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2013 submission guidelines

Submissions are now closed for the 2013 Wisconsin Film Festival. The information here remains online for filmmakers interested in knowing the Festival’s submission process for the future, and for filmmakers whose work was already submitted for this year’s Festival.

Thank you for considering the Wisconsin Film Festival.

For simplicity’s sake, “film” in these guidelines can mean motion pictures originating on film or video.

The Submission Process

Partial or incomplete entries cannot be accepted, so please double-check that you have included everything required, especially if it’s close to the submission deadline.

[Contact person]  One person should be designated as the contact for each entry. The Festival handles hundreds of submissions and can only successfully work with one contact per film. The contact need not be the director, but should be authorized to submit the work, supply information as described on the entry form, and speak on behalf of the film. All necessary rights and permissions for festival exhibition of each work submitted is the responsibility of the film production.

  • You’re already doing the first step: reading the guidelines. Easy! Have you also read the first page of information?
  • Next, you’ll complete an online entry form (no longer available for the 2013 Festival). This will collect information for the contact person and details about your film.

Should you choose to pay the entry fee with a credit card, you can do this online as the next step after the online entry form. Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover) are handled through the University of Wisconsin’s PCI-compliant secure site. It is a safe and confidential process; no credit card numbers are retained by the Festival.

  • After you have completed on the online entry form, the web site will create a cover sheet for your film. Please print a copy to include with your mailed DVD. You are also encouraged to keep a copy for your records.

If you forget to print the cover sheet, don’t worry. You will receive an automatically generated email after you complete the entry form. This email will have a web link to your cover sheet which you can then print. If you forget to include the cover sheet with your mailed DVD, still don’t worry. We will be matching arriving DVDs with the online entries and will ensure your submission is complete.

  • Please mail your film on DVD (only a single copy is needed; if you are submitting more than one title use a separate DVD for each film) to the Wisconsin Film Festival, postmarked before the deadline date for your category. If you prefer to pay the entry fee with check or money order (please do not send cash), you will include this with your mailed DVD:
    Wisconsin Film Festival
    1050 University Ave.
    Madison, WI 53706 USA
  • When your mailed DVD arrives, we will double-check that all materials are complete and will send a confirmation to the film’s contact person via email.

This festival does not require elaborate submissions materials. However, although the online entry form is convenient in many ways, it doesn't retain any formatting for blocks of text. You may also choose to include longer (or more nicely formatted) versions of the material in the online entry form, e.g., film synopsis, list of principle cast and crew, and filmmaker bios. Press kits are not required at the submission stage. If your film is accepted, then we’ll ask for more.

The Wisconsin Film Festival regrets that it is not able to financially support travel expenses. Acceptance of your film into the Festival program should not be interpreted as also including travel costs or other expenses.

Eligible Films

Narrative, documentary, experimental, or animated work of any length. Your film must have been completed after January 1, 2011.

Films shown in other festivals, in limited noncommercial exhibition, or at cast/crew screenings are eligible. Programming preference is given to films without significant exposure in Wisconsin theatrical and broadcast markets prior to the Festival. It’s fine — awesome, really — if your film has played at other film festivals in Wisconsin or in the Midwest. Our audience is substantially different from other state or regional festivals.

The Wisconsin Film Festival does not insist upon any premiere status.

Although rough cuts can be submitted, very rough films are harder to evaluate. Only you can be the judge of how well your current version reflects the final quality of your work.
Programming decisions are final, so please think twice before sending an incomplete project.

[Rough cuts]  “Rough cuts,” “temp prints,” “temp/scratch music,” etc. can be accepted as submission entries. However, since the Festival does not accept films that have been submitted in previous years (see #2 of the list below), sending in a rough cut would count as the film's single eligible submission time. If you don’t feel that your current cut of the film is sufficient for Festival programmers to make a final decision, then please wait until the film is complete and submit for next year’s Festival.

Please list directly on the DVD case (tape a note to the case, or some other equivalent method) which elements of your film are missing.

Rough cuts may be submitted as long as you are confident that you will have locked and finished your film in time for work with the Festival programming schedule. The more complete your work, the better it can be assessed and appreciated during the selection process. If you are considering submitting a rough cut, you should be confident that it is a fair representation of the final quality of your work. Decisions will be made on the version you submit; generally, later submissions of different cuts are not considered.

You can submit more than one film, as long as each work meets the applicable criteria. Each film must be on a separate DVD. Multiple entries can be mailed together in the same envelope.

The Festival will not consider:

  1. Commercials or advertisements. Music videos. Educational, industrial, medical, or institutional films. Video games. Stand-alone trailers. Films with prior substantial theatrical exhibition, commercial TV broadcast or webcast, or commercial video distribution in the Madison, Wisconsin, market.
  2. Films submitted to the Wisconsin Film Festival in previous years, including work that had been submitted earlier as a rough cut.
  3. Films completed before January 1, 2011.
  4. Work that will not be completed by the Festival. The Festival does not include “works in progress” in its final program.

Submission Formats

It's okay to keep your submission materials simple. It’s what’s onscreen that matters. There’s no need to create an elaborate marketing package. A plain white paper sleeve is as good as anything else (as long as you pack it securely for mailing). Put your energy and money into your crew, your other festival submissions, or your next film.

Submissions must be on DVD; either NTSC or PAL. At this time, submissions are not accepted as online video files.

Please master in the conventional DVD-Video format (a VIDEO_TS folder with .IFO, .BUP, and .VOB files). Please do not submit an .AVI, .MOV, or other video file which has simply been burned onto a DVD disc.

