Bolton International Film Festival screens 200 short films across a five day event in multiple venues including the Light Cinema complex. Located in Greater Manchester in the North West of England, Bolton is a BAFTA qualifying short film festival. This means British short films programmed at the festival and one other festival from Section B of the Qualifying Festivals List are eligible to enter BAFTA’s British Short Film award (presented at the BAFTA Film Awards).

The festival has been consistently voted a "Top 100 reviewed" festival from over 10,000 film festivals worldwide, it is listed as a "Top 12 UK Indie Film Festival" by FilmDaily and a #CE50 by Creative England (an award for the 50 most exciting, innovative and disruptive creative companies across film, games and digital media in the UK). It is also IMBd listed.

Our previous editions have included BAFTA and OSCAR winning short films, crowd funded films, student films, passion projects and BFI and Creative England funded films. Our most notable success coming from "The Silent Child" which later went on to win the Academy Award for Best Short Action film.

The OSCAR winning director Chris Overton from "The Silent Child" said "Out of all the festivals I have been to this one was definitely up there as one of my favourites. They had their own unique touches which really made the festival special. It was amazing to see our film in front of such a big audience and on such a big screen, it was HUGE. This festival has so much heart and the festival organisers are super professional and really care about the filmmakers. There passion shines through. Oh and the awards are SO nice."

We're currently seeking innovative and ground breaking short films from independent film-makers for our next edition. Whether it’s fiction, documentary, animation, comedy, immersive or experimental our aim is to showcase emerging and established talent to an audience of like-minded individuals, the general public and industry experts.

VOTED A "TOP 100" FESTIVAL IN 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020

Our juror panel is :

Producer Colin Pons (33 Features and 2 x BAFTA winner)
MarBelle (Co-Founder of Directors Notes)
Maggie Ellis (Producer/ Film London (FLAMIN) / Jarman Award)
David Thacker, Olivier award winning Theatre / TV / Film director
Alice Ramsey (Development Producer @ BBC Writers Room)
Stephanie Clark (Creative England)
Isabelle Croissant (Talent Developer @ HOME Manchester)
Rebecca Mark-Lawson (Producer at Tyke Films)
Mike Todd (Producer / Northern Docs / Riverhorse Films)
Paul Sapin (Documentary Producer & Director)
Rob Speranza (Producer/ SYFN / Programmer@Aesthetica Film Fest)
D J Clark Multi Media Journalist (National Geographic, Asian News)
Chris Lunt 2 x BAFTA nominated writer ("PREY", BBC, ITV, Canal +)
Loran Dunn (Producer at Delaval Films)
Anne Beresford (Producer)
Animator Bridget Appleby BAFTA winner (& RTS Juror)
Animation/Producer Aaron Wood (Slurpy Studios / Skwigly Magazine)
Animator Steve Boot
Animator/Producer Jon Turner (Kilogramme)
Animator Sarah Anne Kennedy (UCLAN Course Leader in Animation)
Rob Scott (VR Manchester)
Actor/Producer Julie Foy (OSCAR Winner)
Actor Gerard Kearns (Shameless, Last Kingdom, Looking for Eric)
Actor Ian McKee ("Kingsman - The Golden Circle", "Car Share")
Music video director Ben Thornley of Sitcom Soldiers
Danilo Godoy - Brazil/Portugal - winner of Artist Film Aesthetica 2014

Supported by The Light Cinema Experience, Bolton Council, Bolton at Home, Holiday Inn, Bolton University and Bolton College.

*It is our firm intention to host a hybrid edition in 2021 but in light of the ongoing pandemic crisis we'd advise you to read our terms and conditions and contingency plans before entering the festival.

The festival will be competitive with awards presented on the night by sponsors and industry representatives.

Audience Award
Best International Short
Best UK Short
Best Made up North
Best Documentary
Best Comedy
Best Animation
Best Three Minute Quickie
Best LGBT short
Best VR/Immersive
Best Experimental
Best Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Best Women in Film
Best Horror
Best Fashion
Best Dance
Best Music
Best Animation (Student)
Best Student Post Graduate (M.A)
Best Student Under Graduate (B.A)
Best Film For Change
Best Community/Charity


1.) Entries in foreign languages must come with English subtitles.

2.) All entries must have been completed between 10th June 2019 and 10th June 2021

3. Digital marketing materials should be made available to be used for our marketing purposes by 10th June 2021

4.) If you have entered your film previously please to BFF do not re-enter it.

5.) BFF has no premiere or exclusivity rule, we also consider work that is already online.

6.) Film-makers must include a brief synopsis of the film in no more than 150 words

7.) Provide at least one high resolution image (1920 x 1080 or higher) for the use of Bolton Film Festival promotional brochures or publicity. More images for print are recommended so we have a choice.

8.) All entries must obtain the appropriate copyright clearances (i.e. music, archive footage, images, etc). Failure to do so will result in the entry being disqualified from the competition.

9.) The selected entries will be screened during the Festival programme.

10.) Winners will be presented with their awards during the BFF Awards Ceremony, which will take place at the festival Wednesday 6th to Sunday 10th October 2020. There will be no prior notification of winners.

