Short of the Week

The Essential List of Festivals and Online Eligibility

Article / May 31, 2013

It is an unwritten, unspoken rule that is accepted by short filmmakers as an immutable reality—if you want your film to be eligible to screen at the world’s biggest fests, you can’t release it online. It’s a rule so widely accepted that no one has ever really bothered to see if it is true.

We weren’t content with the accepted wisdom however. We knew several influential festivals like Sundance had done away with online restrictions, but this information would always surprise the filmmakers we’d talk to. Was Sundance’s progressiveness the exception that proves the rule? To find out, we dug in and compiled a list of the world’s top festivals to determine whether they disqualify your film if it’s available online. The goal? Create a resource for filmmakers—a checklist to see if you’re in the clear before (or after) you post online.  Our findings are below.

Even we were surprised by the results however. Today, the majority of the top film festivals including Sundance and SXSW will accept your film regardless of its online status. You no longer have to choose between festivals and online. You can do both—and, in some circumstances, the two can work together to your advantage.

First though, a few caveats:

  1. This is a dynamic resource we hope to update as needed with more festivals and as rules change. At the moment, this list contains all the Oscar-qualifying festivals and a few others big and small. If there’s a festival you’d like to see added to this list, or if you represent a festival and the information is erroneous, please leave a comment below.
  2. This list is not intended to be gospel. Rules change. Festivals evolve. Withoutabox could be out of date. If you’re really unsure about a particular festival, e-mail them directly to find out the scoop. To use the old aphorism, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The Festivals


Festival Location Allow Online Films
AFI Fest USA Yes
American Documentary Film Festival USA Yes
American Film Festival Poland No
Anima Mundi Brazil Yes
Ann Arbor Film Fest USA Yes
Annecy Festival Int'l Du Cinema D'Animation France Yes
Aspen Shorts Fest USA Yes
Athens Int'l Film festival USA Yes
Atlanta Film Festival USA Yes
Austin Film Festival USA Yes
Bend Film Festival USA No
Berlin Int's Film Festival Germany No
Bermuda Int'l Film Festival Bermuda No
Brooklyn Film Festival USA No
Brooklyn Short Film Festival USA Yes
Cannes Festival Int'l Du Film France No
Cartagena Int'l Du Film Columbia Yes
Chicago Int'l Children's Film Festival USA Yes
Chicago Int'l Film Festvial USA No
Cinequest Film Festival USA Yes
Clermont-Ferrand Int'l Short Film Festival France Yes
Cleveland Int'l Flm Festival USA Yes
Dam Short Film Festival USA Yes
DeadCenter Film Festival USA No
Denver Starz Film Festival USA Yes
DC Shorts USA No
Edinburgh Int'l Film Festival UK No
Encounters Int'l Film Festival UK Yes
Fantastic Fest USA Yes
Festival De Cine Huesca Spain Yes
Festivus Film Festival USA Yes
Flickerfest Int'l Short Films Festival Austrailia Yes
Florida Film Festival USA Yes
Foyle Film festival Ireland Yes
Gasparilla Int'l Film Festival USA Yes
Guanajuato Int'l film Festival Mexico Yes
Hawaii Int'l Film Festival USA Yes
The Hamptons Int'l Film Festival USA Yes
Heartland Film Festival USA Yes
Leeds Int'l Film Festival UK Yes
Little Rock Film Festival USA No
London Short Film Festival UK Yes
Los Angeles Film Festival USA Yes
Los Angeles Int'l Short Film Festival USA Yes
Los Angeles Latino Int'l Film Festival USA No
Maryland Int'l Film Festival USA No
Melbourne Int'l Film Festival Australia No
Montreal Festival Du Nouveau Cinema Canada Yes
Montreal World Film Festival Canada No
Nashville Film Festival USA No
New Filmmakers Los Angeles USA Yes
New Hope Film Festival USA No
New York Int'l Children's Film Festival USA Yes
Nordisk Panorama Sweden No
Oberhausen Int'l Short Film Festival Germany Yes
Ottawa Int'l Animation Festival Canada Yes
Palm Springs Int'l Festival of Short Films USA No
Philadelphia Independent Film Festival USA Yes
Raindance Film Festival UK Yes
Rhode Island Int'l Film Festival USA No
Rio De Janeiro Int'l Short Film Festival Brazil Yes
St. Louis Int'l Film Festival USA Yes
San Francisco Int'l Film Festival USA No
Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival USA No
Savannah Film Festival USA Yes
Seattle Int'l Film Festival USA Yes
Sedona Int'l Film Festival USA Yes
Siggraph USA Yes
Slamdance Film Festival USA Yes
South by Southwest USA Yes
Sundance USA Yes
Sunscreen Film Festival USA Yes
Sydney Film Festival Australia No
Tampere Int'l Short Film Festival Finland Yes
Tallgrass Film Festival USA Yes
Tribeca Film Festival USA No
True/False Film Festival USA Yes
Uppsala Int'l Short Film Festival Sweden Yes
Urbanworld Film Festival USA No
USA Film Festival USA Yes
Woodstock Film Festival USA Yes
Venice Int'l Film Festival Italy No