Make sure your DVD is not blank and does not freeze or skip. Please take the time to play it and watch it all the way through on a different player than you used to burn it. We have lots of different versatile playback devices here, but we can’t watch something that’s incompletely written to disc. If your DVD is unplayable, we will contact you for a replacement.

Label your DVD with the title of the film, approximate run time, the director’s name, and the name of the contact person if it’s different than the director. Please make sure it’s easy to identify the title of your film.

If you are submitting more than one work, please use a separate DVD for each entry. Multiple entries can be mailed together in the same envelope.

Any “making of,” deleted scenes, and other extra sequences are not considered part of the submission and will not be watched.

[Formats to show at the Festival]  If your film is selected, we’ll ask at that time which format(s) you’ll have available to show at the Festival. Programmers will determine which format will work best to match your film with the right theater and program. The Festival does not project films or videos from computer files.

The Golden Badgers

The Wisconsin’s Own films are reviewed by Festival programmers and a jury. The jurors are generally filmmakers, film industry professionals, critics, or curators who have a commitment to supporting regional filmmakers and film culture in Wisconsin. Often, jurors have Wisconsin roots or are UW–Madison alumni.

The jurors award prizes called “Golden Badgers” to films that show significant technical and artistic achievement. (Why are they named after badgers?) There is no predetermined number of films accepted in each category, nor is there a set number of prizes. The juries are encouraged to consider the broadest range of films, and to include as many films they agree meet the standard of achievement and guidelines set by the Festival.

Cash prizes are awarded, with amounts depending on the number of awards given (in 2011, $250 for shorts and $500 for features).

By submitting your film to the Festival, you must agree to the final decisions made by the juries. Neither the Festival staff nor the juries are able to provide comments about work not selected for the Festival. Any filmmaker who contacts a juror about the status of a submitted film may be disqualified.


  • Wisconsin’s Own (films of any length from filmmakers with Wisconsin connections)
     closed: deadline was Wednesday, October 31, 2012 
  • Wisconsin’s Own Student (films of any length from student filmmakers with Wisconsin connections)
     closed: deadline was Monday, December 31, 2012 

Complete entries must be postmarked by the deadline date OR hand-delivered to the Wisconsin Film Festival office (B136 Lathrop Hall, 1050 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706) by 5 pm ON the deadline date.

There is only a single deadline for each category — no “early bird” or expensive “last chance” dates. The student-film deadline is later to make it easier to submit projects from a fall semester film class.

After the online entry form is completed, an automated email is generated for the contact person. When we receive and your mailed DVD and confirm your complete submission, we’ll send another confirmation note.

All contact people will be notified of their film’s status (accepted or not accepted into the Festival) no later than February 15, 2013.

Entry Fees

Please channel communications with the Festival through your contact person designated on the entry form.

You are welcome to ask questions about the Wisconsin Film Festival and the submissions process. No question too small:

Matt Connolly, programmer | 608-890-4390

mailing address for entries:
Wisconsin Film Festival
1050 University Ave.
Madison WI 53706 USA

office address for hand-delivery:
B136 Lathrop Hall
1050 University Ave.

Feature films (60 minutes or more): $35
Short films (less than 60 minutes): $25
Student films (any length): $10 (with photocopy of valid student ID)

Please pay in U.S. funds by check (payable to “Wisconsin Film Festival”), money order, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover credit cards. There is a $20 fee for any check returned by your bank as unpaid or insufficient funds.

Filmmakers paying the student rate must include a photocopy of their valid student ID.

If Your Film is Accepted

All contacts will be notified of their film’s status (accepted or not accepted into the Festival) no later than February 15, 2013. At that time we’ll also notify any filmmakers who are receiving awards for their work.

We’ll send you more information about what’s required at that point, including at least one still photo from the film and photos of the filmmakers. The Festival’s print traffic coordinator will make arrangements for getting the final exhibition version of your film.

The Wisconsin Film Festival regrets that it is not able to financially support travel expenses. Acceptance of your film into the Festival program should not be interpreted as also including travel costs or other expenses.

A certain number of free tickets to your film’s screening(s) will be arranged for the contact person. The exact number may vary depending on the size of the theater and the number of other filmmakers included in the same program (such as for shorts programs where there may be a dozen films together). We encourage anyone connected to the production to attend, but the Festival can only set aside a small number of tickets for each filmmaker.

Filmmakers will also receive a free ticket package to see other films around the Festival. These can be used by filmmakers, or shared with friends if you are not able to attend. The specific details of how many free tickets, and how to receive them, will be sent to you if your film is accepted.

on to the entry form (no longer available for the 2013 Festival)

Wisconsin Film Festival | 1050 University Ave. | Madison, WI 53706 USA | T 877-963-3456 or 608-262-9009 | F 608-262-6589 | E |

administration (UW Arts Institute)
Professor Norma Saldivar | executive director | 608-890-3314 |
Ben Reiser | festival coordinator | 608-262-6578 |
Zachary Robbins | corporate relations | 608-628-7344 |
Karin Kolb | youth programming & outreach specialist | 608-890-1177 |
Terry Kerr | volunteer coordinator | 608-588-4330 |
Emily Lewis | venue coordinator | 608-890-2196 |

film programming (UW Department of Communication Arts)
Professor JJ Murphy | artistic director | 608-263-3965 |
Jim Healy | director of programming | 608-263-9643 |
Mike King | senior programmer | 608-265-4231 |
Amanda McQueen | print traffic coordinator, wisconsin's own programmer | 608-263-9643 |

The Festival is brought to you by the Arts Institute in association with the Department of Communication Arts.

UW Arts InstituteUW Department of Communication Arts