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Short Film Competition Rules and Regulations for Independent Film Producers

Entering a short film competition is certainly something for independent film producers to carefully consider. Competitions like this can draw attention, and the necessary reputation for your short film production which may lead to increased investor consideration and funding. These short film competition rules and regulations will help you to establish an understanding of what to expect during the competition if you decide to enter a film.

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While the actual rules and regulations of a short film contest will vary, it’s important to understand that most short film competition rules and regulations are going to be similar in scope.

For example, what constitutes a “short film” for the purpose of a competition is almost always going to be a film that is under 45 minutes in total length. However, some short film competitions might require the film be 20 minutes or less, or 30 minutes or less.

While you can learn the general short film competition rules and regulations that we’ve set forth. Before you enter a competition you’re going to need to review the actual rules for that competitive event.


For a short film competition, the shorter the better in some cases. Most of the time, a short film competition will require that the films entered be under 45 minutes.

Some competitions require even shorter entries such as 30 minutes or less. Make sure that you are submitting a film that falls within the time. And total length guidelines for the competition that you’re entering. You don’t want to get disqualified from the start.

Keep in mind that there may also be a minimum duration that is acceptable, too. For example, most short film competition rules and regulations for independent film producers state that the minimum length of the film must be at least 30 seconds.

It’s possible that the film would need to be even longer, depending on the expectation set forth by the competition.

Production Completion Date

Like all of the other short film competition rules and regulations, the rules on completion dates will vary. However, most of the time short films that are entered into a competition must have been completed in the year. As in 12 months, prior to the entry being submitted.

There are differing regulations regarding completion date. But overall, short films will need to have been filmed and produced in the very recent time period leading up to the competition. Generally no more than two years prior to the event.


Films you submit to a short film competition are going to need to be in the format the particular competition accepts. Most competitions require films to be shot in MPEG4 format or AVI format.

Check with the film competition guidelines or rules FAQs to determine recommendations or requirements for particular aspect ratios for your submission. There’s a general recommendation that films have a ratio of 16:9 but this could vary.

Note that it is highly likely that the competition will require your submission to be provided in digital format. Rather than in the form of a Blu-ray, DVD, or HD-CAM format.

You must be able to provide your film submission in whatever format is required by the competition. No exceptions.

Rights & Clearance

Copyright rules are incredibly important when entering a short film competition. Rules and regulations may vary as to the extent. Upon which the event coordinator will require you to prove copyright clearance.

But you can expect that at a minimum, the coordinator expects you to have done your own due diligence in acquiring the permissions. And appropriate rights licenses to any copyrighted content that you’ve used during the course of producing your short film.

Supplying Proof

You should prepare to prove that you have the right to any music, songs, script, or trademark elements that you utilize in your production. Even if you’ve read the short film competition rules and regulations.

To see that they state that you will not be required to supply proof that you have applied for a copyright license for material that you’ve used in the creation of your short film.

You should still perform due diligence in obtaining these rights. Because it’s the right thing to do. And because this is a requirement for distribution.

Fair Use

If you’ve used copyrighted materials under fair use, it’s your responsibility to understand that fair use doctrine is a defense. Not a protection, against copyright infringement. This means that you could still face allegations of copyright infringement.

Regardless of whether you have used the copyrighted material in a fair use manner or not. You will be responsible for providing your defense in such a situation. However, in submitting your work to the short film competition.

You will likely sign a waiver that states that you either have the licenses to copyright material in your film. Or that you have used copyrighted material in fair use. And performed due diligence in adequately proving such use ahead of time. 

Original Content

While it should go without saying that only original content should be submitted to a short film competition. This is one of the rules. In fact, short film competition rules and regulations generally state that submissions must be original.

In the sense that they were created by the individual that is submitting the film. But also in the sense that they have not previously been submitted to the competition before. 

It is rare that a competition will allow submissions of a short film. Which was submitted a previous year or time. Unless that submission has been extensively altered, edited, or otherwise revised for the purpose of resubmission.

In Summary

Make sure that if you are going to submit a short film which you’ve previously submitted. You do so only upon reading the short film competition rules and regulations. To ensure you’ve followed all expected rules regarding submitting previously submitted content.

The short film competition rules and regulations that apply to you will vary based on the competition that you enter. It’s important to be aware of the many potential rules and regulations.

And to carefully read over the guidelines before you submit a project to any competition. These are just some of the rules that you can expect but there may be many others, too.

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