The Chicago South Side Film Festival (CSSFF) is a celebration of the South Side on film! It features a carefully curated and diverse mix of vintage and contemporary feature films, documentaries, animation, web series, and short films that showcase the South Side's producers, directors and film makers.

The 2022 CSSFF will run from October 14th to October 23rd 2022.

The 2022 CSSFF will offer a $500 prize for the Best Short Film.


How do I submit?
The only way to submit is through FilmFreeway. Please do not email us your films. We cannot consider any content that has not been officially submitted through FilmFreeway.

We suggest that you use a permanent member of the film’s crew to submit (preferably the director or a producer). Please use an email address and phone number that is checked regularly in case we need to get in touch with you throughout the submission process. If there is an issue with your submission and we are unable to get in touch with anyone by our final submission deadline, we will be forced to disqualify your submission (without refund of submission fees).

I don’t like online submissions, can I submit any other way?
No. It is difficult to keep track of films that are not within our system, and when there’s no electronic record of a submission, it makes addressing problems (i.e. a film was submitted, but the DVD didn’t arrive, a main contact has to be changed, etc.) troublesome.

I worked on or acted in a film, but didn’t produce or direct it; can I submit? I was the director, but not the producer, or vice versa, can I submit it on my own?
If it’s not your film, it’s advisable to submit only after you’ve received written permission from the filmmakers. If you are not the director, we kindly request that you also provide us with the director’s contact information.

For directors and producers, we strongly advise that everyone is in agreement about the festivals they are submitting to, which festivals they want to play first or want to premiere at, and which version of the film is being submitted.

When disputes arise, i.e. a film has been submitted without everyone’s explicit approval or the festival strategy has changed, we suggest that productions find a solution and come to an agreement with all the key decision makers before contacting us or any festivals the film has been submitted to.

I submitted last year and wasn’t accepted. Can I resubmit?
Yes. However, we recommend doing so only if the current version being submitted is a radically different cut or if the previous submission was a work in progress with lots to be done.

When are your deadlines?
The deadline for all submissions is May 1, 2021 at 11:59pm EST.

What are your submission fees?
The fee for all submissions is $5.

Can I have a fee waiver?
The Chicago South Side Film Festival does not grant submission fee waivers.
But I’m a struggling independent filmmaker who spent all of my money making my film!
We get it, really we do. But the reality is that the majority of filmmakers that submit to us are independent filmmakers who don’t have a lot of money to spend. It wouldn’t be fair for us to waive fees for some and not others.

A submission fee guarantees your work is properly viewed and considered, and neither submission fees nor waivers guarantee acceptance. Submission fees support competition cash prizes, festival travel for attending filmmakers, and the small team of staff that will process hundreds of hours of content this season alone.

We encourage you to take a close look at our past programming to see if you might be a good fit for our festival, and to think carefully about the festivals that you want to submit your work to. We hope that we are one of them!


What do I need to submit my film?
Each submission must be accompanied by a submission fee paid in full and a playable screener to be considered.

How do I know you received my submission?
In your FilmFreeway account, you'll see a message indicating that your film satisfies all requirements and is “In Consideration”. If you see a yellow or red circle next to your submission, you’ve partially satisfied the requirements. We have either not received your screener and/or payment, there is an issue with the screener, the film was submitted to the wrong category, or there’s been an upload error with FilmFreeway.

If your film has not been listed “In Consideration” within 7 business days, please contact us as soon as possible so we can look into it.

Do you accept online screeners? Can I send an outside link?
YES. We only accept online screeners. We prefer password-protected Vimeo links. Online screeners must be available to stream; we do not accept any films that must be downloaded.

The submitter is responsible for ensuring that their screener link and password is active through at least May 1, 2021. In the event of a password or URL change after submitting, email us immediately. If we discover an error with the screener, we will attempt to email the submitter for an update. Failure to respond by the final submission deadline will result in disqualification without refund of submission fees.

Can we send updated versions of the film after the deadline?
No, the version submitted by May 1 is the version that will be judged and screened, if selected.

How many films can I submit?
You can submit as many films as you would like. However, you must pay a separate $10 submission fee for each category. We do not offer bulk discounts.

When will filmmakers be notified of the final decisions for the 2021 Chicago South Side Film Festival?
Final notifications are scheduled to take place no later than July 31, 2021. Some filmmakers may receive notification sooner than this but if you haven't heard from us yet, you're still in the running.

How will we be notified?
Accepted films will receive an invitation by email. Films not accepted will also be notified by email by the notification deadline. Please make sure the email address associated with your submission remains active throughout the submission process. Your status of Accepted/Not Accepted will also be reflected in FilmFreeway by the notification date.

Note: Email filters have a hard time with addresses that start with info@, mail@, admin@, etc. If you’re using one of these email addresses, it’s more likely your notification email may not arrive. We also suggest using an email address that someone checks daily.

