We believe that films are digital storytelling. They offer a way to share our personal stories or those of our community in a tangible way. KIDS FIRST! Is celebrating its 33nd anniversary in 2024 and our Film Festival will be co-hosted by venues nation – and worldwide. Our partners include established film festivals, children’s museums, universities, film societies and similar. The festival events include a combination of live and online screenings, live and streaming discussions, Q&A sessions that support a dialogue from the next generation of thought leaders.

Unlike most film festivals that cater to adults, KIDS FIRST! is renowned for showcasing extraordinary films made both by and for children, ages 2 to 22. We have films made by preK students, elementary students, middle school, high school and college students. We feature creative, artistic, insightful, informative, humorous and thought-provoking films from filmmakers worldwide. We have films from the US, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, India, China, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, South Africa, Russia, Portugal, Norway, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Israel, Iran, Germany, Croatia and more.

Our film selections include a remarkable collection of animated films, documentaries, shorts and features. We have films by and about indigenous and people of color, climate change and the environment, social justice, animal rights, homelessness, gender identity, and multicultural awareness. We have films that ask life’s Biggest Questions about spirituality, climate change or mortality. Others offer insight into a culture elsewhere in the world, showing how similar we are even though our traditions may be so different. Some films are just plain fun; they make you laugh at their outright silliness, and leave a smile on your face.

The KIDS FIRST! Film Festival showcases the latest films, TV shows, digital programming, and screenplays from independent and student filmmakers. We partner with more than 30 venues that showcase films fromm our curated selections at annual events or special events – year round. Submitting to KIDS FIRST! is like submitting to 30 individual festivals. Not all 30 festivals will play your film or feature your screenplay, but it will be considered.

Note that KIDS FIRST! Film Festival affiliates do not pay a screening fee. Please do not waste our time or yours if you require a screening fee.

Accepted titles must meet or exceed the KIDS FIRST! criteria and be appropriate for exhibition on a large screen. Criteria includes:

NO gratuitous violence or abuse
NO inappropriate sexual behavior
NO bias in terms of race, gender, culture or religion
NO condescension toward children
NO replicable unsafe behavior
Most importantly, we look for films that have an uplifting message!

Films must be suitable for children age 2 to 22
Premiere status is a factor during the selection process
Only completed works can be submitted
Films with dialogue in languages other than English must be subtitled in English

Note that our Santa Fe event will be held in November, but our partner venue events run year round. You will receive notice of exactly where your film is scheduled to play and an invitation to connect directly with the team at each of our venue partners once that is determined.

Awards are determined by individual venue partners.

Accepted feature films will get a First Look opportunity for distribution by Soundview Media Partners.

Screenwriters take note: Acceptance of your screenplay by KIDS FIRST! will get you coverage you can use to promote your screenplay. While our venue partners tend to focus more on screening finished films over screenplays, some may include screenplays. What you receive for your application fee is a very thorough analysis of your screenplay, which is why the fee is so high.

Include in your description the age group you film is most suitable for.
DO NOT say "all ages" or "ages 5 to 100"! Pick a group from our clusters: ages 2-5, 5-8, 8-12, 12-18, plus adults.

Once accepted, a film may not be pulled from the Festival by the filmmaker for any reason. By submitting your film, you are agreeing to comply with this and all other requirements.

By submitting your film, you are warranting that you are authorized to commit the film for screening and accept full responsibility to provide the correct format of your film to our venue partners for festival play.

By submitting this film, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 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.

Once we accept your film, you will receive an automated notification which includes the deliverables needed in order to proceed adding your film to our festival offerings. You will be asked to submit an electronic file of your film if it is a short, or a trailer if a feature. Once received, we will upload your film to our password protected film programmer's site. This is not a public site. It is for screening and downloading purposes only by programmers with our affiliated venues.

Feature films will only have a trailer on our programmer's site. When one of our affiliates requests a full length screener, we will connect them with you to get that. We will have them reach out to you for appropriate promotional materials once your film has been accepted for their festival or event.

Once your film gets booked by one of our partners, you will receive an update via email. When you see your booking, we strongly recommend that you contact the individual festival directly to see how you might collaborate in promoting your screening and whether or not you plan to attend the event.

We strongly encourage attending any festival where your film is featured and promote your screening/s to your personal network of friends and family.

