Note: additions were made to this story on February 10, 2010 October 12, 2011, and August 3, 2012.
Whether you’re a new or a seasoned filmmaker, festivals provide a supportive and constructive atmosphere to show your work. Established festivals such as Cannes, Tribeca and Sundance are not only respected venues, but they can give otherwise unknown films ample exposure. But what happens once your film makes it or breaks it on the festival circuit? With a fee ranging from $20-$50 for each festival, the cost of submitting your film to festivals adds up. Considering the abysmal state of the current economy, The Independent decided to compile this list of film festivals that do not charge a submission fee. The list below offers a mixture of long-standing and relatively new, no-fee film festivals. Depending on the host, some of these festivals are tailored to a specific genre (such as animation, documentary, culture and ethnic issues). Festivals listed with a star (*) mean that the “no-fee” is only applicable to student films.
The African Diaspora Film Festival aims to present African and Africa related films to diverse audiences, redesign the Black cinema experience, and strengthen the role of African and African descent directors in contemporary world cinema.
The All Roads Film Project is a National Geographic program dedicated to providing a platform for indigenous and underrepresented minority-culture storytellers around the world to showcase their works to promote knowledge,
dialogue, and understanding with a broader, global audience.
American Conservation Film Festival focuses solely on films that deal with the issue of conservation.
The Astra Film Festival screens documentary films without restriction to the theme or length. The categories are as follows: International, European, Romanian, and Debut. The festival takes place in Romania.
Berlin and Beyond, a festival in San Francisco, showcases films from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The Bicycle Film Festival celebrates the bicycle.
The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center hosts various film festivals that revolve around African-Americans in films.
The Blue November Micro Film Festival is relatively new and all films are open for submission.
The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival provides a platform for the international exposure of both emerging and internationally-renowned Bosnian-Herzegovinian filmmakers. The festival also features films that deal with the theme of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus contributing to a greater understanding of this country, its diverse culture, complex history and challenges it faces more than a decade after the turmoil of early nineties.
The Boston Jewish Film Festival presents the best contemporary films from around the world on Jewish themes at its annual Festival and throughout the year. Through features, shorts, documentaries, and conversations with visiting artists, the Festival explores Jewish identity, the current Jewish experience and the richness of Jewish culture in relation to a diverse modern world.
The Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival: although this festival does require an entry fee, foreign films and films submitted ahead of the deadline will not be charged.
The Comic Arts Film Festival is geared towards comedic films. All films are open for submission as long as they are clearly humorous. It takes place in Belfast, Maine.
The Conscious Life Expo is described as the union of "the spiritual and progressive community in southern California.” Some of the themes and topics addressed are: longevity, health and wellness, prosperity, political and environmental activism, and spiritual consciousness.
The Corona Cork Film Festival is Ireland’s oldest and biggest film festival, committed to programming innovative and independent Irish and International cinema. There are no restrictions on the type or form of film. Films must be 30 minutes or less and cannot have been previously screened in Ireland.
Dawn Breakers International Film Festival focuses on films that have a "world-embracing vision and incorporate, discuss or reflect on themes that relate to the Bahá'í Faith."
The Daytona Beach Film Festival*: only student films are free of an admission fee.
The Far North Conservation Film Festival exhibits films with themes of conservation and sustainability of wildlife, wild places, and cultures around the world. Festival events, screenings, and film submissions are free. The seventh annual festival will take place November 5-7, 2010 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Film Festival 15 is an Australia-based film festival.
The Fly Away Film Festival is a newly founded film festival that takes place in Wisconsin.
The Green Mountain Film Festival is not restricted to any specific genre but does not accept unsolicited films. It takes place in Montpelier, Vermont.
The Idaho International Film Festival features an exciting, diverse, and award-winning selection of films that represent the best new independent cinema from America and abroad. The mission of the festival is to promote the exploration of fine arts, culture, and entertainment in Idaho, while providing vital exposure and recognition for regional and international filmmakers.
The Intelligent Use of Water Film Festival is a short film festival dedicated to smart water conservation.
The International Random Film Festival chooses its 25 films, literally, at random! Filmmakers must have the right to submit their film and provide English subtitles if not in English. The fest takes place in Anija, Estonia.
Loisaida Cortos Latino Film Festival takes place in New York City.
The Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival is the longest-running, premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States, encompassing a broad spectrum of work, from indigenous community media to experimental nonfiction. The Festival is distinguished by its outstanding selection of titles, which tackle diverse and challenging subjects, representing a range of issues and perspectives, and by the forums for discussion with filmmakers and speakers.
Native American Indian Film & Video Festival of the Southeast features film and video by and about Native Americans and indigenous people throughout the world. It's sponsored by the Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois, and United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc. and takes place in Columbia, South Carolina, typically over seven days. The fest has been running since 1997.
The New York Documentary Center was founded in 1997 to provide the public with an ongoing series of programs exploring all facets of non-fiction documentary making, past, present and future. Filmmakers are asked to submit their projects for screening; NYDC will contact selected filmmakers for screening.
The New York Film Festival, presented by The Film Society.
The New Zealand International Film Festival
A Nightmare to Remember is a judged short film festival in San Francisco featuring 20 minute and under short horror films and trailers.
The Picture This Film Festival takes place in Canada and is an international disability film festival. It is a non-profit annual event initiated by the Community Development department of Calgary Scope Society, a registered nonprofit society.
The Platform International Animation Festival is a multi-platform animation festival, with animated installations, animation for the internet and mobile devices, short films and television, and gaming.
pogTV Film Festival* aims to enhance and encourage the educational experience of the participants by providing a real world educational opportunity beyond the classroom, afford an avenue by which to showcase their talents, and offer positive, critical comments from industry judges. Students from Volusia County High Schools and students from Bethune-Cookman Univ., Daytona State College, Univ. of Central Florida, the Advanced Technology Center, Stetson Univ. and Flagler College are eligible to submit films.
The Polish Film Festival in America (PFFA) is the world's most extensive annual programming which promotes Polish cinema. Established in 1989, every year PFFA brings a diverse array of over 70 of the finest features, documentaries and shorts, as well as dozens of Polish filmmakers from around the globe.
The Portland Art Museum Northwest Film Center hosts a variety of festivals, including the Portland International Film Festival and the Jewish Film Festival.
queerDOC is Australia's GLBT documentary film festival, screening in Sydney, annually in September.
The Riverside Saginaw Film Festival is a community event designed to celebrate, explore and screen great movies, thus adding to the cultural life of the Saginaw Valley and beyond.
San Francisco Three-Minute Film Festival does not have restrictions on the type of film, except that it has to be three minutes long.
The Sansevieria Film Festival is held in Toledo, Ohio.
Short Film Festival is sponsored by the Arizona State University Art Museum.
The Tiburon International Film Festival (TIFF)* is an annual event showcasing the independent feature and short films from around the world, and a platform for the independent filmmakers from any nation. The festival is located in Tiburon, just north of San Francisco. No fee for students.
TromaDance features independent films from around the world.
The Washington DC Independent Film Festival*: No fee for student films.
WNET/Thirteen presents Reel 13 Shorts, an interactive online film competition that celebrates the best in independent short films. Each week, three finalists are selected from the submissions. Reel 13 viewers can then vote online for their favorites. The three finalists each week win a one year subscription to Vimeo Plus. The winning film of the week will be broadcast on Reel 13; Thirteen’s weekly Saturday night programming block of classic and independent cinema. http://www.thirteen.org/sites/reel13/submit-short/