The Oscars

One of the most potent platforms for short film is recognition from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Oscar will not reward a film that has premiered online, however, there’s a less understood caveat to this rule that many overlook. If your film has already become eligible by winning a qualifying festival, you can indeed release it online. Remember the fiasco around the 2013 Oscar shorts that were posted online only to be removed days later? That was entirely by request of the distributor and not the Academy.

A short film may not be exhibited publicly anywhere in any nontheatrical form, including but not limited to broadcast and cable television, home video, and Internet transmission, until after its Los Angeles theatrical release, or after receiving its festival award or Student Academy Award. (Rule 19, III B)

A Brief Analysis

The key takeaway point is that the majority of festivals don’t mind if your film is already online. Some festivals are still sticklers for premieres, including more than a few prominent ones, but for the most part, it’s not as taboo as convention would have you believe. As Bears Fonte, the Director of Programming at the Austin Film Festival succinctly puts it, “The simple answer to the question is yes, we do, and in fact have accepted films that were available online.”

68% accept online films: 56 Yes, 26 No

However, prior exposure does matter—if your film has already exploded online, there’s a chance that a festival will be less interested in screening it. Programming is subjective, and after all, some festivals do want to maintain a sense of exclusivity that a viral sensation would inherently negate. Yet, the opposite can also be true—it’s becoming increasingly common for films to be selected for festivals because they’ve done well online. Many medium and smaller festivals that have difficulty competing for entries are reaching out to filmmakers directly. It’s not uncommon for a filmmaker to receive dozens of requests for their film after they’ve posted it online—many of the fests willing to forgo entry fees.

Moving Forward

Both of these points stem from a humbling observation—the world is a big place. Even if your film has received thousands of views on Vimeo, odds are that not a single member of the audience that attends your festival screening has seen it. And, it seems that things are only going to continue in this direction. As more short narrative content continues to flood online—as more audiences turn to the web for the greatest stories—even the strictest of festivals will need to revise their rules or risk being left behind.

* Special thanks to Katie Metcalfe (curator/producer for the Sundance Film Festival and Future Shorts) for her help compiling the list.

~
Finding and showcasing the best online short films since 2007.
  • http://www.borisseewald.de/ Boris Seewald

    Thanks for the great list. Very helpful!

  • http://www.indietips.com/ Lewis McGregor

    Nice!

  • Anonymous

    For anyone thinking about submitting to a shorts film festival, this is a needed resource. Nicely done.

  • http://nairtejas.tumblr.com/ Tejas Nair

    A well rendered read. Thanks!

  • http://nairtejas.tumblr.com/ Tejas Nair

    A well rendered read. Thanks!

  • http://nairtejas.tumblr.com/ Tejas Nair

    A well rendered read. Thanks!

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Nicely done SOTW team!

