Submissions 2023 are

The 2023 Call for Submissions is now CLOSED at FilmFreeway (including high school)

and   via this portal if you have  password-protected film streaming. Payment via PayPal.

All questions, please email

We welcome submissions in the following cateories:

  • Narrative Features
  • Documentary Features
  • Narrative Shorts
  • Documentary Shorts
  • Animation (including Anime)
  • Web Series Pilots
  • Experimental; any length up to 2 hours in all categories
  • High School Student Film Showcase and Competition (films up to 20 mins)
  • Student Films (this is a submission category only)

We are open to films of any genre except adult films and in any language (with subtitles). We do not have a section dedicated to family films, but love films that appeal to the child in us all. We always have a horror film section, in honor of a genre that has been an important launching point for independent filmmakers. DCIFF also welcomes open source films, art films and interactive films and the wide spectrum of documentary formats and issues including advocacy films.

Please note: DCIFF 2023 will be a festival / forum over 5 days. We expect all selected filmmakers to attend or send a key cast or crew member. We support some costs of attending to the best of our ability.

Dates and Deadlines:   November 20, 2022 – Regular Deadline  /December 11, 2022 – Late Deadline
January 3, 2023 – Notification Date High School / January 11, 2023 Notification Date: DCIFF

February 25, 2023 High School Film Competition / March 2  – March 6, 2023 – Event Date


We put a great deal of effort, time and attention into promoting the films selected for screening and competition. We have aided many a filmmaker on the road to success, awards, distribution and networking. For 2023, we will select fewer films but give each film more attention, more outreach and more opportunity.  These are our requirements please:
In-Person Metro DC Film Premieres required but films can be available online or can have been screened online before although we will not select films already available for free online. We like premieres as we can get more attention for your film that way.
All films must be completed within one year of the date of submission to DCIFF
If you have distribution for your film, please make sure that you have the right to screen your film at festivals as DCIFF does not ever pay screening fees.
Our reasonable submission fees are entirely used to cover the cost of filmmaker support: press, screenings, seminars and outreach. DCIFF is a volunteer-run festival with an twenty three year track record.
To Submit Your Film:



How do I send you my press kit?

You can upload your press kit and other files supporting your submission to FilmFreeway. You can also email files as attachments to When emailing please include your film title and FilmFreeway Tracking ID (if applicable) in the email subject line. Include your film title at the start of the filename for each attachment. A press kit is NOT required for submission but it does help reviewers.

What premiere status do you require?

Your film should be less than one year old and should not have already been screened in the Metro DC area (private screenings excepted). It should not be publicly available for free online. World or U.S. Premieres are preferred.

Please keep the festival informed of any changes in the status of your film: for example if you have had a world premiere or have been offered a chance to screen in Washington DC.

Can I submit a film that is a work-in-progress?

Yes, send a work-in-progress film. We recommend submitting the most finished version of your film. If your film is selected you must send us a complete exhibition copy one month before the festival.

Can I submit a trailer instead of a work-in-progress or a completed film?

No. We will not be able to accept trailers as submissions.

What happens if I send you a link to review a film before I officially submit my work to DCIFF?
We will not review your film or screener until we have received a complete submission from you. We do this both for legal reasons and to be fair to others. We realize that this requires you to pay a submission fee, but it takes a lot of time and energy to have your work reviewed and this covers our costs. All submission fees also go to supporting filmmakers to attend the festival.

Are you looking for anything in particular?

We are keen to have submissions that take risks, that are interactive, and that are artistic and experimental as well as narrative. We welcome submissions of a strong and controversial nature, encourage animation and support feature-length directors. We build audiences around documentary topics and welcome music, issue and experimental documentary formats.

How firm are your submission rules and criteria?

We aim to be flexible and are open to new ideas and cutting-edge submissions so we will certainly consider submissions that bend the genres and the mind. We are strict on DC premiere status. If you are not entirely within the existing rules, please email us at and discuss this with us.

What if I have a distributor?

If you have distribution, please make sure that you have permission to send your work to a film festival. DCIFF never pays screening fees to distributors for films that are in competition, but will cover some travel costs instead.

Can I send you my film to screen out of competition?

Yes, DCIFF has small non-competitive section for films outside of the required date of production. We still require a small submission fee and a filled out submission form. We will be looking for topics that are politically volatile, artistically cutting edge, technologically innovative and/or quite unexpected. We advise you to send us a note explaining why we should include your film.

Do I have to obtain rights and clearances for the music or other copyrighted material included in my film?
At the time of submission, you are not yet required to obtain all rights and clearances. If your film is selected you must sign a release certifying that you have obtained all rights and clearances prior to screening your film at the festival.

Will you acknowledge receipt of my submission?

The person designated as “submitter” will receive an email confirmation from FilmFreeway once his or her submission has been accepted for consideration.

DEADLINES and FEES: Pay with PayPal. For submission via our our DCIFF form, we will invoice you  from ​​  Submission Fees are the same across all platforms and can be found at FilmFreeway

Do you consider waivers?

We rarely consider waivers, not because we don’t empathize with independent filmmakers, but because we are an entirely volunteer-run festival, we coordinate over 30 reviewers and we wish to be fair.  However, if you feel you have a strong case email us at All high school submissions are free, but we check IDs for age.

How do we define the High School Student, Student and DCIFF Alumni submission categories?

*​High School Students​ must be aged 19 years or younger and must have completed the project while in High School. Applications should include the email address of a teacher who can confirm High School student status. High School films should be less than 20 minutes in length.

**Current ​students​ receive discounted submission rates. Attach a valid copy of your student ID to get preferential student rates. If you do not have a current student ID, applications should include the email address of an academic advisor who can confirm student status. “Student films” is NOT an award category for the festival, they are judged against all other films of the same type and length.

***​DCIFF Alumni ​are filmmakers who have had a film screened at a previous DC Independent Film Festival. You should include your previous film title and year screened on your submission form.


What are the submission categories?

Submission categories are based on the length of the film and status of the filmmaker (DCIFF alumni, student, regular) and are: animation, short (including experimental), narrative feature, short documentary, feature documentary and out-of-competition films. VR, TV pilots and web series should be submitted in the web series category. 


Who reviews the submissions?

It is our intention to give all submissions equal opportunity. All submissions are screened by at least one reviewer and all recommended films are screened by the programming director. Animation submissions are screened by a dedicated team of experts. All feature films are reviewed by the programming director.

When and how do I know if my film has been selected?

We aim to finish reviewing by the end of December 2022. We often send out announcements section by section. We will get in touch with the person designated as “submitter” before we make an official announcement to get updates on the screening status of your film. If we find that you have already screened your film in Washington DC during this process, we reserve the right to remove your film from selection even after the public announcement.

If my film is not selected for the festival will you let me know why?

Unfortunately, due to the large volume of submissions our programmers cannot offer individual critiques. We select each film individually and we program after we have selected. The final selection is based on: quality of filmmaking, originality, depth of content and our sense that the film will find an audience in the DC community.

How many films do you accept?

We do not expect to screen more than 60 films as we move into our Forum format. We keep our numbers low so that we can really support the filmmakers who get accepted and give them and their films the attention they need.

Can I withdraw my film from competition?

By submitting to the festival, the filmmaker(s) acknowledges that once a film is accepted and programmed for screening in competition at DCIFF, the film may not be withdrawn without the express written permission of DCIFF.  We understand things happen, but we do not look kindly on decisions to withdraw that are made because you think you got a better deal (we think our festival rocks!)

How do I contact you with questions?    Email us at