitting on a shelf.

Film festivals are the easiest way to find an audience for your film. With this in mind next time you make a film why not give one of these UK film festivals a shot.

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