SEEKING FEATURE FILMS longer than 40 minutes. SHORT FILMS (40 minutes or shorter) SUBMIT ONLY TO INDY SHORTS:


Heartland Film is a nonprofit arts organization founded in 1991 with the mission to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. Since the inaugural Heartland International Film Festival (HIFF) in 1992, the fest has grown from a 5-day event with less than 20 films to an 11-day celebration featuring more than 130 independent feature films, 200+ visiting filmmakers and 300+ film screenings. HIFF has built a reputation on its impactful movies, the connections audiences make with visiting filmmakers, the overall hospitality and intimacy of the experience, and bringing big Hollywood names – like Robert Downey Jr., Jessica Biel, Rob Reiner, and Oscar® winner Geoffrey Rush – to the Hoosier state. Heartland Film has officially signed on to the 5050x2020 Parity Pledge and at least 50% of the 2020 HIFF official selection lineup will be directed by women.

Top Five Reasons to Submit to the Heartland International Film Festival & Indy Shorts
1. Cash prizes, ranging from $1,000 - $20,000 per prize.
2. Academy Award-qualifying festival in the Short Films category.*
3. One of MovieMaker Magazine’s Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2019.
4. Artistic integrity: transparent selection process offering screener feedback by request after the Festival.
5. Regarded for our Hoosier hospitality with a strong community between filmmakers, moviegoers, and volunteers.

The 29th annual Heartland International Film Festival will take place in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, October 8-18, 2020. Filmmakers participating in the Festival attend numerous screenings of their films and other special events designed to allow interaction between filmmakers and audiences. Filmmakers from around the world are invited to submit films; student filmmakers are welcomed in each category as well. The Heartland International Film Festival selects and honors films in several categories:

- Narrative Feature ($20,000 Grand Prize)
- Documentary Feature ($20,000 Grand Prize)
- Social Impact Awards ($2,000 cash prizes)
- Indiana Spotlight ($2,000 cash prize)
- Heartland Horror ($2,000 cash prize)
- Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award ($5,000 cash prize)
- Humor & Humanity Award ($2,000 cash prize)
- Best Premiere Awards ($2,000 cash prizes)
- Best International Feature Film Oscar Contender ($2,000 cash prize)
- Audience Choice Winners
- FIPRESCI Best US Directorial Debut for USA Narrative Feature
- Indiana Film Journalists Association Award for Best Special Presentation


WAIVER POLICY: As a nonprofit organization, our operations and the process of viewing the volume of submissions we receive are very costly. Thus, waivers are reserved only for Indy Shorts and Heartland International Film Festival alumni. We strive to keep our fees as reasonable as possible, and encourage all applicants to take advantage of our early and official deadlines to save on submission fees. Please do not contact us requesting waivers or reduced submission fees.

If you have directed a project in the past that has screened at Heartland, please email with your film’s title and the year it screened.

Awarding a combined $90,000 in cash prizes for 2020 between HIFF and Indy Shorts, Heartland Film has bestowed more than $3.5 million to independent filmmakers since 1992 – the largest total amount awarded by any film festival in North America.

*Indy Shorts has earned the special designation of being a qualifying festival for the Annual Academy Awards® within the Short Films category. This means that the winner of the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short Film and Best Documentary Short Film will qualify for consideration in the Short Films category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.

Grand Prize for Best Narrative Feature $20,000
Grand Prize for Best Documentary Feature $20,000
The Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award $5,000
Best Narrative Feature Premiere $2,000
Best Documentary Feature Premiere $2,000
Indiana Spotlight Competition $2,000
Social Impact Award, Narrative Feature $2,000
Social Impact Award, Documentary Feature $2,000
Heartland Horror $2,000
Humor & Humanity Award $2,000
Best International Feature Film Oscar Contender $2,000

Films selected as Finalists are eligible for Grand Prize Awards, the Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award, Humor & Humanity Award, and Audience Choice Awards. Official Selections and Finalists are both are eligible for the Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award, Best Premiere Awards, and Audience Choice Awards. Indiana Spotlight selections are eligible for the Indiana Spotlight Audience Choice Award and Best Premiere Awards.

We are excited to exhibit films with ties to the Hoosier state for the fourth year of our Indiana Spotlight Competition. Films in competition for the Indiana Spotlight Award and $2,000 must either include principal production (director or producer) or cast (leading actor/actress) from or currently living in Indiana and/or the film was shot in Indiana. Total number of category films to be determined to compete for one Grand Prize.

The Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award will include a $5,000 cash prize for a single winner, selected from the Festival’s feature-length narrative and documentary titles. The winning film will best embody the ongoing legacy of actor and national hero Jimmy Stewart and will demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit through determination and the defiance of odds, humble vulnerability, and courage in the face of adversity. $5,000 cash prize.

Will honor films (Finalists or Official Selections) that showcase stories centered on the fight for equality, justice, or feature stories/subjects that have made an impact on society. One narrative and one documentary winner, $2,000 cash prize each.

The winning film will best tastefully combine comedy and pathos to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. Finalist and Official Selection titles are eligible. $2,000 cash prize.

The winning film from the horror genre will take home the $2,000 cash prize.

Each submitted film goes through an involved judging process, and is screened by at least one member of the selection committee. Selected films could eventually be seen more than six times by members of the screening committees, programming staff, and juries. Heartland Film reserves the right to stop watching your film after 15 minutes if the reviewer determines that the film’s technical quality is not at a baseline level for festival inclusion.