11.) If you are entering work that contains music into any category at Bolton Film Festival it is your responsibility to get clearance. By entering your short film to Bolton Film Festival you (or the artists who own the music and/or their representatives (such as PRS/MCPS) are waiving rights to claim royalties on the music from any monies generated by Bolton Film Festival.

12.) The selection and scheduling of all films screened at Bolton Film Festival is entirely at the discretion of the Festival Director and the programming team. In the event of unseen circumstances it may be necessary to reschedule the event to a later date but notification will be provided to all selected film-makers. No refunds (other than if we cancel the entire event ) are possible after entering your work into the festival submissions process.

13.) The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

14.) The deadline for entries shall be midnight GMT 10th June 2021.

15.) We reserve the right to change our event dates, if we do this it will be based on other film festivals date announcements. For example London Film Festival, Raindance and Encounters are all close to us in the calendar, it's makes sense not to overlap with other festivals if possible so we always look for a window.


To be considered for the "Made up North" categories the filmmaker should reside within the area defined by the BFI Film Hub North:
To be considered for the "Community and Charity" category the film-maker and/or the group submitting the film should be part of a registered community group, a registered community enterprise group, a non profit or a registered charity group. Evidence supporting this claim should be provided in the form of a cover letter and supporting documents attached (if you have them).

The submitter of the film authorises Bolton Film Festival to exhibit the film if selected and confirm that an exhibition copy will be made available in a required format for screening during the 2021 festival.

The submitter certifies that they hold all the necessary rights and clearances for the submission of the film and the film is not subject to any litigation nor is threatened by any litigation.

***** Additional terms in relation to the Covid 19 situation. *****

Let us be very clear we have zero intention of cancelling our festival but with random people dieing each week we need to bear in mind this could happen to our key staff. Otherwise if we are alive and well we will definitely be going ahead with a 2021 festival.

Just in case, we've put some terms together to put your mind at rest...

1. If we cancel the 2021 edition before our final deadline of 10th June we will offer a 50% refund to all submission holders. We cannot give you a full refund because we have still have to pay staff to watch the films, have meetings with partners, arrange speakers, pay deposits on venues etc, etc. We recommend you take out the FilmFreeway cancellation insurance for full peace of mind and a full refund.

2. If we cancel our event during the selection process (11th June - 9th August) we will offer a 50% refund to all submission holders.

3. After our "Official Selections" notification (August 9th) we will send you an official laurel but still offer a 50% refund to the official selection submission holders if we have to cancel the event after this date. The submissions holders who are not selected will NOT be entitled to any refund from this point onward.

4. If we postpone the event from the 6th Oct to later dates we will inform the selected film-makers/submission holders of the new screening dates but offer no refunds.

5. If the film festival cannot deliver option 4 in a reasonable time frame we will look to an entirely online screening. The film-maker will have the option to "opt in or out" to the online festival but we offer no refunds at this point.

By Agreeing to these Rules and Terms, I transfer to the Bolton Film Festival the right to use excerpts of the submitted film, its stills, and trailers, for the purposes of publicity and marketing of the film at the 2021 festival, and for other non-commercial uses related to the promotion of the 2021 festival.

I also acknowledges that the film submission fee does not guarantee acceptance and no refund will be provided if my film is not selected.

Upon acceptance, Bolton Film Festival will ask for my film:

1) DCP preferred
2) Pro Res preferred
3) Minimum 1920x1080 digital file Quicktime, MP4, AVI, H264

If the filmmaker does not comply with the deadline to receive the film, the film can be pulled from the festival line up and replaced by another film and film-maker.

Overall Rating
  • Natalia Andreadis

    I was genuinely bowled over by the incredible platform that BIFF set-up for this 2020 edition. Having been selected for Oscar-qualifying fests, I can say Bolton handled hosting the festival online better than any of them. The care put into each Q&A, networking event or talk - and all the communication leading up to and during the festival was terrific. The quality of the talks was also brilliant - so many great topics, it was brilliant that they remained available online all week or I wouldn't have been able to see all the ones I wanted to. Can't recommend this festival highly enough and I eagerly await being able to attend in person when the day comes! Thank you so much on behalf of myself and Team "How Can I Forget".

    December 2020
  • Thomas Harman

    Excellent Film Festival. Great selection of films. The virtual film hub was a really good way of holding the festival during this time, also providing filmmakers with a chance to network with other filmmakers including industry talks too. We were nominated and really happy with our experience at Bolton International Film Festival. We will be looking to submit again and attend in person next time hopefully. Adrian and Zoe put on a fantastic festival.

    November 2020
  • Libby Burke Wilde

    Absolutely loved being a part of this festival. Not easy in 2020 but the lovely folks at Bolton managed it so well. The quality of the shorts and the easy to access online platform meant you could watch so many amazing films and be part of talks and Q&A's. Thanks for sharing our film, it was such an honour!

    November 2020
  • Merick Cormier

    It was awesome, I got to be part of a Talk which was super fun!

    November 2020
  • Ela Duca

    We were able to attend the online version of this year's festival with our short film "Gravedad". The selection of films was fantastic, the classes and talks over zoom were very interesting and the all in all organization was flawless. But not only that, the whole festival was made with love and care and you could feel that in every part of it. Thank you Bolton Filmfest for an amazing experience!

    November 2020