The 3rd Capitol Hill Film Festival - FALL 2020 in Washington, D.C.

The Capitol Hill Film Festival is a community film competition in Washington D.C. and the only bracket style (think March Madness) short film festival in the nation! We have five star reviews from our sponsors, filmmakers, festival goers and film lovers. Last year our second iteration had over 150 competing filmmakers, over 15 community business sponsors, and a near sold out audience.

Currently in its third year, the Capitol Hill Film Festival is a unique short film knockout style competition where local entries compete against the best in the world. All submissions are divided into three geographical brackets -- American, International, Local DMV -- which will compete through knockout stages, with the final films being screened in front of a live audience at the historic Miracle Theater. Our jury composed of industry leaders crowning one short as the Best Picture, and a Best Director, whereas our live audience votes for their favorites in each of the three categories (America, International, Local DMV). The 3rd annual edition will take place in June 2020.

\\ The Best in Shorts Knockout Style Competition:

Celebrating Short Films and New Media worldwide. Based in our nation's capital- Washington, DC, the Capitol Hill Film Festival's slogan is “A, B, C, D, E, F--” because our mission is “About Building Community, Developing and Exhibiting Filmmakers and Films,” here in Washington, D.C.!

The Best in Shorts Knockout Style Competition is unique in the industry. A festival attracting both powerhouse companies as well as talented new filmmakers. Currently in its third year, the Best in Shorts is a live film competition that strives to give talented first-time directors, producers, actors, new media creators their teams a unique venue to show their work and receive the positive exposure they deserve. It discovers and honors the achievements of filmmakers who produce high quality shorts.

The Best in Shorts Knockout Style program promotes filmmakers through press releases to industry contacts and global media / distribution outlets. Additionally, we hope to host a networking event for exhibiting filmmakers.

Serving filmmakers is Capitol Hill Film Festival's primary goal!

\\ What is a "knockout style" competition?

FIRST - Every short filmed submitted to the Capitol Hill Film Festival is placed in one of three brackets divided by category. The three brackets include: American, International, and Local DMV. The onerous is on filmmakers to self-identify what category to associate your film with. This is an honor system.

SECOND - After a film is placed into a bracket, it will be evaluated by our screeners and scored against a rigorous rubric and ranked. From there, a team of judges will take the screeners notes, watch the films and produce finalists for each bracket. All finalists will be screened during the festival and compete in our live voting competition.

\\ What kind of shorts?

The Best in Shorts Knockout Style Competition is an excellent venue for films, documentaries, new and experimental media, and animation. As long as the entry is 23 minutes or less, it is eligible for submission.

\\ What region is my film?

The onerous is on you to self-identify what bracket you associate your film with. Use your geographic region you associate with. We rely on the Honor System.

\\ Benefits of Participating:

Live Screening - Premiere your film in the Nation's capital.

Promotional Laurels – Receive graphics to give promotional material that wow factor!

Peer Review – Our judges are filmmakers who understand the craft and what audiences want.

Publicity Enhancement – Winners are announced to industry professionals, press, and additional international media outlets.

Press Release - We provide a fill-in-the-blanks press release to help you promote your win. We've done the heavy lifting - just fill it in and send to media outlets of your choice!

Social Media Push – Facebook and Twitter announcements of winners and updates from our filmmaking community can be shared with your own lists.


Rekola Studios -->
Annandale Balancing Co -->
The Yard: Eastern Market -->
Capital Practice Consulting -->
Congressional Federal Credit Union -->

\\ Judging and Award Levels:
It's important for us to ensure that entertainment industry leaders with a significant footprint in both DC and Hollywood are present as judges— so we've had trade association leaders (MPAA and RIAA) film production and distribution company representation (Sony Pictures and Showtime) as well as media personalities (Mark McKinnon and Louise Linton) are key for us. We also feel it is vital to have an award-winner from festivals, and a top-flight journalist who covers politics and DC arts, culture and the social scene.

Awards: Bestowed by Judges: Best Picture and Best Director. Bestowed by Audience: Favorite in: International, American, and Local DMV.

\\ Notification:

Each submission received will be confirmed by FilmFreeway and Capitol Hill Film Festival administrative offices via electronic mail.

