Now in its 9th amazing year, the Breakthroughs Film Festival is devoted exclusively to showcasing short films in ANY genre by emerging women, trans, & non-binary directors.

"Breakthroughs" refers to the struggles these artists continue to face in an industry where they must work even harder than their male counterparts to make their voices heard.

Breakthroughs Film Festival also features panel discussions and networking opportunities with participating directors, giving the audience a chance to learn more about their creative process and future projects!

Breakthroughs Film Festival awards films in the following categories:

Jury Award

New Generation Award

Best Canadian Film

Audience Choice Award

• The 2020 Programming Theme is 'TOO MUCH'. We are seeking films that explore the ways in which women, trans, and non-binary people are often regarded as 'too much' of something (too loud, too soft, too quiet, too angry) or 'not enough' of something else.

Consider this theme when submitting your film but don’t be discouraged from submitting if you feel it doesn’t fit. We are looking for broad interpretations of this theme and may include strong work outside of this theme as well. Optional: Feel free to include a note about how your film might fit this theme broadly, if you feel inclined to do so.

• The director must identify as emerging talent. This can mean one or a combination of the following: they have not yet directed a feature length-film at the time of the festival in June 2019, they have made several films but with very limited distribution, most of their films were made in school and none have received any significant funding, festival life, or further distribution. Optional: Feel free to include a note describing your level of experience.

• The director must self-identify as a woman, trans, or non-binary person.

• Films in a language other than English must have English subtitles.

• Films with potentially triggering content should include a brief note in their film description indicating the themes that might be triggering to viewers e.g. any form of violence, hate speech, self-harm amongst other forms.

Please Note: BFF prioritizes the work, expressions, and experiences of folks who identify as Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, trans, non-binary, working class, neurodiverse, or people with disabilities. We encourage filmmakers to self-identify in their bios if they feel comfortable doing so.


Do you pay screening fees?
Yes, we pay every artist a screening fee in CAD as per the 2019 Independent Media Arts Alliance (IMAA) screening fee schedule. Screening Fees are disbursed 2-4 weeks after the festival.

What is the maximum runtime BFF will accept?
Your short film cannot be more than 20 minutes in length, credits included.

How old can my film be?
All films presented at BFF must be completed after January 2018.

How does BFF accept submissions?
We accept submissions via FilmFreeway only.

What formats do you accept film submissions?
Films must be submitted as online screeners only.

Do all submissions get viewed?
Yes, every single film submitted to BFF gets at least two views.

Do you accept rough cuts?
Yes. Just be sure to mark the submission as a rough cut, let us know which elements are incomplete (music, sound mix, colour, missing scenes) and give us a firm deadline by which the final film will be completed.

Does BFF hand out submission waivers?
As a non-profit organization, we rely upon submission fees to help cover some of the costs of running the festival. However, each year we offer a limited number of submission waivers to emerging filmmakers who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and/or people with disabilities. To request a waiver, please email with the subject heading “2020 Film Submission Waiver”.

If the film is co-directed by someone who identifies as a man, can we still submit?
Yes, if one co-director identifies as a woman or non-binary person, you are welcome to submit.

Do you offer feedback on unselected films?
No, unfortunately BFF is a volunteer-run organization and we do not yet have the capacity to offer feedback to filmmakers.

I submitted last year and wasn’t accepted. Can I resubmit?
Yes, as long as your submission is still within our eligibility window (completed after January 1, 2018).