Best Short Film Festivals

Best Short Film Festivals in 2024 [Complete Guide]

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Short film festivals are a great way to find funding, gain exposure, and network in the film industry. In fact, most filmmakers start their careers making shorts and entering film competitions. Doing so allows you to practice your craft without spending lots of money.

Film festivals can also pave the way for your film career. By winning one, you can then approach studios to fund a feature film or even win a major industry award.

Best Short Film Festivals

Short film festivals run throughout the year. However, new ones are always appearing, often from some of the most surprising sources. Let’s look at some of the best ones that you can enter this year.

US Short Film Festivals

Sundance Short Film Festival

  • Deadline: August
  • Festival: January
  • Fee: $65

Sundance is the longest-running short film festival, having been active for over 40 years. It has many categories, including one for US shorts and another for world short films.

You can enter a short film in any genre, but it must run under 50 minutes in length. There are also no restrictions on short films shown at other festivals and online.

Being accepted into the prestigious Sundance Film Festival shows your talent for filmmaking. Award winners will receive plenty of promotion for their short films. It’s also an Oscar-worthy festival, meaning you can submit your film to compete for an Oscar.

Plus, you will also be invited to attend networking events with prominent producers and studios, giving you the chance to sell your next film project.

So, a major festival like this is a good idea if you tackle a feature film after your short film. Still, let’s look at some smaller festivals and other short film competitions.

Boston Short Film Festival

  • Deadline: February
  • Festival: July
  • Fee: $25

The Boston Short Film Festival wants to empower the next generation of artists. This festival has been running for nine years and aims to screen up to a hundred films yearly.

The festival focuses on unconventional, unusual, and underground cinema. So, if you have something a little different to show, then this one is for you.

Enter your short film, up to 55 minutes in all genres, including animation. You are also fine to enter your short film if it has had it shown at other festivals.

All selected filmmakers will receive The Tarkovski Grant, a film festival submission fee package with an average value of about $500.

In addition, all films enter Producer’s Night, an opportunity for independent filmmakers to have their work screened by a group of Hollywood producers. For many directors, it could mean their ticket to the mainstream.

Shore Scripts Feature Contest

  • Deadline: August
  • Festival: January
  • Fee: $40

This film competition is for scriptwriters and the selection is based entirely on your script. Feature films, TV pilots, and short films all have their own competitions and prizes.

Enter your script, it’s as simple as that. Every script is read by two separate readers, all of whom have won either an Oscar, BAFTA, Emmy, or Golden Globe.

Scripts should be between 2-30 pages and written in size 12 courier, formatted like a professional script.

If you are truly the next Aaron Sorkin and your script wins, then you can look forward to receiving $10-15k. In addition to free camera equipment rental from Arri, full production support from Shore, and some online scriptwriting subscriptions.

What makes this competition worthy is that it suits both writers and writer/directors. If you’re a writer, they’ll even provide a director and team to help you make the film.

Hot Docs Festival

  • Deadline: November
  • Festival: April
  • Fee: $40

Hot Docs is an organization dedicated to advancing and celebrating the art of documentary filmmaking. They do this by holding programs, classes, and contests for filmmakers.

Each year, Hot Docs holds a huge festival showcasing over 200 documentary films from around the world. There is also a film market where you can sell your film.

To enter, you need to have created a feature, short, or episodic non-fiction film. Short films must be Toronto premieres and can’t have been screened in Toronto publically.

Hot Docs has two competitions, one for Canadian films and another for world cinema. In addition, Hot Docs is an Oscar and Bafta-worthy festival. So, if you have your film screened, you can apply for an Oscar and the Baftas.

There are also plenty of opportunities to network and promote your film to distribution companies, studios, and executives.

Ann Arbor Film Festival

  • Deadline: August
  • Festival: June
  • Fee: $45

Ann Arbor is the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America. They aim to promote bold, visionary films and engage communities with cinema.

Their short film competitions are for a range of genres. Ann Arbour also selects between 100 and 145 short films for exhibition, so there is a stronger chance of having a screening.

To enter, your film short film must be no longer than 60 minutes. Entries are accepted through online submission, though they also accept 16mm.

