Submit your feature film now for consideration to the 30th Heartland International Film Festival, set for October 7-17, 2021 in Indianapolis! Known for hospitality, cash prizes, Awards season sneak peeks, and quality programming, HIFF30 will host a range of live events and screenings and bestow more than $60,000 in cash prizes.

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

COVID-19 Response/Planning: Please note that the festival went hybrid in 2020 with drive-in and secure virtual screenings via Eventive in response to COVID-19. Safety is our top priority, and although plans are in place to hopefully return to theaters in October 2021, the contingency plan will be a similar hybrid model of drive-in and virtual screenings. Cash prizes WILL remain intact regardless of in-theater and/or drive-in/virtual screenings.


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 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 50% of the Festival’s lineup was directed by women at the 2020 edition.

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 2020.
4. Artistic integrity: transparent selection process offering screener feedback by request after the Festival concludes.
5. Regarded for our Hoosier hospitality with a strong community between filmmakers, moviegoers, and volunteers.

The 30th Heartland International Film Festival will take place in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, October 7-17, 2021. 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 (Overall, Narrative, Documentary, Indiana Spotlight, Horror)
- FIPRESCI Award for Best US Narrative Directorial Debut
- Indiana Film Journalists Association Award for Best International Narrative Directorial Debut


WAIVER POLICY: Please do not contact us requesting waivers or reduced submission fees. As a nonprofit organization, our annual operations and the process of viewing the volume of submissions we receive are very costly. Thus, waivers are only reserved 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.

We do not offer Student waivers, but we offer discounted Student pricing for all categories.

ALUMNI WAIVERS: If you have directed a short or feature film that has screened at Indy Shorts or Heartland Film Festival in the past, please email with your film’s title and the year it screened.

Awarding a combined $90,000 in cash prizes for 2021 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, Best Documentary Short Film, and Best Animated 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
Audience Choice Winners (Overall, Narrative, Documentary, Indiana Spotlight, Horror) No cash prize
FIPRESCI Award for Best US Narrative Directorial Debut - No cash prize
Indiana Film Journalists Association Award for Best International Narrative Directorial Debut - No cash prize

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 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 fifth 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.

Please note that cash prizes will ONLY be awarded to the film’s director and a completed W-9 or W-8BEN are required for disbursement. Cash prizes may be donated to a nonprofit/charitable cause if approved by the director.

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 more than entertain.

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 three screenings during the Festival, October 7-17, 2021 and a secure virtual offering with an attendance cap and US geofence. Selected films cannot play theatrically in the Central Indiana area from the time of selection through the duration of the event.
- 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.
- The film cannot require dual projection (interlock) or separate soundtracks.
- Non-English language films must be subtitled. Please do not send us an un-subtitled version with the intention of providing a subtitled version later. Please ensure that all subtitles are hardcoded to your video file as opposed to using hidden subtitles that need to be turned on in order to display on the screen.

Premiere status has no bearing on whether a film is selected. Heartland Film does not encourage your film being available on YouTube, Vimeo, streaming platforms, 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 Artistic Director if release plans change once the film is programmed. Failure to communicate may result in the film being pulled from the lineup.

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/paid official entry via this site.
- Multiple submissions must be provided as individual submissions.
- If submitting a film that is not yet complete, place "WORK IN PROGRESS" on a title card at the beginning of your film - but please wait and submit the most complete version of your film as possible. We cannot guarantee that updated files will be screened.
- Films submitted in the wrong categories to save on submission costs will be disqualified and fees will be kept by Heartland Film, Inc.

All selected titles are considered Official Selections and are eligible for the Grand Prizes. Official Selections are also eligible for other prizes, such as the Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award, Best Premieres, Social Impact Awards, Humor & Humanity Award, and Audience Choice.

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.

Heartland Film, Inc. reserves the right to withdraw any film from the lineup, before or during the event. All selected films/representatives warrant that they have all the necessary rights to exhibit all elements of my submission, including music rights. Chosen filmmakers shall indemnify and hold harmless Heartland Film 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 exhibition files provided.

In 2020, 77 films were selected from more than 1,000 feature submissions.

Overall Rating
  • Diane Naughton

    This is my second experience having a film at Heartland. The entire operation is impeccable - smooth, professional, supportive, and the hospitality is top-notch. I couldn't be more enthusiastic in my admiration and endorsement of Heartland!

    November 2020
  • Alexander Jeffery

    Heartland did a remarkable job putting on a virtual 2020 edition that supported the filmmaker and provided opportunities to network. Team Molto Bella had an absolute blast!

    November 2020
  • Lisa Frank

    Fantastic festival, we have now been lucky enough to participate twice (2017 and 2020) and were so impressed with how the Heartland team adapted to the virtual and drive-in formats. The roster of films is always incredible, and this year's opportunity to participate in a Zoom Q&A with other filmmakers was especially memorable. Thanks to everyone at Heartland for making filmmakers feel so welcomed!

    November 2020
  • Jonathan Gruber

    A top-notch festival that pivoted very well during COVID. Organized and detailed instructions for uploading and the Q & A were greatly appreciated!

    October 2020
  • Jennifer Lin

    Given all the hurdles presented in 2020, the folks at Heartland International FF did a superb job of organizing a virtual event. Thank you for turning lemons into lemonade!
    Jennifer Lin
    Co-director Beethoven in Beijing

    October 2020