Wisconsin’s Own Submission Guidelines

Thank you for considering the Wisconsin Film Festival for your film! Submissions for the 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival Wisconsin’s Own category will open on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Please review the guidelines below carefully and contact the programming staff with questions.

Your submission must have a Wisconsin connection.

  • “Wisconsin connection” is defined as 1) a film shot primarily or significantly (at least one-third) on location in Wisconsin and/or 2) a film where one or more of the film’s principal creative personnel is one of the following: a) born in Wisconsin, b) a current or former Wisconsin resident for one or more years, or c) an alumnus or current student at a school located in Wisconsin.
  • Within the above guidelines, we accept narrative, documentary, experimental, or animated work of any length. Your film must have been completed after January 1, 2019.
  • The Wisconsin Film Festival does not insist upon premiere status. Films shown in other festivals, in limited noncommercial exhibition, or at cast/crew screenings are eligible. However, programming preference is given to films without significant exposure in Wisconsin markets prior to the Festival
  • Rough cuts, temp prints, temp/scratch music, etc. may be submitted. However, incomplete films are harder to evaluate. You must be confident that your film will be finished in time for inclusion in the Festival. Before submitting a rough cut, please consider how well your current version reflects the film’s final intention. 
  • The Festival does not accept previously submitted films. Sending a rough cut would count as the film’s eligible submission opportunity. If you don’t feel the current version of the film is sufficient for programmers to make a decision, wait until the film is complete and submit for next year’s Festival. Review your options carefully before sending an unfinished project. Programming decisions are final.

The Festival will not consider:

  • 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.
  • Films submitted to the Wisconsin Film Festival in previous years, including work that was submitted earlier as a rough cut.
  • Films completed before January 1, 2019.
  • Work that will not be completed in time for the Festival. The Festival does not include “works in progress” in its final program.

By submitting your film to the Festival, you are agreeing to the final decisions made by the selection committee. The Festival staff is unable to provide comments about work not selected for the Festival.

Please review these guidelines carefully.
Submission fees will not be returned for ineligible films.

Wisconsin’s Own

The intention behind Wisconsin’s Own is to celebrate films that reflect the creative spirit of our state. Please bear this in mind as you determine whether your film meets our eligibility requirements. We accept narrative, documentary, experimental, or animated features (60 minutes or longer) and shorts.

Wisconsin’s Own Student

This category is for films of any length directed by current students of Wisconsin schools, or Wisconsin residents attending schools in other states. Note that student status applies to the primary filmmaker only, not to other members of the cast and crew. Student entrants pay a slightly reduced fee, but must meet the same eligibility requirements as other filmmakers.

If you made a film as a student and have recently graduated, you may submit that film in this category. Films do not need to be class projects to qualify.

The Festival reserves the right to verify student status and film completion dates as well as the right to verify Wisconsin ties for any submission in both categories.


By submitting your film to the Festival, you agree to the final decisions made by the selection committee. The Festival staff is unable to provide comments about work not selected for the Festival.

The Wisconsin Film Festival uses FilmFreeway for its Wisconsin’s Own submissions. Before you make your submission, please take note of the following:

Establish a 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 must 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 are the responsibility of the film production.

Complete the Online Entry Form and upload your film. FilmFreeway is an online submission platform. As soon as you create a project in FilmFreeway you will be directed to your Project Page where you can easily upload your project file (up to 10GB) or link your video via Vimeo or YouTube. Upon receiving your submission, FilmFreeway will send you a submission confirmation letter. Please visit the FilmFreeway Help Center for more information.

Provide Entry Fee. Feature films (60 minutes or more) cost $45; $55 after December 1; short films (less than 60 minutes) cost $35; $45 after December 1; and student films (any length) cost $15.

FilmFreeway accepts all major video formats in full quality HD up to 10 GB. They transcode videos for playback compatibility and performance and recommend that you use settings close to their output settings:

  • Maximum video bitrate: 2200 Kbps, H.264, mp4
  • Audio: 128 Kbps, AAC, 2 channel stereo
  • Aspect ratio preserved; maximum video height of 720 pixels

Please visit the FilmFreeway Help Center for more information.

All Wisconsin’s Own submissions must be complete by end of business day on Friday, December 27, 2019. An early-bird discount on entry fees for non-students is available for films submitted no later than Sunday, December 1, 2019.

Contacts will be notified of their film’s status via FilmFreeway by mid-February 2020. If your film is selected, we will ask what format(s) you will 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 Wisconsin Film Festival is not able to financially support travel expenses. Acceptance of your film into the Festival program should not be interpreted as 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 number may vary depending on the size of the theater and the number of other filmmakers included in the same program.  

The film’s primary contact person will receive a Festival pass which will allow that person and a guest to attend films and events at the 2020 Festival. 

By submitting your film to the Festival, you are agreeing to the final decisions made by the selection committee. The Festival staff is unable to provide comments about work not selected for the Festival. 

The films accepted in the Wisconsin’s Own category for inclusion in the Festival are reviewed by Festival programmers and a jury. 

The jurors are generally filmmakers, film industry professionals, critics, or curators. The jurors 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. 

Cash prizes are awarded with amounts dependent on the number of awards given. Our audience votes for their favorite narrative and documentary feature films (Steep & Brew Audience Awards). 

By submitting your film to the Festival, you are agreeing to the final decisions made by the jurors. Festival staff and the jurors are not 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.

Some festivals rely entirely on submissions for their titles. Others are completely curated and programmed without a request for submissions. The Wisconsin Film Festival works to showcase local talent while presenting films from around the globe.

The Festival presents quality work from outside the mainstream film industry. Many of these films may not otherwise reach commercial theaters. We look for films that represent different facets of filmmaking, from polished productions to no-budget gems. Each year’s selections are a blend of films made available to festivals, scouted from around the world, combined with smaller, under-the-radar works that illustrate a variety of cinematic styles.

We work to bring great motion pictures to Madison for well-organized screenings in front of enthusiastic crowds. Tickets are reasonably priced and available to all.

In 2019, the Festival was presented at a variety of screens both on and off the University of Wisconsin campus. All of our venues strive to be state-of-the art screening spaces offering superb high-definition video and 35mm projection. Films are screened on DCP, 35mm, 16mm, or high-quality digital files.

If your film is selected, we’ll ensure your screening is promoted enthusiastically in the Festival program. We will safely care for your film and present it with the highest technical integrity.

By submitting your film to the Festival, you agree to the final decisions made by the selection committee. The Festival staff is unable to provide comments about work not selected for the Festival.