Checklist for Online Festival Submissions

Many online submission platforms are now teeming with film festivals – but often these are not genuine festivals as such and the film festival designation is amiss here. In these cases, the organisers elicit submissions by using a cool, catchy name and offering awards that sound attractive. But there are also quite a few black sheep among them, whose sole aim in life is to get their hands of the submission fees paid by the filmmakers. The following checklist of festival features and characteristics is intended to provide some help when assessing online festival calls for entries.



1 Organiser Check

The names of the festival organisers and other persons responsible for the event should be known within the scene. And the festival organisers should have a proper postal address. Companies or organisations should have their legal organisational form and their related commercial registry or non-profit association registry numbers included in their letterhead.


In the following cases, caution is advised:

  • No festival contact person named as such
  • No postal address, only a URL and email address
  • The postal address is not in same country as the festival venues or locations
  • The telephone numbers have their area codes in different places or in other countries
  • Only a post box address or a virtual office address (e.g. office #, suite #) is provided
  • Disposable email address, email accounts used from free providers



2 Submissions and Regulations

The festival regulations should include the following: Submission deadlines, selection process, time schedule and venues or locations of public screenings, screening formats, information on screening rights and copyrights, juries, types of awards, information on money prizes, accreditation conditions, submission withdrawal regulations.


In the following cases, caution is advised:

  • Excessively long submission deadlines (longer than 6 months prior to the selection decision date or notification date provided, or prior to the festival itself)
  • No details on the number of competition programmes  planned
  • Excessively large number of deadlines (more than ‘early’, ‘regular’, ‘late’)
  • No announcement of the competition programmes to be screened publically with the related film titles (exceptions: entry calls for solely film award events)
  • Excessively large number of award categories (e.g. based on section, running time, genre, artistic achievements and so on)
  • DVD as the screening copy
  • Film screenings in hotels, conference rooms, restaurants and so on
  • No money prizes, but certificates or trophies instead (exception: small festivals, financially weak non-profit festival organisers)



3 Submission Fees and Additional Costs

When submission fees are demanded, such fees should not be higher than are typical for the country or region. Visiting the festival (receiving accreditations) and attending the competition screenings and events (cinema/venue admission fees) should be free of charge for the filmmakers being screening at the event.


In the following cases, caution is advised:

  • The amount of the submission fee is comparable to the fees charged by the major film festivals in the specific country (by way of comparison: Berlinale Shorts €60, Sundance $60)
  • Requirement to pay accreditation fees and admission tickets for the screenings and events
  • Awards ceremonies with  pre-set obligatory admission tickets or other costs
  • Accommodation charged at pre-set rates in hotels arranged by the festival organisers
  • Pre-set fees payable for prize-winner trophies
  • Pre-set charges for services offered (DCP files, film subtitles, marketing, film evaluation)



4 The Festival’s Internet Presence, Image/Appearance, Public Interest

The festival’s image and presence in the internet, as well as the public interest it generates, provide clear indications of how serious the event is, in addition to the impact it achieves in the public arena.


In the following cases, caution is advised:

  • The same visual image (graphic design, logos) is used in several festivals (exception: a publicly announced and well-known network with several screening venues and locations)
  • Images of typical tourist attractions are used (well-known sights or buildings) and/or public domain agency pictures, such as e.g. the Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel Tower, “tulips from Amsterdam”, sandy beaches, sunsets, spectacular mountain ranges, etc.
  • No festival imprint
  • Festival photos used without image credits and copyright information
  • No reports about previous festivals in media magazines and media publications



5 Positive Criteria and References

There are several organisations and initiatives that provide lists of festivals or have members, for which it may be assumed that they are serious. These include for instance:

Seal of quality:

  • Festivals that provide a commitment in their regulations to comply with the Code of Ethics
  • As dubious festivals are often found on submission platforms, several European providers have developed a common “Fair Submissions” Seal of Quality, including compliance with a Code of Ethics.


General Tips

Read the festival regulations thoroughly. When a festival’s call for entries can be found on differing submission platforms, compare the various calls for submissions. Make enquiries with film associations and similar organisations. Speak to acquaintances who have already attended the festival in question. Search for relevant reports in media publications and the local press. Contact local organisations if need be.

Extreme caution is required for submissions to festivals in prominent festival locations – such as for instance in cities known for holding numerous high-profile festival events, or in places where a range of important festivals and awards ceremonies are held (such as in Cannes, Hollywood).


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