When thinking about entering your first film festival, you may feel many emotions from nervousness to excitement. It’s normal to be overwhelmed – entering into your first festival is all those things. When I entered my first film festival, it felt intimidating because I was only a student and had no professional experience. I had also filmed my entire film with my iPhone. I knew there were going to be big production companies entering as well, but I tried to not let it get to me. I had to remind myself that my work was valuable, even if I didn’t win, I would still have an experience to be proud of, as well as an incredible personal achievement.

Before I knew it, the results were in and my film Autophobia won second place in the category for Best Horror Film in the country. This proved to me that you can start filmmaking at any age and at any level of experience. When entering your first film festival, I urge young creators to value your own work, be confident in your creation and don’t negatively compare it to anyone else’s.

Where to begin?

Many film festivals, like the one I entered Autophobia into, use FilmFreeway. FilmFreeway is a simple website to navigate and is used by thousands of festivals all over the world, offering both paid and free entries. However, you can also find many independent festivals on your own and contact them directly to submit your work. Independent festivals are just as good and often will have more time to dedicate to amateur filmmakers. You can begin your search by checking out the range of amazing film festivals and competitions below, which I have curated specifically for young filmmakers. 

How to Enter a Film Festival

Film festivals are a great way to gain exposure for your film project and get it in front of influential people who can help you take it to the next level. Once you have got your film ready, do some research to find the right festival to enter. Look for one that shares your focus, welcomes entries from your chosen genre, and is aimed at beginners as well as seasoned film directors. Double-check submission criteria and deadlines. Even if you are not shortlisted, attend the festival to get a feel for what type of entry is successful. Hone your skills at a filmmaking course such as SPARKS for some additional professional polish.

Best Short Film Festivals to Enter

There are hundreds of short film festivals around the world. Each one has a slightly different focus, style, and format. It is worth doing lots of research to find the best one to suit your particular project. If possible, watch previous winning films to see if yours matches up. Speak to film professionals to get their advice, for example during a SPARKS filmmaking course.

Into Film – Film of the Month

Into Film is a UK-based film organisation that focuses on bringing all aspects of cinema to youths aged 5-19. Their competition Film of The Month runs monthly and gives young filmmakers a chance to feature their winning short film on Into Film’s website and YouTube channel. Entries are free and submissions are opened to any genre or theme.

Find out more here.

Cinemagic – Cinemagic Young Filmmaker

Cinemagic is an award-winning charity with the largest film and television festival for the UK’s youth. Cinemagic Young Filmmaker is a competition that Cinemagic hosts annually, specifically for young filmmakers under 25. Entries for this competition are free and submitted films can be of any genre or theme! Although 2020 entries are closed, keep an eye out for 2021 openings.

Find out more here.


TEEN TRUTH is an American organisation that aims to empower teens to speak their truths and make their voices heard. TEEN TRUTH: FILM FESTIVAL is their international film competition that poses as a medium for students to express their voices. Film submissions are eligible for ages 12-24 and is open to a range of genres, they do require that the short films carry themes of teen issues or challenges.

Find out more here.

ChildNet Film Competition

ChildNet is a UK organisation that commits to making the internet a safer place for children. ChildNet Film Competition is free to enter and is an annual online short film and storyboard competition that promotes themes of internet safety created by young creators from primary and secondary schools. The 2020 film submissions are closed, but the 2021 submissions will open in January of next year.

Find out more here.

International Ocean Film Festival – Ocean Film Festival Student Film Competition

IOFF is a nonprofit organisation that focuses on themes regarding the ocean, using film as a means to tell stories and aiding the process of saving our ocean. The Ocean Film Festival Student Film Competition is free and is open to young filmmakers aged between 11-18 from all around the world. Submitted films can be of any genre but they must adhere to an ocean theme. 2021 submission will open as of March next year..

Find out more here.

If you’re looking for some inspiration to get filming, have a read of our Filmmaking Tips from a Young Filmmaker.