There are over $24,000 cash prizes for filmmakers, split between 20 awards. The biggest award is the $3,000 Ken Burns award, presented to the film of any genre that represents the artistic standards of the festival.

Other awards include Best Female Filmmaker, Best Animation, and Best Sound Design. In fact, there are so many awards and prizes that it’s worth entering your short.

Hollywood Comedy Shorts

  • Deadline: December
  • Festival: April
  • Fee: $35

Hollywood comedy shorts is for short comedy, web series, and short episodic films.

They want all comedy niches, from dark comedy to rom-coms and horror comedy. Anything goes as long as it’s funny. During the festival, you will have the chance to promote your short and upcoming projects.

Better still, the top categories have cash awards and prizes valued at over $30,000. Sponsors include Kodak, Camera Diversion, Final Draft, and E Tech Camera Rentals.

Short film competitions like this are great for meeting producers who are looking for projects within a specific genre. So, if you want to make a comedy, it makes sense to enter and attend a film festival with this focus.

Many filmmakers attend festivals with their next film script and look for funding at networking events. If possible, try to attend festivals in person so you can make the most of these opportunities.

Aspen Shortsfest

  • Deadline: October
  • Festival: April
  • Fee: $80

Aspen Shortsfest is an Oscar-worthy short film festival based in Colorado. Each April, the festival has public screenings, panels, workshops, and special guests.

There are four categories to enter, including animation, comedy, drama, and documentary. All filmmakers are welcome, and shorts must be under 40 minutes long.

Each winner will receive a cash prize of $2,500. Plus, there are additional awards for student filmmakers, an audience choice award, and a special jury award.

The festival also asks for premier status, so your short can not have been screened at another festival before this one.

Aspen is also an industry recognised place for discovering new talent. Previously, they have shown short films from Hollywood directors such as Damien Chazelle and Jason Reitman. So, they have a history of finding and nurturing upcoming directors.

Atlanta Film Festival

  • Deadline: September
  • Festival: April
  • Fee: $65

Atlanta is one of the oldest running short film festivals. Every spring, they screen 150-200 films from around the globe. It’s an inclusive festival, with the past year showing 51% of films from black or minority film directors.

The festival seeks a variety of genres, from experimental to animation. The short film category is for all films with a run time of under 40 minutes. There is also a special category for music videos and immersive cinema.

Short film winners receive a cash prize of $750. It’s also an Oscar-worthy film festival, so if you have your film screened, you can enter into competition at the Academy Awards.

Atlanta Film Festival was voted one of the coolest film festivals in the world. As well as screening films, they have workshops, panels, and special guests. 

Indy Shorts

  • Deadline: December
  • Festival: July
  • Fee: $30

Indy Shorts is an Oscar-worthy world film festival. Based in Midwest Indiana, the festival is an expansion of the Heartland Film Festival.

The six-day short festival celebrates the unique and creative art of short filmmaking, with prizes in a range of categories, including horror, comedy, and animation.

To enter, submit any short film under 40 minutes in length. There is also a high school short film competition for anyone under 18 years of age. However, films in this category must be under 15 minutes.

The festival has over $30,000 in cash prizes, including $5,000 to the narrative award winner.

Plus. It’s worth attending as they show all the films on big screens and they attract large crowds. So, it’s a great place to showcase your film to an audience.

Slamdance Film Festival

  • Deadline: September
  • Festival: January
  • Fee: $60

Slamdance supports emerging artists by allowing them to develop their careers. They also have awards categories for visual and non-visible disabled filmmakers.

Every year, the festival takes place in Park City, Utah, and aims to showcase raw and innovative filmmaking. Plus, they have impressive alumni who showcased short films here, including Ari Aster, The Russo Brothers, and Job, M Chu.

Your short film can be within any genre, on any top, and from any country in the world. Short films are anything under 40 minutes in length, and you can screen them at other festivals.

Slamdance is an Oscar and Bafta-worthy film festival, and short filmmaker winners will also receive $2000 in cash. In addition, they hold a special screenplay award, which offers one-on-one coaching and feedback.

Canadian Short Film Festivals

Toronto Film Festival

  • Deadline: May
  • Festival: September
  • Fee: $65

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), aims to transform how people see the world through film. The festival presents the best films worldwide for film lovers and creatives.

