This is our 9th year and we are excited! In 2023, we were named “Best Film Festival” in Nashville!

“Defy has done a great job of maintaining and refining its curatorial focus and not pursuing growth for growth’s sake. The result is a southern film phenomenon that’s organically attracted an exceptional community of moviemakers with its excellent programming of challenging and innovative cinema.” - Joe Nolan, Nashville Scene.

Defy Film Festival wants to highlight artists that not only have talent, but have a distinct voice. Artists who have something to say. Defy is looking for voices that tread new ground.

“Does your film surprise us? Does it make us think about something in a different way? Is there a unique artistic intention? These qualities are at the core of our festival. And every film we program, lines up with these ideals.” - Billy Senese, Senior Programmer.

“We call it Defy for a reason. The festival showcases unique filmmakers and introduces audiences to work that they won’t see anywhere else. We’re always looking for submissions that are a little bit different and one-of-a-kind. We’re about something new and fresh. When you see that spark of innovation and bold intention, that’s what really turns me on about film.” - Dycee Wildman, Festival Director

All great art is disruption

There are only two categories, features and shorts.

Without specific genre categories, Defy has the flexibility to steer into whatever ideas and talent are submitted each year. We won't feel obligated to program something mediocre just because we have to fulfill a category. Your work will inform our festival.

No matter what kind of film you have, we want to see it - drama, comedy, experimental, animation, documentaries, horror/sci-fi, music videos, etc. We are independent filmmakers ourselves and we know the financial hardships you went through and the uncompromising passion it took to create the great film resting in your hands right now. Your film will be treated and viewed with the respect that we would want for our own films.

Best of Festival SHORT
Best of Festival FEATURE

And a special award with a $500 prize, called the "Moe Award".

For information about our awards, visit our website:

Eligibility Requirements for the feature film and short film competition:

- Running time for all feature films must be 45 minutes or more and not exceed 150 minutes.
- Running time for all shorts must be less than 44 minutes.
- Defy requires your film has not shown at another festival in Nashville, making your film a Nashville Premiere.
- Selected films must be made available in a Quicktime file.
- Film submissions in a foreign language must be subtitled in English.
- Preview screening format are digital screeners ONLY - No DVD screeners.
- If submitting more than one film, a separate completed entry is required for each title.
- All entries fees are non-refundable.
- Defy reserves the right to not continue watching feature submissions after the halfway mark.


- Our local film community is important to us. If you are the director or producer and a Nashville resident, we will waive your submission fee. Email us a copy of your driver's license for qualification. This offer is only available up to the regular deadline.


- Films are scheduled at the discretion of the Defy Film Festival. Defy retains the right to make changes to the published schedule at any time and for any reason. Films may be screened more than once.


By submitting an entry, filmmaker states that he or she is responsible as an agent to promote the film and that the film is an original work.

All entry fees are non-refundable.

Filmmaker warrants they have full legal right and authority to submit the mentioned film for consideration by the Defy Film Festival, and that all necessary consents, licensing, and approvals have been obtained.

Filmmaker understands that my submission is in no way a guarantee of acceptance into Defy.

All materials (including but not limited to the submitted film and promotional materials) will be retained by Defy. Excerpts of the submitted film and all promotional materials may be used for various Defy promotional purposes, including but not limited to local, national and international press and electronic media. For films selected in the festival, Defy reserves the right to screen the entry at the festival.

Defy will retain a copy of the film, along with all promotional materials, for its archives. The individual or corporation submitting the film hereby warrants that it is authorized to commit the film for screening, and understands and accepts these requirements and regulations. The filmmaker shall indemnify and hold harmless Defy from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney's fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos entered.

Overall Rating
  • Allison Waid

    Defy is an incredibly special film festival. Run by two filmmakers who have built an incredible community that celebrates films that break the norms. I was very impressed with the quality of the films and the Q&As were incredible. It only lasts Friday evening and Saturday all day - at the end of Saturday I was sad that it wasn't continuing on to Sunday. Many of the screenings sold out and the audience was superb - not only filmmakers but community members and film lovers as well. Such a wonderful experience that will stay with me forever! I highly recommend applying to this one - you won't regret it.

    October 2023
  • Dominick Rivers

    Quite a marvelous program in a stellar venue! It was evident that a lot of care was put into the organization of this festival.

    September 2023
  • Ali Graba

    Such a fantastic festival! Very high quality of films, and a super engaged audience. Dycee and Billy were incredibly accommodating and supportive. I would highly recommend applying to Defy!

    August 2023
  • Chris Ammons

    This is an all around great festival. Super rad and unique programming; a truly original point of view which is reflected in the aforementioned programming. Kind and interesting people, enthusiastic audience. All around great stuff. I was honored to be a part of it.

    August 2023
  • Sally Pitts

    Defy is one of the best film festivals I've attended and screened at. Every film is of exceptional quality and I walked away very inspired. The Defy community is amazing - from the founders to the filmmakers and audience members. I felt welcomed, included and celebrated as a filmmaker. Thank you!

    August 2023