Top American Film Festivals to Participate In as a Filmmaker


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It’s every filmmaker’s dream to showcase their movie at a festival. These events provide the perfect opportunity to showcase your hard work to fans and critics alike. There are endless American film festivals to choose between, so you may not know exactly where to start — and you don’t want to waste your entry fee.

If you’re looking for the right American film festival to fit your film, don’t stress. Here’s an in-depth look at various film festivals you should consider, based on your movie’s length and genre.

General Film Festivals to Enter

Many general film festivals accept various short and feature entries no matter their genre. Here are some of the best general interest film festivals.

Tribeca Film Festival

Located in New York City and taking part in June, Tribeca Film Festival has become a renowned event for filmmakers, critics, and fans from around the world. If you want the opportunity to showcase your movie to thousands, your chances are around 16% — which still aren’t the worst odds compared to other festivals. There are categories for shorts and features.

Submission Fee: $20-$525

South by Southwest

South by Southwest, stylized as SXSW, takes Austin, Texas, by storm every March. It’s more than a film festival, with industry conferences, live performances, and more. If you want a way to rub elbows with executives, SXSW might just help you launch your career in film.

Submission Fee: $15-$110

Cinetopia Film Festival

Southeast Michigan’s Cinetopia Film Festival happens every May. It’s a festival that curates and showcases films from other events. There are also submission opportunities for Michigan filmmakers, who can enter their films through a competition called Detroit Voices. There have been different locations in the past, including the Henry Ford Museum.

Submission Fee: $40

Palm Springs International Film Festival

Founded in 1990, Palm Springs International Film Festival occurs every June in the Coachella Valley. It’s one of the best film festivals for new filmmakers, who can meet fellow creators in the field. Keep in mind that only feature-length films are accepted for submission.

Submission Fee: $75-$95

Atlanta Film Festival

Do you want to submit your film to an Oscar-qualifying film festival? Atlanta’s annual film festival takes place in April and May. It’s produced award-winning movies like “Winter’s Bone” and as a result, you’ll note that the admission odds are particularly tough. However, you can also see that Atlanta Film Festival is one of the top film festivals worth the entry fee.

Submission Fee: $5-$100

Film Festivals to Enter by Genre

If you want to submit your film to a genre-specific film festival, you can check out a few top events listed below.


New York International Children’s Film Festival

Every March, animators from around the world head to New York City for the New York International Children’s Film Festival. It’s an Oscar-qualifying showcase, where you can present your animated film to kids and adults alike. You can also participate in other events to help further your career.

Submission Fee: $24-$110

Ottawa International Animation Festival

Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the Ottawa International Animation Festival happens in September. It’s the perfect place to premiere your animated short or feature. There are additional events aside from the festival, including a virtual reality (VR) competition.

Submission Fee: Free

Horror and Fantasy

Overlook Film Festival

Every May, horror fans gather in New Orleans to take in the Overlook Film Festival. It’s a four-day event where you can showcase your horror flick, whether it’s a short or a feature. If you made your film in Louisiana, you get a discount on the entry fee.

Submission Fee: $15-$75

Telluride Horror Show

Located in scenic Colorado, Telluride Horror Show is one of the best film festivals for new filmmakers in the horror genre. However, you can also submit to the thriller, suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, and documentary categories. This film festival takes place in October.

Submission Fee: $40-$80

Fantastic Fest

Every September, filmmakers flock to Fantastic Fest to showcase their projects in Austin, Texas. Though many of the films showcased are in the fantasy genre, you aren’t restricted to that category. It’s where movies like “There Will Be Blood,” “Zombieland” and “John Wick” have had their world premieres.

Submission Fee: $40-$80


Slamdance Film Festival

Slamdance has truly evolved into a must-see film festival for independent films. It’s located in Park City, Utah — and hit films like “Parasite” and “Midsommar” have premiered here. Note that because Slamdance is a qualifier for awards, including the Oscars, your odds might be steep.

Submission Fee: $40-$110

New York City Independent Film Festival

If you’re looking for an indie film festival that isn’t quite as overrun with competition, you may want to check out NYCIndieFF. It happens every year in June. Here, you’ll be able to submit to many categories, from animated shorts to documentary features.

Submission Fee: $25-$85


Sundance Film Festival

This wouldn’t be a list discussing the best American film festivals without Sundance. If you’re in the film scene, you probably already know all about the famed event, set in January in Park City, Utah. It’s arguably the best competition in the United States for documentary features, although you can submit various genres.

Submission Fee: $40-$100

True/False Film Festival

This documentary-specific film festival takes place in Columbia, Missouri, every March. It’s the perfect event to network with fellow documentary filmmakers, all while you premiere your film to critics and fans. Keep in mind that the festival usually only accepts around 40 features.

Submission Fee: $30-$95

Premiere Your Movie at Some of the Best Film Festivals for Filmmakers

This list doesn’t cover every film festival worth entering, but you have to start somewhere!

Whether you’re a documentary filmmaker or prefer animated shorts, you can consider various events throughout North America to showcase your project. Not only are festivals a way to show your film, but you can also make lifelong connections to jump-start your career.

**Thinking of submitting to Europe’s leading independent film festival?

American film festivals

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