TIFF accepts both features and short films in a selection of genres. There is also the Primetime category for episodic content. The festival asks that all films have premier status, including short films and to avoid uploading films online.

The festival awards change yearly, but they provide large cash prizes up to $10,000 in all categories. It’s also an Oscar-worthy festival and one of the highest attended film festivals.

TIFF offers screenings, lectures, discussions, workshops, and events throughout the festival week. It’s one of the world’s largest and most prestigious festivals. So, if your film competes, make sure to attend and take advantage of all opportunities.

Fantasia Film Festival

  • Deadline: February
  • Festival: July
  • Fee: $55

Fantasia Film Festival, also known as Fantasia-fest, is a genre film festival in Montreal. For over 20 years, the festival has screened niche films in genres such as B-movie, horror, and sci-fi. However, they accept all films that have experimental or unusual themes.

The festival seeks short films under 22 minutes. There is also a medium-length category for short films between 22 and 61 minutes. You must also avoid uploading your film online. 

Award winners receive a trophy, and although there is no cash prize, this is the place for genre filmmakers. Previously, the festival has launched the careers of many horror film directors. You can expect producers to attend the festival searching for new talent.

Fantasia-fest is one of the largest niche festivals with a special focus on Japanese and Asian horror. It also teams up with Cannes film market to sell genre films to distributors.

Enter Fantasia-fest if you are a horror, genre, or experimental filmmaker. If you attend, you can expect to find panel talks, networking events, workshops, and parties.

UK Short Film Festivals

Raindance Film Festival

  • Deadline: January
  • Festival: June
  • Fee: $30

Raindance is the largest film festival in the UK. Based in London, the festival has a whole variety of categories, including short film competitions.

There are four short film competitions, narrative, documentary, animation, and queer. All short films must run under 45 minutes long, and you can enter from any country. 

During the festival, there are filmmaking master classes, screenwriting contests, networking events, celebrity guests, and tons of advice for upcoming filmmakers. It’s also an Oscar and Bafta-worthy film festival.

With prestigious festivals like this, there are no cash prizes. However, having a screening or win at Raindance might encourage studios to take your future projects seriously.

So, enter your next short film into a larger festival. You never know this might kick-start your filmmaking career.

Depict Film Competition

  • Deadline: May
  • Festival: October
  • Fee: Free

Depict is part of the Bristol Film Festival Encounters and is designed to provide a springboard platform for new emerging filmmakers.

To enter, make a film that is no longer than 90 seconds. But just because you only have 90 seconds you still want to pack it full of excitement, drama, and strong production value.

This competition is more about the exposure you gain and potential network opportunities. However, there are £2500 in cash prizes, and the festival is BAFTA-worthy.

Depict is a great motive for challenging yourself with the possible rewards of finance, exposure, and a 90-second film to your portfolio.

When pitching for advertising work, they may not want a 10-minute film, but 90 seconds is far more appealing.

It’s more than likely you can cut it down to 60 seconds if you really try, which shows your ability to deliver in the time-restrictive world of modern advertising

Sheffield DocFest

  • Deadline: January
  • Festival: June
  • Fee: $30

Sheffield DocFest is the UK’s leading documentary festival. For 30 years, the festival has showcased projects worldwide and championed filmmakers. The program represents its core values, creativity, empathy, freedom, and inclusion. 

You can submit short films in any language, so long as they’re under 40 minutes. The festival also has tons of events for inspiring filmmakers, including a film competition, a film market, and the opportunity to pitch your projects to producers.

This contest is Bafta-worthy and has two short film competitions, one for the UK and the other for world cinema. In addition, pitch winners receive cash prizes and the opportunity to make their upcoming projects.

If you are a documentary filmmaker, then Sheffield is the place to network. It also features panel talks with filmmakers to teach you the art of documentary.

Iris Prize

  • Deadline: May
  • Festival: October
  • Fee: $35

The Iris Prize is a film and media organization committed to showcasing LGBT stories. It’s a film festival, online contest, and UK tour all in one. Every year in Cardiff, the Iris Prize screens hundreds of short films and features that have LGBT themes.