After judging is completed, winners in all categories will be notified of their advancement to the finals and are provided additional information such as links to winner’s laurels etc.
Winning films are also announced by social media and a press release is sent to five international media distribution outlets.

\\ Rules & Eligibility


2. Submissions in other than English must be subtitled.

3. Multiple entries are not allowed.

4. Online screeners are mandatory. If you choose not to upload your project to FilmFreeway’s site, please provide an online link to your submission and be sure to include the password in an email correspondence sent directly to Capitol Hill Film Festival.

5. Capitol Hill Film Festival does not download submissions or accept Dropbox submissions. Please only send links to your media hosted on 3rd party servers such as Vimeo or YouTube.

6. Written comments describing entries are beneficial.

7. DVD entries will not be accepted nor returned.

8. If selected, filmmakers must sign releases to have their film screened at the Festival.

9. Capitol Hill Film Festival may request a downloadable copy (.Mov, .MP4, or other format) to use for exhibition and Filmmaker agrees to comply.

Overall Rating
  • Out of all the festivals I have participated in thus far, the Capitol Hill Film Festival shines as the most well-rounded, valuable, and impactful one.
    From the very start, the festival director, Michael Rekola, kept in constant contact with all of the submitting filmmakers. We were clearly advised on what materials to provide and the dates that they were due. We were also provided with a clear scope of festival, its participants, and the magnificent downtown venue- The Miracle Theatre.
    The participants featured both local and international filmmakers, highly renowned judges, and an enthusiastic Washingtonian audience. The festival was well staffed and guests and filmmakers alike were warmly greeted with smiling faces at the door. The check-in in process was smooth and seamless. And of course, the theatre entrance was highlighted with a spectacular step and repeat for photo ops. The photographer snapped some of the best event shots I have seen to date!
    Most impressively, Michael himself interviewed each filmmaker immediately following the respective screening. Looked like something out of David Letterman's 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.' The Q&A segment is something that is too often missed in festivals, but this was no typical Q&A. Michael asked in-depth, thought provoking questions to the filmmakers. It showed that he took a genuine interest in each film and watched them all thoroughly. This was especially comforting to the filmmakers, and gave us the confidence that each and every submitted film was carefully considered. To make things even better, there were also audience awards that gave every film an extra shot of becoming a winner.
    And to answer every filmmaker's biggest question- YES, connections were MADE! The judging panel included representatives from Sony Pictures as well as on-screen talents from network television.
    The night couldn't have gone better for every attendee. I still hear my guests raving about the films that were screened. "Quality" is a great theme word for this festival. I definitely recommend each and every filmmaker to not miss out on this opportunity and submit!
    Luckily for me, my film, Black Coffee won the audience award as well as Best Picture. I was presented with a beautifully engraved gold plate with a wooden stand as my trophy. It's easily the most eye-catching and elegant piece I've been presented with to date.
    Major props to the Capitol Hill Film Festival for doing things the right way. QUALITY through and through!

    June 2019
  • Ben Williams

    We had the honor to screen our short film, MUSICIANS AND MAGICIANS, at the inaugural Capitol Hill Film Classic 2018.
    (1) The venue was nice
    (2) No projection issues, which is good!
    (3) Enough people in attendance to make it feel exciting.
    (4) The communication and festival presentation was great.
    (5) Amazing QandA after each film (best part of the festival)

    I recommend submitting to this festival as apart of your festival circuit.

    January 2019
  • Chad Eric Smith

    As a native of Washington, DC, what an honor it was to screen my short sci-fi drama, Rumination, at the inaugural Capitol Hill Film Classic! To top it off, my film won "Best Local Film". Through and through, the Capitol Hill Film Classic was an amazing experience, from the personalized communication from Festival Director Michael Rekola to the awesome 371 seat historic Miracle Theatre, which has Barco 2K digital projection and concert sound (perfect for my film)! Leading up to the screening, the festival received lots of publicity, including being featured in the Washington Post Express, and the films were screened to an assembled Jury of industry insiders comprised of members of the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America! Following the live screening, I met and exchanged contact information with several filmmakers. In totality, the festival was extremely gratifying and will forever be a highlight of my career.

    June 2018