Curated and presented by ESSENCE Studios, the ESSENCE Film Festival (EFF) showcases exceptional work created by storytellers across the African diaspora. Featuring original projects in film, television and new media along with panel discussions and more, EFF is the premiere destination for emerging creators and cultural curators alike to present dynamic content on our international platform.

Essence Film Festival (EFF) is a multi-day event that amplifies the voices of diverse content creators across the African diaspora. Each festival day will feature curated content across formats including narrative and documentary features, short films, series, podcasts and music videos. In addition, EFF will present specialized gatherings including spotlight screenings, invitation-only networking opportunities, and signature events such as master classes, creative workshops and artist-focused seminars, which give creators and enthusiast with a rich film/TV industry experience.

Similar to ESSENCE Music Festival, EFF is dedicated to providing a platform for programming that centers around women and people of color. EFF champions inclusive storytelling and invites both attendees and virtual viewers to actively engage in Black culture through cinema.

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General Rules:

ALL FILMS MUST BE IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE OR CONTAIN ENGLISH SUBTITLES

WE CANNOT ACCEPT ANY SUBMISSIONS THAT HAVE PREVIOUSLY EXHIBITED/LICENSED VIA BROADCAST, MAJOR STREAMERS, OR HAVE HAD THEATRICAL RELEASES.

o All content must be directed, written and/or produced by persons of African descent.
o Content must adhere to the total run times outlined in each category.
o Content must have started principal photography no earlier than January 1, 2021.
o Primary preference will be given to content that is premiering at the Essence Film Festival.
o Secondary preference will be given to content that is premiering in New Orleans.
o Content that has previously played at more than two (2) festivals can be exhibited at the festival, but will not be eligible for competitive categories.

SCREENPLAY COMPETITION RULES & GENERAL ELIGIBILITY

This competition is only open to writers who do not currently earn a living writing for film or television.
Short scripts that have already been produced are ineligible.
Awards are based solely on the overall merit of entries.

JUDGES RESERVE THE RIGHT NOT TO GRANT AN AWARD.

If a submission involves two or more writers as applicants, only one prize (if any) will be awarded. Submitters are responsible for the division of any prize amongst their team.

Originality and Permissions; INDEMNITY

Scripts must be the original work of the applicant(s). If based upon another person’s life or upon a book or other underlying work, applicant(s) must secure any necessary rights to make such adaptations. However, it is not necessary to submit the adaptation or rights agreements to the Festival. Neither the Festival nor its jurists investigate or attests to the authenticity of an applicant’s statement of authorship or rights secured. By entering the competition, you are acknowledging that you have secured all necessary rights.
BY SUBMITTING THE MATERIAL, THE APPLICANT HEREBY AGREES TO INDEMNIFY, HOLD HARMLESS, AND DEFEND THE FESTIVAL, ITS EMPLOYEES, DIRECTORS, REPRESENTATIVES, AND AFFILIATES FROM ANY LIABILITY, CLAIMS, AND DAMAGES IN CONNECTION WITH THE SUBMISSION AND FROM ANY FEES AND EXPENSES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO REASONABLE ATTORNEYS’ FEES, THAT ANY OF THEM MAY INCUR IN CONNECTION THEREWITH.

Additional Information

No revisions or missing pages will be accepted once an entry has been received.
Awards are based solely on the overall merit of entries.
Judges reserve the right not to grant an award.

We strongly suggest that applicants copyright their materials with the U.S. Copyright Office and/or register their screenplay/teleplay with the Writers Guild of America, East or Writers Guild of America, West. Please consult an attorney regarding any questions about these.

Scripts must not have been optioned or sold prior to July 3, 2023. Applicants must immediately send written notice to Essence Film Festival if there are any changes in status following submission.

Note on ADAPTATIONS: Scripts must be the original work of the applicant(s). If based upon another person’s life or upon a book or other underlying work, applicant(s) must secure any necessary rights to make such adaptations. However, it is not necessary to submit the adaptation or rights agreements to the Festival. Neither the Festival nor its jurists investigate or attests to the authenticity of an applicant’s statement of authorship or rights secured. By entering the competition, you are acknowledging that you have secured all necessary rights.

Note on TELEPLAYS: This competition welcomes spec scripts for any currently airing network or cable program AND original pilot scripts. In order for spec scripts to be eligible for consideration, the show must not be canceled prior to the start of the current television season (September 2023).

No show bibles, treatments, or reality show formats will be accepted for the teleplay competition

EFF reserves the right in its sole discretion to reject or disqualify any ineligible entries, without a refund.

REMINDER: NO REVISIONS OR MISSING PAGES WILL BE ACCEPTED ONCE ENTRY HAS BEEN RECEIVED.