The Iris Prize also has the largest award for short films, coming in at £30,000. In addition, one documentary filmmaker will also receive £20,000 in funding. There is also an award for micro short films under 2 minutes.

For filmmakers, the festival holds networking events, advice for LGBT filmmakers, and award parties. It’s BAFTA-worthy, and all short films have a screening on Film4 and Channel 4 throughout the year.

If you have made an LGBT short film, then you should enter the Iris Prize. The awards are huge, and by attending the festival, you can meet producers who aim to make similar films.

European Short Film Festivals

Festival De Cannes

  • Deadline: March
  • Festival: May
  • Fee: $40

Cannes is the world’s most prestigious film festival. By getting screened in competition at Cannes, your film is worthy of Oscar and BAFTA awards. In fact, if you get into this festival, you will find funding for your upcoming projects a lot easier.

The festival seeks films in any genre under 15 minutes long. It also asks for a premiere at the festival and for the film not to have been screened on the Internet. However, it’s a very competitive award, with as few as ten short films gaining admittance.

Selected short films are eligible for a Cannes Plame D’or, the highest award for short films. There is no cash prize for this award, but it holds a lot of prestigious power.

Cannes is only open to members of the press and film industry. However, you can attend the Cannes film market to sell your project and find funding opportunities.

Shorts International Film Festival

  • Deadline: February
  • Festival: June
  • Fee: $7

For the past 20 years, Shorts International has been a landmark for short films worldwide. The festival, based in Italy, aims to screen short films to a broad audience. It also has a particular focus on short films for young people and children. 

You can enter with short films in any genre up to 20 minutes in length. There is also an Eco film contest for any short film on the theme of the environment.

However, if you have a film aimed at kids or teenagers then you must stay under 15 minutes. Plus, all in competition, kids’ films, are judged by a jury of children.

There are tons of cash prizes up for grabs, including £4,000 for best short film. The eco awards winner receives $1,000, and the best Italian film $2,000.

In addition, the festival hosts workshops, talks, and networking events, including workshops for young people interested in filmmaking. It’s worth entering shorts internationally for the cash prizes alone or if you have a film targeted towards kids.

Vienna Shorts

  • Deadline: December
  • Festival: May
  • Fee: $15

Vienna Shorts is an annual film festival presenting short cinematic works. The festival aims to show around 300 films, all under 30 minutes. In addition, the organization hosts film screenings and workshops for filmmakers year round.

You can enter the festival with any short film, including categories for documentaries, animation, music videos, and young people. It also has awards for films made by Austrian filmmakers and those made by woman filmmakers.

It’s an Oscar-worthy festival and has prize wards in all categories coming in at $29,000. The best overall short film receives a $5,000 prize, and the best Austrian film $2,500.

Vienna Shorts also hosts art exhibitions, workshops, and award galas. It’s worth entering if you have a quality short film that you believe would wow the judges.

DokuFest

  • Deadline: March
  • Festival: August
  • Fee: $10

DokuFest and International Shorts are the largest film festivals in Kosovo. Each year, the festival fills cinemas and hosts improvised screening venues around the city center. The festival showcases over 200 films from around the world.

The festival asks for shorts that come in at under 30 minutes. It also has special film categories on human rights, journalism, and the environment. In addition, a category for films made in Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, and other Balkan countries.

It’s a BAFTA-worthy festival, and the best documentary wins a $1,500 cash prize. Other categories also have cash awards worth $500, and every winner receives a trophy.

Enter if you are a Balkan filmmaker or have made a film covering one of their categories, such as human rights. It’s also a great networking hub for documentary filmmakers.

Wrapping Up

So, now you know about many great short film festivals you can enter this new year. Some have cash prizes that you can use to fund more work, while others provide exposure for your career. Just make sure that you follow the rules and enter correctly.

To enter short film competitions, list ones that accept your film length and genre. Enter a mix of both large and small ones to increase your chances of acceptance. Then, attend one or two festivals to network and promote your short film, best of luck!

Author
Aram Atkinson
Aram Atkinson
Aram is an award-winning writer, director, and DOP. He specializes in commercials and high-concept dramas. Follow him on Instagram and YouTube.
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