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10 Best Student Film Festivals for Aspiring Animators

Written by ACR StaffMarch 22, 2017
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The animation world is extremely competitive, so it may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle when it comes to getting your work in front of the right people. If you’re a student, well let’s just say it can be even tougher to get noticed. The industry will always be competitive, so it’s up to you to find ways to compete. A step in the right direction is to get your work out there as early as possible by submitting to student film festivals. 

Start with your school’s own film festival. Most schools with film programs have screening events that allow students to showcase their work and/or compete for awards. Festivals hosted by the some of the nation’s top film schools attract directors, producers, and studios from around the world. This equals opportunities to get your work in front of heavy hitters in the industry. Just a few of the best college film festivals include First Run Film Festival (NYU Tisch School of the Arts), First Look Film Festival (USC Cinematic Arts), UCLA Film Festival, Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF), Student Work Showcase at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts – Chapman University, Yale Student Film Festival, Savannah Film Festival, and San Francisco State University Festival. 

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Next, start looking for student film festivals that are open to all and those that have an animation category. Check with your program coordinator. Some schools, such as Chapman, have a film festival office that will help students navigate the “complex, diverse, and evolving Film Festival and Distribution worlds.” Some respond to outside festival requests to screen films, while others offer monetary support. 

To help you out, we’ve located some of the best film festivals for student animators. Though our list is by no means complete, we think it’s more than enough to get you started. Here you go. . . 

1. Los Angeles International Student Film Festival, Pasadena, California 

The Los Angeles International Student Film Festival is an annual event “dedicated solely to screening work created by students enrolled in high school, undergraduate, and graduate programs. Through celebrating filmmakers at varying stages in their schooling” the festival strives “to create a dynamic environment that offers inspiration and valuable networking opportunities. Most importantly, the festival will give talented students a sound board from which to be heard and motivate them to further explore their craft and grow as artists.” 

Categories include High School Short Film, Undergraduate Short Film, and Graduate Short Film. High School Short Film includes Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Multimedia, Music Video, and Narrative Fiction with running time under 45 mins. Undergraduate Short Films will have a running time under 45 mins and includes Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Multimedia, and Narrative Fiction. Graduate Short Film includes Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Multimedia, Music Video, and Narrative Fiction with running time under 45 mins. 

For details about fees and submission deadlines, visit the Los Angeles International Student Film Festival website. You can also call, email or write to: 

Los Angeles International Student Film Festival
65 South Grand Avenue
Pasadena CA 91105
Tel: 949.285.9978
Email: info@lastudentfilmfest.com

2. CineYouth Film Festival, The Chicago International Film Festival, Chicago, Illinois 

CineYouth Film Festival has been running for 13 years. It is “the Chicago International Film Festival’s yearly film festival that showcases short films made by filmmakers 22 years old and younger from around the world.” The festival “strives to encourage the talent of young artists and to provide them with opportunities to tell their stories, network with their peers, and be recognized for their creativity.” 

Approximately 100 films are accepted to CineYouth and categories include Animation, Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Experimental, Horror/Thriller, and Music Video. Award-winning films for 2017 will be screened at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival at the CineYouth "Best of the Fest" screening (October 2017). The entry fee is $15 per film. 

The annual CineYouth Film Festival takes place in May at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre and it is free and open to the public of all ages. For additional details, visit The Chicago International Film Festival website or contact: 

The Chicago International Film Festival
212 W. Van Buren St., Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60607
Tel: 312.683.0121
Fax: 312.683.0122
Email: info@chicagofilmfestival.com 

3. Reality Bytes Independent Student Film Festival, DeKalb, Illinois 

Reality Bytes Film Festival has been running since 2001. The annual festival accepts short fiction films and short documentaries (under 30 minutes) for submission from high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from across the U.S. and around the world. “The selected films vary in genre from comedy to drama to animation, and focus specifically on strong storytelling. Each film category will also include a “Best in Show” award. There will also be a “Best in Show” award for the high school film category. “Best in Show” awards are cash prizes.” 

The three-night festival will be held in Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. This year’s event will take place April 11 thru April 13 and it is free and open to the public. Visit the Reality Bytes website for further details or contact the festival here

4. Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Los Angeles, California 

The Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival showcases approximately 100 feature-length and short films. The festival is comprised of six non-competition program categories including Shorts for Tots, Teens Only, Shorts for Ages 3–6, Shorts for Ages 5–10, Shorts for Ages 8–14, and Feature Length. The festival looks for “fresh, adventurous innovation, and storytelling that speaks to our young audience and their adult companions.” The festival takes place annually in December at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). There is no fee for filmmakers under 18. If you are over 18, the fee is $20. For additional details, visit LACMA or contact: 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, C/O Education
Organizers: David Hernandez, Dan Bennett
5905 Wilshire Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Email: dhernandez@lacma.org 

5. Seattle TransMedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF), Seattle, Washington

Seattle TransMedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF) began in 2005. The festival wants to “present great films” and “highlight other digital mediums that are being used for storytelling.”