*Notification dates are subject to change, please check the festival website every few weeks for updates. We strive to notify all submitters via email when a change will be made.


What genres do you accept?
EVERYTHING! Yes, that includes experimental, puppetry, horror and sci-fi.

Okay, but what kind of films do you play?
EVERYTHING! Really, take a look at some of our past programs for an idea of the scope of our programming.

Will you take a look at my film and tell me if I should submit to you?
Sorry, but no. We cannot review any films that have not been officially submitted to us. We get so many submissions that we have to dedicate our time to watching the films that have gone the official route (and paid their submission fee).

Again, you can take a look at our past programs to get an idea of what we’ve been into in the past. But keep in mind, our program is going to look different every year. The number one thing we’re looking for is originality. We watch thousands of films every year, and we’re always on the search for films that present something new and really stand out from the crowd. If this sounds like your film, send it our way!

How long can films be?
We consider a short film as anything shorter than 39 minutes and 59 seconds and anything 40 minutes or over as a feature film.

We have no cut off for runtime, but shorter is always better (as shorter films allow for more flexibility when building our schedule).

If I submit to one category, will I be considered for others I may be eligible for?
No. You are only considered for the category you submit your film to. Read the category descriptions carefully and email us if you have any questions.

Do you have any ratings limitations? Must films be PG or PG-13? Do you program films with strong content and language?
We have no ratings limitations on films submitted. We program films with a variety content, from family friendly to work that would be more appropriate for mature audiences and would likely be rated R or higher. Our mission is to program great films and a strong lineup first and foremost.

Do you have a preference for local films or films with local connections?
Every year we strive to be a strong advocate of local South Side filmmakers. We are proud to highlight homegrown talent and films with local ties. However, being from the South Side does not guarantee acceptance.

Is there a discount for students?
No, we are not able to offer a discount for students.

Do you have competition sections?
Yes. In 2021 there will be a Jury Prize for Best Film.

How do you program your shorts?
We program shorts thematically. We do not choose the themes ahead of time. We look to see what themes we can build from the submissions received and selected.

Do you program international films?
Yes, we love international films!

Do you prefer films with stars?
No. We prefer great and interesting stories. If a star happens to show up in a really great film, cool. But it’s not a requirement.

Have you programmed films that are available online?
Yes, on a case by case basis. We generally prioritize films that have not yet been released to the public. However, any feature films that are available online are not eligible to screen at the CSSFF.


Who are your screeners?
Our screeners are the CSSFF team members and volunteers from the Chicago South Side film community.

How are films scored?
Each film is watched by multiple screeners and evaluated across several different criteria. Screeners are asked a series of questions about each film, working to determine whether or not the film is a good fit for the festival.

Are films selected solely on screener feedback?
No. When it comes to final selections, films are selected based on the overall filmmaking, variety, and what will make the strongest and most interesting lineup. When it comes to selecting films, it’s a film’s content and quality that matter, not its score. Screener feedback is important to the process but not an ultimate qualifier.

Are films only selected from the group that received high marks from screeners?
No. Programmers will go through notes from each film, regardless of how high or low it scored. Films that did not make the final round but thematically complete a program or pair well with a feature may be reevaluated and selected. Film selection is about making curatorial choices that make the strongest group of films, and we strive to revisit as many films as possible to make sure we create the strongest lineup.

Can I find out how my film is doing once I’ve submitted?
Sorry, but no. Please don’t email us asking for updates on your film. The submission review process is long and complex, and typically doesn’t firm up until very close to our notification date. There are films that receive high scores from screeners early on that simply don’t have a place in the festival. There are also films that receive so-so scores from screeners that end up being the missing piece in the program. We don’t want to tell you anything we cannot absolutely commit to. You’ll know when we do.

Film Language
All non-English language entries must have English subtitles.

Press Materials
If a submission is selected for inclusion in 2021, CSSFF will require an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) to include high-resolution production stills, key art, bio and filmography of the director, and a trailer to be included on CSSFF's website and social media.

Entrants are solely responsible for permissions and legal authorization to use all music, images, and content included in festival submissions.

Overall Rating
  • Preston Chase

    First and Foremost...Thank you so much for the official selection for my first film Mr.Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story.

    December 2021
  • Okema Gunn

    I was very proud that CSSFF selected "A Sisterhood of Signatures". Everyone was so supportive..

    March 2021
  • Great festival! The organizers keep filmmakers informed, and the festival experience is always fun and entertaining.

    October 2020
  • Great festival to attend especially for inspiring filmmakers in the Chicagoland. Awesome way to screen your work in front of your peers, and another way to connect with locals and potentially others for growth.

    October 2019
  • Phenomenal festival with a phenomenal staff that go above and beyond to create a diverse and inclusive event.

    October 2019