The Elgin Short Film Festival (ESFF) will celebrate its 15th year on September 23, 2023 with a hybrid event – in-person viewing and a virtual screening option. On April 1, 2023, the ESFF will begin accepting entries for this year’s festival!

Since 2009 the ESFF has become a world-wide competition, with entries from around the globe and prizes going to filmmakers from the US, Canada, Spain, and South Korea. Welcoming an in-house audience as well as those screening the festival from afar, the 2023 ESFF is sure to be another impressive event showcasing the best in short cinema. Filmmakers are invited to submit their short films (20 minutes or less in length including credits) for competition in our festival via This competition will allow any filmmaker to submit work, even if it has been entered into other festival
competitions! Films may be submitted in every genre and subject matter as long as they are within the scope of the official rules.

Exciting components to the ESFF 2023 festival:
 The ESFF will feature a Live Action category and an Animation category.
 The ESFF will be a hybrid (online) and a live-in person event.
 Next In Finalist - Each category will have five potential finalists. The top two, as voted on by the selection committee, will make the finals. The next three films in each category will compete for a spot in the finals in September as part of the Elgin Fringe Festival. (Dates and times TBD)
 The ESFF will accept films that are up to the equivalent of an MPAA ‘R’ rating.
 The Top Finalists’ films selected will be treated to a red carpet arrival the night of the festival and
will be shown in the 1,200-seat theater of The Hemmens Cultural Center!
 Trophies and cash prizes for the top three films -- up to $1,000!

The ESFF Committee encourages participation and looks forward to receiving film submissions for the 2023 Elgin Short Film Festival. The entry fee for films submitted by July 28, 2023 is $40. Films submitted after July 28, 2023 will have a $50 fee. The deadline to submit films is August 18, 2023! For a complete list of rules and regulations, and to download an application, go to:

First Place for Best Film: Trophy & $1,000
Second Place for Best Film: Trophy and $500
Third Place for Best Film: Trophy & $300
The People’s Choice Award (based on audience votes cast during intermission): Trophy

The top 3 films in each category will be recognized on the night of the festival, September 23, 2023 .

Please see website for full rules. Since submission of a film constitutes acceptance of these Entry Rules & Regulations (by filmmakers and their agents), please review this document carefully.

General Rules:
Since submission of a film constitutes acceptance of these Entry Rules & Regulations (by filmmakers and their agents), please review this document carefully.

To be eligible for consideration, entrants must fully comply with the following Rules & Regulations, including deadline and entry material requirements and selected film requirements.

Films must be no more than twenty (20) minutes in length (including credits). Films over twenty (20) minutes will not be considered and entry fee will fee forfeit.
1. Films must be received no later than August 18, 2023. Early Entry rates are available for entries received by July 28, 2023. See page 2 for details. The ESFF Committee may temporarily prohibit the acceptance of film entries or may advance the aforementioned submission deadline to any date prior to August 18, 2023 in the ESFF Committee's sole discretion without prior notice.
2. All entries must be either in English, contain English subtitles, or be dubbed in English.
3. ESFF will accept films that are the equivalent of an MPAA ‘R’ rating. However, the ESFF reserves the right to reject submissions which it considers inappropriate in the sole discretion of the ESFF Committee (e.g., submissions which contain excessive nudity, violence or vulgarity).
4. Films that have been previously submitted to the Elgin Short Film Festival, with the exception of 2020 entries, are NOT eligible for competition.
5. Films must be submitted electronically through the Film Freeway website at:
6. All entries must be a complete film. Submitted works that are deemed by the ESFF Committee to be a “work in progress,” “rough cut,” or a portion of a larger work will not be accepted.
7. Entrant confirms and warrants that he/she has the required legal authority to submit the entry into the Festival and to use all music, images, and content in the entry.
8. Submitted works must not have been commercially exhibited in the U.S. or publicly broadcast.
9. Selected films may be promoted through all media types and outlets for promotional purposes by The Hemmens Cultural Center and the City of Elgin. In addition, ESFF reserves the right to re-screen selected projects at events and promotional showcases featuring festival highlights.
10. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older. Underage filmmakers must have their film submitted by a parent or guardian over the age of 18.

Overall Rating
  • Drew Dull

    This is the second time posting this review. I took the first one down because I spoke to and believed the empty excuses/promises from the festival director, Joe Vassallo.

    This festival does not care about filmmakers. That is something that came across loud and clear from my interactions with Joe. They want your money and don't care what happens after that.

    Keep in mind that my film was actually a "semifinalist" whatever that means. Because I wasn't even able to get the information I needed to find out where to buy tickets or where to watch my film when it was screened.

    So after voicing these frustrations in my previous review of the festival, I had the opportunity to speak with Joe directly. The only apology that he ever made to me was that I felt the way I did. Not owning up to the fact that he failed to communicate clear and easy information to me, like where to buy tickets.

    Regardless, I removed the review because I don't like leaving negative reviews for anyone or anything but after my second round of a complete and utter lack of communication from Joe, I had to submit the review again.

    I reached back out to Joe asking for a list of journalists/press that covered the event, which is not a significant ask for most festivals. I simply wanted to reach out to them directly with the story of my film since it had local ties and I didn't get the chance to do so at the festival itself. However, three months later, I still did not have this list from Joe.

    So I urge any filmmakers considering the not so insignificant entry fee to stay far, FAR away from the Elgin Short Film Festival Joe will gladly take your money and maybe even call you a semi-finalist, but he does not care about your film or you as a filmmaker.

    February 2022
  • We had the honor of showing our short film, The Go Cart at this year's festival. The experience was amazing! So thoughtful and kind to filmmakers. Well done, Elgin Team!

    September 2018
  • Ben Gustafson

    We had the immense honor of being selected and winning this year's festival. The staff put a lot of effort into making a very memorable evening for the filmmakers with their limited budget. There's a limo ride, red carpet, and interviews for local newspapers. While I wouldn't necessary travel across the world for this festival, it's definitely worth the entry if you're somewhat local & able to attend! Great cash prizes, and an enthusiastic audience fills the auditorium.

    November 2017
  • Robert Hemlich

    Elgin was a great festival to experience. The organizers pull out all the stops to make the night a success and to highlight awesome films. They actively support independent movies by giving filmmakers the opportunity to have their work shown on the big screen and through generous prizes. I had a blast and I definitely recommend submitting and visiting if you get the chance.

    October 2017
  • Christopher Oliva

    Was excited to be a part of this. The people involved with the fest seemed nice and the fellow filmmakers there were nice to meet. However, they started our film 20 or more seconds into the movie and it was not restarted (the very opening of our film has an important bit for the audience and it was missed) And however they exhibited our image, it stretched our frame and looked distorted. I emailed them right away to ask if they wanted a new file for the next evening and got no response. I know our file was okay because I double checked it when I got home. My assumption is it wasn't tested until the very last moment. It took several emails over the course of two-three weeks to get a response. The rest of the films that played also started a little late in the film, but they were restarted right away. The rest of the program was very interesting and was happy to see them. Again, the people that run the fest seem very nice and excited about independent film. Our experience was technically disappointing and we were sad about that.

    October 2017