Categories include Animated Short Film, Digital Comics, Interactive In-App Storytelling, Video Games, Emerging Technology, Experimental, Web Series Episode, Social Media Narratives/Role Playing, New Media/Installation/Multimedia Performance, Video/Digital Art, and many others. Student filmmakers can submit in any category and they must be enrolled at time of submission in a Film School, College Film Program or High School. Films must be 16 minutes or less in length. Students receive a 50% discount on submission fees by entering the code provided on the STIFF website

STIFF is held at The Factory Luxe in the historic Rainier Brewery just south of Downtown Seattle. Guests and participants will enjoy a “full program of film screenings, transmedia exhibits, VR/360 experiences, parties, creator panels, and networking.” For more details about STIFF, visit the website or contact: 

Seattle TransMedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF)
316 Maynard Ave S #107
Seattle, WA 98104
Tel: 206.650.7470
Email: contact@trueindependent.org 

6. WorldFest Houston, Houston, Texas 

WorldFest Houston was founded as the International Film Society in August 1961, making it oldest Independent Film & Video Festival in the World. The festival “evolved into a competitive International Film Festival in April, 1968.” This year, the festival takes place April 21-30 at the flagship AMC Studio 30 Dunvale Theaters. It will screen 55-60 feature film premieres, “with a complete and absolute emphasis on the American and International Independent feature films and with a continuing annual spotlight on an individual country and its films.” 

WorldFest also hosts competitions in Student & Experimental, Film & Video Production, New Media (Interactive, Web Sites & 3D Productions), Documentary, Screenplays, and many others.

The festival welcomes animation of all kinds from graduate level, college level, high school, and middle/grade school and below (14 & younger). Student screenplays of unproduced films/videos are also welcome. For further details, visit the WorldFest Houston website or contact: 

WorldFest Houston
9898 Bissonnet, #650
Houston, TX 77256
Tel: 713.965.9955
Fax: 713.965.9960
Toll Free (USA only): 866-965-9955 

7. Animation Block Party, Brooklyn, New York 

Animation Block Party “is the largest animation festival on the East Coast, dedicated to exhibiting the world's best independent, professional, and student animation.” Sponsored in part by Toon Boom Animation, Rooftop Films, and Giphy, the festival welcomed 5,000 attendees and it is now an international four-day festival featuring just over 100 of the world’s best new animated shorts in competition. Animators may submit more than one film. The fee for entries is $30 per film for students and $40 per film for all others. Early submissions save $5. Late? Add $5. The 14th annual Animation Block Party takes place July 27 — July 30, 2017 at Rooftop Films & BAMcinématek. Brooklyn NY. For more information, visit Animationblock or contact the festival here

8. Ottawa International Animation Festival, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 

Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has been running since 1976. The festival takes place annually in downtown Ottawa and attracts “film and animation buffs, art lovers and filmmakers from around the globe.” The event features “the world's most cutting-edge, thoughtful, funny and provocative animation films” along with “many of animation's most celebrated stars, studios and characters.” 

In addition to four other categories, OIAF has a student animation competition that’s open to students who are currently enrolled in a post-secondary or graduate diploma or degree program or were so enrolled during the films’ production. Though all accepted entries will show, just one prize is awarded for best student animation. There are no entry or registration fees. Want more info? Visit the OIAF website or contact: 

Festival Office
2 Daly Avenue, Suite 120
Ottawa ON, Canada, K1N 6E2
Tel: 613.232.8769
Fax: 613.232.6315
General Information: info@animationfestival.ca 

9. SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles, California 

SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival has an award for Best Student Project. The festival seeks work that “educates, entertains, or informs through the application of modern computer graphics in either traditional formats or virtual reality.” Running since 1999, SIGGRAPH “has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival. Several works originally presented at SIGGRAPH have been nominated for or have received a Best Animated Short Academy Award.” In addition to computer animation, for 2017, the five-day festival will accept virtual reality short films and experiences. 

SIGGRAPH receives hundreds of entries each year, so bring your A game. For submission guidelines, visit the SIGGRAPH website

10. South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, Austin, Texas 

South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival holds an animated shorts competition and the festival also has its own animation category. Founded in 1987, SXSW also welcomes submissions from the live action film, interactive, and music industries. The festival lasts for nine days in March, and short films screening in the Animated Shorts are eligible for Jury Awards. 

Though SXSW receives thousands of submissions each year, the organization is always eager to showcase new talent. As such, the festival is open to students. Apart from films submitted through the Texas High School Film Competition, student and non-student films are considered and shown together. To submit your film to SXSW, review the submission deadlines, read the in-depth information in the Film Submission FAQ, and watch the How To Submit Your Film video here. Visit the official SXSW website for additional details or you can contact: 

SXSW, LLC
PO Box 685289
Austin, TX 78768
Tel: 512.467.7979 

Student animators can also apply to hundreds of other festivals by registering at http://www.withoutabox.com/register/. Withoutabox.com is an Amazon Company. 

Sources 

Film Festival Office. Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. 

Baethke, Nadine. "The Animation Film Festival List." FilmFestivalLifeLine. FilmFestivalLifeLine (FFLife), 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2017. 

"The Most Comprehensive List of Film Festivals on the Internet." New York Film Academy. New York Film Academy, 2015. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. 

Note: Information about each film festival was obtained directly from the festival website. At the time of publication, all information was accurate.