Films submitted to Heartland International Film Festival are judged on their overall artistic and technical quality. Additionally, each film must be engaging and entertaining, but do more than simply entertain. Selected films have a transformative power that impacts audiences by educating, inspiring, challenging or shifting perspectives - ultimately Heartland International Film Festival programs story-driven films that do much more than entertain.

Please visit for a full, binding rules and regulations PDF

To be eligible for Heartland International Film Festival, films must comply with the following:
- The film must have been completed on or after January 1, 2019 and be longer than 40:00:00 minutes in length.
- The film must be available for up to four screenings during the Festival, October 8-18, 2020.
- There must not be a screening fee attached to the film.
- Heartland requires a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) for every film in addition to a high-quality digital backup file. No Blu-rays, DVDs or 35mm prints will be screened at the Festival.
- Premiere status has no bearing on whether a film is selected. Heartland Film does not encourage your film being available on YouTube, Vimeo, theatrical release, etc. prior to the event, but that does not have any bearing on eligibility. Any film invited to play at the Festival MUST communicate to the director of film programming if release plans change once the film is programmed. Failure to communicate may result in the film being pulled from the lineup.
- The film cannot require dual projection (interlock) or separate soundtracks.
- Non-English films must be subtitled.

In addition to the eligibility requirements listed above, filmmakers must comply with the following submission rules to be considered as a Finalist in their respective category:
The submitting filmmaker must be either the producer or director of the film.
- A completed official entry via this site.
- Payment of the non-refundable entry fee must accompany the submission.
- Multiple submissions must be provided as individual submissions.
- If submitting a film that is not yet complete, place "WORK IN PROGRESS" in the submission.
- Films submitted in the wrong categories to save on submission costs will be disqualified and fees will be kept by Heartland Film, Inc. (example: filmmaker submits to High School Film Competition but was not a student at the time the film was made) - this includes filmmaker claims of being a student when they are not indeed students. Student filmmakers must provide a scan of their current student identification card.

Filmmakers (producer or director) for films selected to be Finalists will be notified by no later than August 15, 2019. All other filmmakers will be notified by email shortly thereafter. Official Selections and Finalists will be publicly announced in September, 2019, and Heartland International Film Festival reserves the right to release basic information about selected films as early as May.

Films are ultimately chosen as either Finalists, which remain in competition for the Grand Prizes, or Official Selections, which screen out of competition for the Grand Prizes (though they may remain eligible for other prizes).
10 filmmakers will be selected as Finalists in the following categories:
- 5 Narrative Features
- 5 Documentary Features

Films are ultimately chosen as either Finalists, which remain in competition for the Grand Prizes, or Official Selections, which screen out of competition for the Grand Prizes. Finalists are still eligible for other prizes, such as the Jimmy Stewart Legacy Awards, Best Premieres, Social Impact Awards, Humor & Humanity Award, and Audience Choice.

All submitted films that meet the below eligibility requirements are considered “in competition” for Heartland International Film Festival Finalists at the time of submission. In September, 2019, Finalists are publicly announced. Only Finalists are ultimately eligible for the Grand Prize in each category. Grand Prize winners are announced at the Heartland International Film Festival Awards Brunch on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Finalist filmmakers must be present to win.

Films that are not selected by our juries as Finalists may be invited to screen as “Official Selections” and are eligible for the Audience Choice Awards, the Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award, Social Impact Awards, and Humor and Humanity Award. Official Selections are not in competition for Festival Awards/Grand Prizes.

Other films may be invited to screen at the Festival as a “Special Presentation” or in a “To Be Announced” time slot; these may be eligible for the Audience Choice Award depending on when the films are scheduled. “Special Presentation” films are generally titles that already have major distribution or have had their broadcast premiere prior to the Heartland International Film Festival.

Finalist films will be programmed to screen up to five times during the Festival. Official Selections will screen up to three times each.

In 2019, 209 films were selected from more than 1,000 feature submissions.

Overall Rating
  • Melissa Jackson & Nikhil Melnechuk

    Brilliantly curated, organized, and staffed. The festival team clearly knows how to run a tight ship, and it shows: the theaters and projection are top-notch, the filmmakers lounge was an ideal meeting point, the special events and screenings were world-class, and the films were excellent across the board.

    February 2020
  • Olivia Vaughn

    We had an incredible experience at the 2019 Heartland International Film Festival! The programming is fantastic. It's a remarkably well-organized festival with great venues and audience engagement, networking events and parties every day and night, and so many talented filmmakers from around the world in attendance. The hospitality was a standout!! Also, Heartland offers many substantial awards at a gorgeous ceremony. It’s an amazing festival, that is SO worth submitting to and attending. We definitely hope to visit again!!

    January 2020
  • Terry Strauss

    Deeply thankful to The 28th Heartland International Film Festival for days of inspired films, appreciative audiences and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. They truly create a community of filmmakers, staff and audience that is inclusive and engaged, with an outstanding selection of films I won't soon forget. Wonderful to have had our documentary ...AS IF THEY WERE ANGELS among them. I truly look forward to any opportunity I might have to attend this festival again!!

    November 2019
  • Stephen Edwards

    fabulous fest - really welcoming to filmmakers - fantastic staff who were all very helpful and attentive - venues were good -ticketing was organized - volunteers were very competent and really cared about making the festival a better experience for everyone. If you can get into this festival, by all means go!

    October 2019
  • It was great to visit the festival and it had a really warm feeling to it.
    People are enjoying cinema there.

    April 2019