    The high level takeaway for me is that filmmakers looking to get their film out into the world no longer have to make a decision between the festival or online routes. You can absolutely do both. I think the future holds much more interesting festival/distribution routes where filmmakers have the freedom and flexibility to craft the right approach for their story.

  • Jen Hurler

    This is such a useful list! Thank you for compiling it! I’ve shared it with all of my fellow animator friends.

  • Armak

    Great work. Only issue is the Hamptons IFF is filed in T in the list LOL. Off to make my short film FIVE MINUTES LATE available for viewing on vimeo!

  • Matt Lloyd

    As the programmer of a young, small festival which has always accepted films that are available online, it’s a revelation to me to learn how many of the big festivals do so. My first reaction is to feel happy about the company we’re keeping, my second to panic – if I’m honest, our decision to allow this was based on the understanding that most filmmakers would hold off putting their work online in the hope of a high profile festival run first. Consequently it’s frightening to think that we will inevitably be obliged to programme more and more work that is already widely and freely available. So I started to write this comment with the intention of arguing that just because filmmakers CAN put their work online before a festival run, it doesn’t mean they always SHOULD.

    But. We’re in this business to support emerging talent. What we might want and what the filmmaker needs are not necessarily the same thing. Therefore, if the barriers to wider exposure for a filmmaker are being lifted, at the cost of the exclusivity of festival screenings, then it is up to festivals to acknowledge this shift and ensure that what we offer to filmmakers and audiences is fresh and unique.

  • Ian Gailer

    For us, at REGARD sur le court / Saguenay Short Film Festival (www.regardsurlecourt.com), we think that festivals need to evolve with internet, not against. Even tough we prefer to screen premiere, we think that festivals can also be a place to catch up what you could have missed as a professional. Also, we keep in mind that festivalgoers are mostly town folks that aren’t hardcore short films enthusiasts. They surely haven’t seen most shorts online. So we do accept some films that are online, but we prefer shorts that hasn’t been around for a while ! As a friend once said :”you don’t demand premieres, you deserve them.”

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    An incredibly thoughtful comment. Thank you, Matt.

  • http://www.torontoscreenshots.com James McNally

    From the very beginning, our quarterly screening series in Toronto (Shorts That Are Not Pants) put the focus on our audience and on filmmakers, rather than on trying to function as any sort of traditional festival. So we’ve never cared about premiere status at all. We also decided that just because something is online doesn’t mean our audience will have seen it. And even if they had, what better way to share the film than with a group of other people in a proper cinema?

    The problem with having the film online is getting people to find it, and so curation becomes extremely important. Things like the channels on YouTube or the Staff Picks on Vimeo are helpful, but even better are sites like this one, where audiences can come to trust the curatorial instincts of a small and knowable group of people (disclaimer: I write here from time to time). In the same way, festivals are programmed by identifiable human beings, and I think that’s a much nicer avenue of discovery anyway. Plus, we usually get a healthy-sized group to come along to the pub after our screenings and talk about the films, too. It’s more fun than the comments sections online! :)

  • http://www.eoinduffy.me/ Eoin Duffy

    Excellent stuff! Exactly what I needed.

  • Jason B. Kohl

    Really great article. It’s fascinating to see the divide between europe and the states on this as well. None of the big three european fests (cannes, berlin, venice) allow online. It’s also interesting to note that a great deal of european student films are funded and owned by the schools (which are basically free, at least in Germany). I don’t know what their stance on online releases are.

  • http://www.bornshorts.com/ Bornshorts Film Festival

    We never saw the point of restricting filmmakers choice, put your film online, show it to the world and turn your back to the festivals that has an online policy! It’s all about having your film seen and by the right industry people that can help you onwards, the Danish Bornshorts Film Festival does that and has helped many a career.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Thanks for sharing James. Premieres are great, but many filmmakers just need exposure.

  • NW Animation Fest

    The Northwest Animation Festival also accepts films available online. We love animators and want them to succeed in every way possible. We offer a free entry period, and there are no restrictions on prior submissions or when the work was created.

