Film Submission Tips: Feature & Short Eligibility

SXSW Film 2016 - The Alchemists Cookbook

Every film festival has their own specific rules concerning screening eligibility. Here are some important points we consider at SXSW Film.

Where and How: You must submit via We do not use any other submission platform. You also must submit a link to a digital copy of your film so have that ready to go when you start your application.

Your Film's Completion Date: To be eligible to submit to SXSW 2017 your film must have been completed in 2015, 2016, or be on track to be completed in early 2017. The dates of production don’t matter, some films take 10 years to make, what matters is when you complete the film.

Your Film's Runtime: As an Oscar qualifying festival for Animated, Narrative and Documentary Short Films, SXSW follows the same guidelines as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They define a short film as any film that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits. A feature is defined as any film with a runtime over 40 minutes. Features are anything over that.

The Status of Your Film’s Public Exposure: Short films and feature length films have different rules.


  • May NOT be posted online or available for download or purchase on any platform, including but not limited to VOD, digital download, or DVD/Blu-Ray.

  • This touches on a gray area: DVDs as incentives for the film’s crowdfunding campaign. This will NOT be considered as a “publicly available” film, so those films are still eligible. However, we ask that you insist the incentive DVDs not be used for any public screenings. We also advise that if you are considering creating this type of crowd-funding incentive, you do not make your DVD copies available until after your festival premiere and run.

  • Additionally, a film is ineligible if it has had any sort of public theatrical screening in Austin, TX, including any other festival in Austin. Cast and crew screenings or private invite-only screenings do not count as public exhibition, therefore will not count against the film's eligibility.


  • Can be available online without affecting their eligibility. But a short film is ineligible if it has played in a theatrical setting here in Austin, TX. Again, cast and crew screenings do not count against your film's eligibility.

What if your film has screened at another festival outside of Austin? It is still eligible for consideration at SXSW! While we do consider premiere status (read more about our premiere policies for features and shorts in our FAQ) it is not the only factor in our selection process.

And if you want to submit a film from outside of the United States? Please do! We play films from all over the world, without exception!

To find out more about film eligibility, check out our Film Submission FAQ.

Photo by Jeff Dean

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By Blake Kammerdiener