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submit your film

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 your film. The Festival welcomes narrative, documentary, experimental, and animated films or videos of any length. Films must have a Wisconsin connection; this is explained below.


  • 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 

Note: The Wisconsin Film Festival does not use third-party submission services like Withoutabox.


Wisconsin’s Own (a juried competition for the Golden Badger awards)

For filmmakers with “Wisconsin ties,” which is defined as either:

  1. The film was shot primarily or significantly (at least one-third) on location in Wisconsin.
  2. One or more of the film’s principal creative personnel — director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, lead actor, etc. — must be one of the following: a) Wisconsin native; b) former Wisconsin resident for one or more years; c) current Wisconsin resident; or d) alumnus or currently enrolled in a Wisconsin college or university.

There are gray areas. This category’s intention is to celebrate films that reflect the creative spirit of our state, so please bear this in mind as you determine whether this category applies to you. A musical film with a prominent and significant original soundtrack written by a Wisconsin resident is a good candidate; a film with a song by a band with a drummer whose grandparents live in Wisconsin is not.

The Festival reserves the right to verify Wisconsin ties for any submission.

Wisconsin’s Own Student (a juried competition for the Golden Badger awards)

This is essentially the same category as “Wisconsin’s Own,” but specifically for students at Wisconsin colleges or universities, or Wisconsin residents attending college/university in other states. There is a smaller entry fee, and a later deadline. You must meet the same criteria for Wisconsin ties, as described above. Student status applies to the primary director/filmmaker only, not to other members of the cast and crew. It also applies to the time when the film was made. If you made a short film when you were a student, and have now graduated, you may submit that film in this student category. Films do not need to be class projects to qualify.

Each student film entry must include a photocopy of the primary filmmaker’s student ID. The Festival reserves the right to verify student status, film completion dates, or Wisconsin ties for any entrant.

How do I send in my film?

  1. Read everything on this page, and then the detailed guidelines on this web site.
  2. Complete the online entry form (no longer available for the 2013 Festival) with your contact information and film details. If you are paying the entry fee with a credit card, you will also be able to complete that transaction online.
  3. Mail your film on a DVD to the Festival. If you are in the Madison area, you can also hand-deliver it to B136 Lathrop Hall, 1050 University Ave. There is a mail slot in an office door, so you can drop off your package even if no one is in the office.

Is this festival a good fit for my film?

Some festivals rely entirely on submissions for their titles. Others barely bother. A portion of the Wisconsin Film Festival program always comes from this submission process, as part of a commitment to showcasing emerging talent. Another portion of the Festival comes from outside the submission process, films that are specifically selected to be part of the program (master directors, international festival hits, films that fit particular themes) and we work directly with distribution companies, sales agencies, and production teams around the world.

There is no specific quota to be met in any category, nor in feature-length vs. short films. Each work is judged solely on its individual merit. Films shown in other festivals or in limited noncommercial exhibition are eligible. Preference is given to films without significant exposure in Wisconsin markets prior to the Festival.

The Festival presents quality work that may not otherwise be seen in commercial theaters, and motion pictures from outside the mainstream film industry. We are looking for competence in the filmmaking craft; work that has vision and spirit; original subjects and well-told stories; and diverse voices. We look for films that represent different facets of filmmaking, from polished productions to no-budget gems. Each year’s selection of films is a blend of major releases scouted from around the world, combined with smaller, under-the-radar works that illustrate a variety of filmmaking styles.

See last year’s complete film list for a sense of what makes up the Wisconsin Film Festival program.

How is the Wisconsin Film Festival different?

There are many festivals that share our interest in sustaining what’s good about motion pictures. This is not unique.

Our audience knows that what matters is what’s on screen. This Festival is about bringing great motion pictures — large and small — to Madison for well-organized screenings in front of enthusiastic (and frequently sold-out) crowds of mostly local people. Ticket prices are low and available to all.

If your film is selected, we’ll work hard to ensure that your film is always safely cared for, that your screening is promoted accurately and enthusiastically in the Festival program, that we build a good audience, and that the screening is on time with good picture and sound quality.

In 2013, the Festival will unspool on several conveniently located Madison screens both on and off the University of Wisconsin campus. All of our venues are state-of-the art screening spaces offering superb high-definition video and 35mm projection. We don’t use make-shift screening locations in places not suited for professional projection, like the back room of a restaurant or bar. Whenever possible, films are screened on 35mm, 16mm, or high-quality digital video. Theaters dedicated to video are equipped for the Festival with professional projectors and decks that show clear, bright images.

We watch everything that is submitted. We do not farm out the viewing of your submission to random volunteers. If your film is selected, a certain number of tickets to your film’s screening(s) will be reserved along with a ticket package for other films. We encourage anyone connected to the production to attend, but the Festival can only set aside a small number of tickets for each filmmaker. Acceptance of your film into the Festival program should not be interpreted as also including travel costs or other expenses.

What prizes can I win?

Because the festival circuit can be such an effective way to get your film some attention, a lot of emphasis can be put on how many prizes a festival offers, or whether there are cash awards for winners. We agree that this is exciting and rewarding in many ways (especially if you have production bills that still need to be paid).

Part of the success of the Wisconsin Film Festival, though, has been through supporting the notion that there is merit in all films in the program. Our goal is to expand people’s understanding and acceptance of what makes a good movie, not to narrow it by selecting the “best” ones. Over the years, many attendees have developed their appreciation for a much broader range of storytelling styles because they are encouraged to be adventurous. We think that’s ultimately good for filmmakers. Limiting the prizes to audience awards (this is fun but highly subjective) and to awards for Wisconsin films means that we can balance the wish to support our local filmmakers with showing the respect and affection that we feel for every single film that in the final program. Maybe it’s easier for other festivals to pick favorites, but every film in this program has earned its place and we love them all.

So, cash prizes are given to films in the Wisconsin’s Own categories (in 2012, $250 for shorts and $500 for features) to help promote filmmaking in the state. And the audience votes for their favorite narrative and documentary feature films (an honor, we hope, but no cash award).

Everything you’ll need to know for sending in your film for consideration is on the next guidelines page.

Good luck with this and all your future festival screenings.

on to the guidelines

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