Screening times and dates are solely at the discretion of our venue partners so, please communicate with them, not KIDS FIRST!

CORRESPONDENCE: All correspondence to the Festival management, including entry forms and support materials, must be in the English language and must be submitted online. At peak times during the submission process, it may take several days for us to respond. The Submitter will be the main contact for all communications.
If the "distributor" section is left blank, we will use the "submitter" information as the distributor. If you have questions, please send them to admin@kidsfirst.org.

ACCEPTANCE; When your film is accepted, we request permission to showcase it at one of our venue partner's festivals or special events for a period of 2 years. You may withdraw it after the first 6 months, if necessary, for any reason.

DELIVERABLES: When your film is accepted, we will request a digital copy of your film and a downloadable poster or production still for promotional purposes. You have up to 1 week to comply. Non compliance may result in your film's acceptance status.

WHERE TO SUBMIT: All submissions must be made through FilmFreeway. A separate entry form, payment and screener must accompany each submission. Entry fee must be paid in US Dollars and submitted through FilmFreeway. Entry fees are non-refundable.

Online screeners must be downloadable
Downloadable file types are H264, mov, mp4 and avi
Include the link and password, if suitable.
Download link must be available through the first festival date.
BluRays or DVDs may not be submitted for preview.
The preview copy must be formatted for all-region, multi-zone, or Zone 1 (NTSC, North America) and clearly labeled with title of production in English.

Two high-quality images from the production (jpg, png or tif format)
Images must be 300 dpi or higher
Provided via FilmFreeway or emailed to admin@kidsfirst.org

Websites, Social Media
Trailers, if available

Director headshot, 300 dpi
Director’s biography and filmography
Cast and Crew, names and titles
Posters, Lobby Cards, SWAG
Materials can be mailed directly to venue, please ask for specifics

Our jury consists of adults that are educators, media professionals, youth advocates and parents as well as member of our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics team and other youth that have received training as jurors.

Filmmakers will be notified regarding acceptance or non-acceptance via FilmFreeway no later than the acceptance date listed on this site. Additional information regarding scheduled screenings will be sent via email once your film is selected by one of our venues. Notices are sent out every Monday for new bookings.

Festival Screening Formats must be in H264, mov, mp4 or avi format (1920x1080)
Exhibition screener cannot contain watermark, time code or other markings of ownership.

The KIDS FIRST! Film Festival staff reserves the right to rule on cases not covered by these regulations.

By submitting to the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival, the Submitter has read and agree to the Participation Agreement and the Rules and Terms for the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival. The Participation Agreement is to be considered a part of the Rules and Terms is hereby incorporated by this reference. All references to the Rules and Terms shall also expressly include reference to the Participation Agreement. The Rules and Terms are legally binding.

KIDS FIRST! Film Festival
112 W. San Francisco St., Suite 305A
Santa Fe, NM 87504

Overall Rating
  • Will Kim

    A very well organized film festival that respects the filmmakers. A great communication and valuable feedback. Thank you for selecting "Disappearing Jewels" for this year's edition.

    November 2023
    Response from festival:

    Thanks, Will, for your kind comments. We love working with filmmakers like you and we love Disappearing Jewels.
    Thanks for being part of our extended family.

  • This seems to be a wonderful festival. The reviews written by children alone... I'm very excited. I should just fly to Santa Fe and check it out. I think I will and I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

    November 2023
    Response from festival:

    Thanks, Thomas for your kind review. We love working with filmmakers like you, who are creating wonderful programming for youth and families.

  • Joe Petrucelli

    I am very happy with the film festival. They continually help promote your project.

    July 2023
    Response from festival:

    Thanks Joe for your kind comments. We so appreciate you and your terrific work. It is a pleasure to work with you! We love I Wanna be an Eagle!

  • Ilysa Spencer

    Thank you so much for recognizing our visionary storytelling and including us in your kindred festival, looking forward!! Dr. ilysa- www.themesafoundation.org

    July 2023
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, Ilysa, for your kind comments. We love working with wonderful filmmakers such as yourself and we are very supportive of the work you are doing with young people.

  • Very good communication and value

    July 2023
    Response from festival:

    Thanks, Anthony. We appreciate your kind words. It is a pleasure working with you also.