Submit Your Short Film
DC Shorts turns the spotlight on truly independent short films created around the globe. In 2014, we received over 1,200 entries from 51 nations, and screened 135 films from 25 countries in 18 unique showcases over 11 days to audiences of more than 9,000 people.
- Our main judging criteria is STORY. Do you have an interesting, original story about developed, well-written characters? If so, then you are a good fit for us.
- We screen all genres and styles of films.
- We screen films from :30 seconds to 20 minutes. Longer films may be considered, but are generally difficult to program. We will not consider any film over 30 minutes.
- All entrants receive written feedback from the selection panel. This information has been invaluable to thousands of past entrants – it is the reason we have been a top pick of Moviemaker Magazine year after year.
- Films that screened at past DC Shorts Film Festivals have gone on win countless other competitions, including the Academy Awards.
- Washington, DC has some of the most sophisticated audiences in the world. In a city with over 70 film festivals a year, DC Shorts continues to be a dominant force for film distribution in the region.
- The DC Shorts Film Festival is the largest short film event on the east coast of the United States.
- DC Shorts just topped the list as Moviemaker Magazine’s Coolest Short Film Festival – an honor we are thrilled about, and has been listed as a “Festival Worth the Submission Fee” — again.
- Outstanding Live Action Short
- Outstanding Animated Short
- Outstanding Documentary Short
- Outstanding First-Time Director
- Outstanding Local Film
- Filmmakers’ Choice (chosen by filmmakers in attendance)
- Festival Programmer’s Choice (chosen by the Festival Director)
- Audience Favorite Awards
(as of December 1, 2015)
DEADLINES AND ENTRY FEES
Entry deadline is Saturday, April 30, 2016 or until there are no more slots available – which ever comes first. Because we provide the screening committee’s comments, we are only able to review 1,500 entries. Look at the chart below — this indicates the number of entry slots taken. Wait too long to enter, and you may be shut out.
DC Shorts champions short filmmaking. One of the reasons we have been listed as a Moviemaker Magazine favorite year after year is because of our unique scoring and feedback system. EVERY film reviewed by DC Shorts is analyzed by at least two screeners whose evaluations are available for you to read after decisions are announced. This feedback alone is worth every penny of our entry fee.
That said, we know that some filmmakers have financial challenges. We have a unique method for obtaining a fee waiver — DC Shorts believes that if you support us (post a series of social media messages), we will support you (waive your fee.) Complete the application. Your application will be reviewed for thoroughness and thoughtfulness. If your application is accepted, you will be notified by email with 5 pre-written social media messages (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram). After these are sent and verified, the fee waiver will be emailed.
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FILM
- Read about the review process and look through the rules—please! There are good reasons for the rules, and a lot of time and care has gone into writing them — the rules are a detailed description of what happens to your film when received by our office, as well as how our review and selection process works.
- Select an entry form. There are now 5 submission engines to choose from. Already have a private online screener? The DC Shorts entry form is your least expensive option.
July 1, 2016
All filmmakers will receive notice of acceptance or rejection via email, as well as a complete report with screeners’ comments. If you do not receive this email by the notification date, please contact the office.
THE REVIEW PROCESS
DC Shorts is proud to be one of a small number of festivals to provide feedback to ALL entrants. We also pride ourselves on our open judging process — we explain how it works before you enter, provide feedback after decisions have been made, and allow you the opportunity to call us for additional feedback and comments. For the 2016 Festival, we expect to review 1,500 short films and 200 screenplays. We hope to include around 150 films in the final showcases. You do the math—the competition is very tough.
All applications are referred to by an assigned identification code. From this point on, films are only referred to by this code number.
Our reviewers are local filmmakers, industry professionals, film enthusiasts, and trained members of our audience. All reviewers are interviewed before they are trained – and all have attended previous versions of DC Shorts as paying audience members or presenting filmmakers.
Reviewers are placed into teams, which are assigned films in a random process. It is possible that your film will be watched by an industry professional, just as it is possible that it will be watched by a team of other professionals or students.
Films are watched in their entirety (rare among film festivals) and evaluated online using our proprietary system on aspects such as strength of plot, originality, technical proficiency, acting, editing, and sound design. Reviewers are also asked to leave a personal comment as to how they believe the film will play to our audience.
Screeners viewed online are subject to the computer hardware and speaker setup of the individual screener. Some have high-end speaker systems and large screens, while others still use older PC laptops and built-in speakers.
At the end of the first round, a list of the top 300+ films is generated by analyzing raw scores, rankings, trends and comments. These films are then sent to a second team of screeners consisting of former screeners, DC Shorts Board Members, local business people and sponsors. They watch each film and make programming notes, but do not add to the previous scores.
At the end of the second round, select screeners and the festival director choose a final lineup based on scores, the time constraints of showcases (each showcase runs for approximately 90 minutes, with an average of 8-10 short films featured in each showcase), and how films will play in a show with each other. We also try to include 10% of our films from filmmakers creating content around the greater Washington, DC region.