    AND our submission process is all-digital, too: we pride ourselves on having “the loveliest, most simple submissions policy in the entire festival world!” as one animator wrote.

  • NW Animation Fest

    The Northwest Animation Festival also accepts films available online. We love animators and want them to succeed in every way possible. We offer a free entry period, and there are no restrictions on prior submissions or when the work was created.

    AND our submission process is all-digital, too: we pride ourselves on having “the loveliest, most simple submissions policy in the entire festival world!” as one animator wrote.

  • NW Animation Fest

    The Northwest Animation Festival also accepts films available online. We love animators and want them to succeed in every way possible. We offer a free entry period, and there are no restrictions on prior submissions or when the work was created.

    AND our submission process is all-digital, too: we pride ourselves on having “the loveliest, most simple submissions policy in the entire festival world!” as one animator wrote.

  • Laurie Kirby

    As Executive Director of the International Film Festival, I am constantly asked these questions by festivals & filmmakers. In fact, last week’s webinar was on this topic. At the end of the day, no audiences have been cannibalized by presenting a film online. They are very different audiences and watching a film online is a very different experience that seeing it at a festival. I truly doubt a patron will say, I am not going to that film, it was online already. And reviewers in Variety don’t pay attention to shorts. BTW-to steal a line from David Byrne, we listen to music repetitively (in fact go to hear it live so we can experience it again) so seeing a film again only enhances the experience. And with a short, it’s well, short.

  • Deborah Puette

    A question: does this same logic apply if your short has screened online for a limited time? Some festivals, including the Hollywood Film Festival, require the following (from Withoutabox): “RIGHTS:
    If selected to be part of our ONLINE section, filmmaker will agree to
    allow the HOLLYWOOD FILM FESTIVAL to STREAM his/her film ONLINE during
    the duration of the festival.”

    Does anyone know specifically if a finite online presence such as this would eliminate a short from consideration at the fests that require their shorts not be “available” online?

  • Jason Sondhi

    I would say no. There are a few reasons, but foremost among these is that it is simply very very unlikely that festival programmers would be even aware that your film streamed for a limited window.

  • http://www.sausagefilm.net/ Robert Grieves

    Based on you previous advice, this doesn’t change my plan, but it certainly gives me a huge amount of confidence moving forward with releasing online. It’s the kind of list you either want to find or to make yourself, knowing neither is likely. So Huzzah to you guys!

    The nervous side of me is still left with a little nagging feeling… Although the festival might not block online films, if it’s a choice between Film-A that’s online and Film-B that’s not, then the exclusivity of Film-B will win out. But that level of strategy is getting a little desperate. If you believe in your film then you shouldn’t rely on such things.

  • http://www.sausagefilm.net/ Robert ‘SAUSAGE’ Grieves

    Based on you previous advice, this doesn’t change my plan, but it certainly gives me a huge amount of confidence moving forward with releasing online. It’s the kind of list you either want to find or to make yourself, knowing neither is likely. So Huzzah to you guys!

    The nervous side of me is still left with a little nagging feeling… Although the festival might not block online films, if it’s a choice between Film-A that’s online and Film-B that’s not, then the exclusivity of Film-B will appeal more to the selectors. But that level of strategy is getting a little desperate. If you believe in your film then you shouldn’t rely on such things.

  • Ian Clark

    Y E S !

    Thank you for creating this list – it’s absolutely essential.

    I program with Eastern Oregon Film Festival. We’re a small, 501c3 in rural Oregon – artist-run and prepping for our fifth edition. Although we still feel there’s something special about the idea of premieres, it’s obvious that a shift is in effect. Cinema is evolving and we’ve simply gotta run with it.

    Right now, it’s fair to say that we’re more lenient about this when it comes to shorts. Can’t say for certain why this is, or how we’ll approach features for 2014, but there’s a good possibility that it will be less of a concern than in the past. Interestingly, one of the two features we showed back in 2009 (our first-annual) was already online.