DC Shorts—and every major film festival—program the best films available to them that offer a fresh viewpoint or a unique story or character, meet programming time constraints, interest our audience, play well with the other films programmed, and are created by filmmakers we believe in.
WANT MORE INSIGHT INTO THE PROCESS?
- Listen to a great podcast by The Scoop.
- Watch over 300 films from past DC Shorts events to see the types of films we have programmed.
- Explore the websites from past DC Shorts Film Festivals to read old catalogs, scan the films, and check out the many events.
- Check out these unedited quotes from filmmakers who both screened at DC Shorts — and some who did not make the cut.
- Want to read the experience of a previous screener? This account in the Washington City Paper is not overly flattering, but we stand behind our process. We are proud to educate filmmakers of our system — No secrecy, no bullshit.
- We recommend Festival Founder, Jon Gann’s book, BEHIND THE SCREENS: Programmers Reveal How Film Festivals Really Work available online at Amazon.com
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
MY FILM IS OVER 20 MINUTES. IS THAT OK?
The time limit of :20 is not an exact cut-off point — but a highly recommended TRT. The way we program — showing as many different types of film in 90-minute blocks — makes it difficult to show many longer films. In addition, when we receive multiple films of the same theme/subject matter, we often tend to program those with stronger storytelling, which are often the shorter versions. That said, we have screened exceptional films up to :30 in the past. In our experience, most 20-minute films could be re-edited to a much stronger 12-minute piece. One piece of advice we learned in film school was, “That’s a nice 13-minute movie. But it is a fabulous 9-minute film.” Ask yourself the same thing and really think about it.
DO YOU ACCEPT MUSIC VIDEOS?
In the past, we have screened music videos that are heavily story-driven. No plot, no play.
WHAT ABOUT WORKS IN PROGRESS?
DC Shorts does not accept works in progress. Only submit and send your online screener when your film is complete. We are unable to update your application with a new URL after the film has been submitted.
CAN I GET A FEE WAIVER?
Obviously, you did not read this page carefully. See the WAIVER section above.
ARE TYPES OF FILMS YOU DO NOT PROGRAM?
DC Shorts has shown films in every genre and style. The best way to see what types of films we are likely to program is to visit dcshorts.com/archive. Here, over 350 films are available for free. That said, our audiences are not fond of torture or violent horror, sophomoric humor, and violence against women or animals.
CINE Select Festival
DC Shorts is proud to be a CINE Select Festival, accredited based on festival history, jury award system, industry influence and audience demographics. Jury winners from DC Shorts are automatically considered for the prestigious international CINE Golden Eagle Award for Independent Media. More information at cine.org
THE RULES AND SCREENING LICENSE AGREEMENT
DC SHORTS GENERAL FILM COMPETITION
Please read this agreement carefully before you submit your film. By submitting your film, you expressly acknowledge and agree that you shall be bound by the terms of this agreement.
GUIDELINES FOR ALL FILMS. Films must have been completed after January 1, 2015. Films must not exceed 20 minutes in length, including credits. All non-English language films must have English subtitles. A separate entry form and additional entry fee must be submitted for each film.
ENTRY FORM AND PREVIEW MATERIALS FOR ALL FILMS. All films must be submitted and paid for through dcshorts.com, filmfestivallife.com, clickforfestivals.com, filmfreeway.com, reelport.com or festhome.com. Illegible or incomplete entry forms will not be accepted. Entry forms that do not include full payment of entry fees or working online screener URL by April 30, 2016 will not be accepted.
ONLINE SCREENERS. We accept online screeners through Vimeo.com and Youtube.com when submitted through our own submission form, and through our various submission form partners. We will not watch films submitted on any other websites. DC Shorts, its members, directors, employees, and volunteers are not responsible for broken or incorrectly submitted URLs. Submissions may not be withdrawn from the Festival once they have been entered, except at the sole discretion of the Festival directors. There are no refunds for entries with incomplete entry forms, or incorrectly formatted preview materials. In our experience, Vimeo.com screeners have the best HD playback, and are preferred by our screening team. DC Shorts no longer accepts DVD screeners.
REVIEW AND SELECTION PROCESS. All entries are automatically included in the general DC Shorts Film Competition. DC Shorts will review films in their entirety. Films will be watched and reviewed by members of the Selection Committee; a volunteer group of DC-area filmmakers, film enthusiasts and critics. Films are scored and filmmakers will receive a short critique and feedback. After the final submission deadline, the Selection Committee will review the total scores of all the films in competition and select final films from a group of the top scorers. In addition to the top scoring films, final screening decisions will be influenced by the time constraints of showcases (each showcase runs for approximately 90-minutes, with an average of eight short films featured in each showcase). We will also select no less than 10% of films from filmmakers from the greater Washington, DC region. Award information is explained below. All prizes are subject to change, and updates to the prize package will be posted online at festival.dcshorts.com
AWARD INFORMATION. Awards will be presented in the following categories: Outstanding First-Time Director; Filmmakers’ Choice (chosen by filmmakers in attendance); Festival Director’s Choice; Outstanding Live Action Short (selected by a panel jury); Outstanding Animated Short (selected by a panel jury); Outstanding Documentary Short (selected by a panel jury); and Outstanding Local Film (selected by a panel jury). In addition, audience members in each screening will vote on Audience Favorites. Awards are subject to change before the event, with an updated list to be posted at festival.dcshorts.com. All awards will be announced at the final Filmmaker Brunch on Sunday, September 11, 2016.
NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE. Letters of inclusion or non-inclusion, with a link to the reviewers’ comments, will be sent to the email address provided on the entry form no later than July 1, 2016. DC Shorts does not send physical mail — please ensure that your email address is accurate on your application. DC Shorts is not liable for emails delayed by spam filters, server rejections, or outdated email addresses.
SCREENING FORMATS. Films, acceptance contracts and other materials mentioned in the Letter of Acceptance must arrive at the Festival office no later than 11:59pm, July 20, 2016. DC Shorts requires two files for projection: a professionally converted DCP (24fps only) and an AppleTV formatted .mp4 file. Both files may be uploaded or sent via mail on a USB flash drive to be returned in a provided self-addressed, self-stamped envelope. Films with incomplete materials by the deadline will forfeit their ability to screen in the festival. DC Shorts, its members, directors, employees, and volunteers are not responsible for lost, misplaced, and undelivered film and media.
FILMMAKER AND WRITER ATTENDANCE. DC Shorts encourages filmmakers to attend the festival. To this end, we will assist every filmmaker (and one guest) who wishes to attend by providing a meal pass to be used at local restaurants, complimentary housing in a volunteer’s private home, discounted hotel rooms, passes for public transportation, invitations to all parties, tours and events, and passes for all film screenings (either in the general theater or in our special Filmmaker Lounge.) DC Shorts is unable to provide financial compensation for travel expenses or additional expenses incurred during the Festival week.
COMMUNICATIONS. DC Shorts does not send physical mail — please make sure the email address in your entry form is accurate. Changes of email address can be sent to email@example.com. DC Shorts is not liable for emails delayed by spam filters, server rejections, outdated email addresses or any other technical or human error. DC Shorts staff can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing DC Shorts, 1317 F Street, NW, Suite 920, Washington, DC 20004 USA. The office phone number is 202-393-4266.
PUBLICITY AND MARKETING. All selected films and scripts may be excerpted for publicity purposes. DC Shorts reserves the right to promote any film or script to print, broadcast or internet media as required to market the Festival or our parent organization.
THEATRICAL SCREENINGS. By submitting your project to DC Shorts, the filmmaker grants non-exclusive rights to screen their film once at a public programming session. Films screened will not be announced prior to the event, and filmmakers will not be informed of their participation. Not all films are selected for this event. By accepting inclusion in DC Shorts, the filmmaker grants non-exclusive rights to showcase their film during the festival week (September 8-18, 2016) in as many screenings as required. This includes the competition screenings and the “Best Of” showcase which will play after competition ends. In addition, DC Shorts has non-exclusive rights to repeat the showcases through December 31, 2017 for fundraising purposes. All ticket sales are property of DC Shorts.
INTERNET BROADCAST. DC Shorts may make films screened at DC Shorts available for commercial internet broadcast and download. Filmmakers have the ability to opt out of this program upon acceptance into the festival. This is an optional program in which the filmmaker has the ability to opt-in on acceptance of the Participation Agreement, sent on inclusion into the festival.
TELEVISION BROADCASTS. DC Shorts reserves the non-exclusive right to repeat the various showcases on local (DC metropolitan area) cable access channels without any further compensation to the filmmaker. Filmmakers have the ability to opt out of this program upon acceptance into the festival. This is an optional program in which the filmmaker has the ability to opt-in on acceptance of the Participation Agreement, sent on inclusion into the festival.
CONTROLLING LAW, VENUE AND SEVERABILITY. This License shall be governed by the laws of the United States and the District of Columbia without consideration of conflicts of laws provisions and principles. All claims between the parties, regardless of legal theory and whenever brought, shall be resolved in the state or federal courts of the District of Columbia, USA, and you stipulate that you expressly submit to the personal jurisdiction of such state and federal courts, and you further agree that any judgment may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. If for any reason a court of competent jurisdiction finds any provision, or portion thereof, of this Agreement to be unenforceable, the remainder of this License shall continue in full force and effect.
COMPLETE AGREEMENT. This License constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the use of films and supersedes all prior or contemporaneous understandings regarding such subject matter. No amendment to or modification of this License will be binding unless in writing and signed by an authorized representative of DC Shorts Film Festival. Nothing in this Agreement constitutes a waiver of DC Shorts’ rights under the United States of America patent and copyright laws or any other Federal or State law, nor of any of DC Shorts’ rights under the rules or laws of any country, territory, republic, and/or province. DC Shorts reserves the right to remove a film from the festival program for any reason or for no reason and shall not be liable for any refund or claims of any kind arising out of such removal.
Select an Entry Form
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Washington, DC 20004, USA
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