  • Dave Lojek

    Europe is an Eldorado of film festivals for all knids of shorts. Especially the no-budget type. And most of them do not care about a film being online or not. The above list is very nice but incomplete. It only shows commercial mainstream events of the old type. Basically, you should ignore all festivals that demand “submission fees”. This means you pay them to watch, but not select your film. “Industry exposure” is another myth. Valid only for the elect few. But not for the legions of filmmakers.

    How do I know this? Well, I organize a few festivals myself and my works have been screened at over 200 others.

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Lojek#Filmfestivals

  • Carambolas Films

    Thank you for this list !

  • Daniel Northway-Frank

    My comments are aside from whether the film is online or not and its freshness/viewing to the public via a festival platform. I agree with most of the comments below, but in supporting artists, we also mean supporting the longevity of their careers beyond a screening of 100 people or so, which involves fiscal support. Please show me an short film acquisitions or buyer from a broadcaster, online or otherwise, who will pay for a short film when it is available online for free. Not many that I know of. Don’t we want to give filmmakers the ability to exploit the creative rights of their work by selling their work to companies whose business it is to buy and exhibit short films? Many of these companies are online distributors, who will still show the work, accessible to their networks and viewer, but they will pay for it, they see a value in this exclusivity of having a fantastic film and their name attached to it, which they can also sell and make money on. At the end of the day, short filmmakers are generally not independently wealthy and need to balance making a living vs. people seeing their work. As a film producer and festival organizer, all I can hope for our artists and myself is to make back some of the money invested into the work to continue to be able to create more work and develop a career. Value your creative properties, don’t sell yourself short just to have another click on your youtube link.

  • Yonni Aroussi

    great post!

  • Motion+

    A new short film festival about Motion
    graphics/design/animation/stopmotion which accept film available online :
    http://www.motionplus.fr
    Call to film open until 15 september 2013 !

  • Tanmay Mistry

    What an awesome article! From a practical standpoint, it seems clear that releasing online while simultaneously doing a festival run through fests that accept films that have already premiered online is the best way to go. That way you can hopefully get at least something for your next project. SOTW you guys are great.

  • Alex Southey

    What’s your festival, Matt?

  • Alex Southey

    What’s your festival, Matt?

  • Peter Grey

    What a helpful list. Thanks a ton.

  • bart weiss

    you can add the Dallas VideoFest to the yes column

  • Alessandro Zaffonato

    We are small Italian festival and we accept online subscription in the last two years.
    We are sure that is a good choiche, a lot of directors from particular States that have some problem to send the DVD via post can submit his shorts via online.
    You can add our film festival is th column YES: Festival Alto Vicentino (www.festivalaltovicentino.it)

  • Jeremy

    Thanks for the great list! I thought I should point out (and I just double-checked) that Chicago International Film Festival accepts Short Films that are online as well. It’s stated under the Rules and Regulations, last line of A. 3. – http://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/entries_and_requirements/rules_and_regulations/

  • Matt Lloyd

    Sorry, I’ve only just seen your post. It’s Glasgow Short Film Festival, Scotland.

  • Ben Aston

    This is beyond fantastic

  • Jyoti Jain

    Children’s International Film Festival, (CIFF) Dubai accepts online submissions and promotes short films.Filmmakers are doing amazing work.Kids love short films.This is a great list however we are not listed here and would request you to list us. CIFF is the biggest children’s film festival in the Middle east which is held annually in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and other emirates of UAE. Film Submission is free;we encourage young indie filmmakers.

  • JessicaLevick

    Just as an update to the above section on the Oscars – Do you know if the regulations have now changed and only a VOD or TV broadcast before the LA theatric screenings would now affect an Oscar qualification? The short film regs now say this: “A short film cannot qualify through a 3-day theatrical release if it has previously received
    nontheatrical distribution. The film would only be able to qualify through winning a
    qualifying festival award on the Academy’s Short Films Qualifying Festival List.”