The LightReel Film Festival (formerly Lakefront Film Festival) annually will salute the creative spirit of BIPOC independent film. The LFF will serve a dual purpose, introducing new voices of persons of color in cinema as well as providing a cinematically organic space for existing filmmakers to explore new stories and themes.

The LightReel Film Festival will award several Grand Jury prizes, including Outstanding Narrative Feature, Outstanding Documentary, Outstanding Short film, and Outstanding Short Documentary film.


We strongly encourage you to review these rules carefully prior to submitting your film. The submission of your project acknowledges that you have read and agreed to all the following rules and terms. Once projects have been submitted by our final deadline and adhere to the following terms, they will be considered for inclusion in the LightReel Film Festival.

Filmmakers acknowledge that they have read and accepted the Rules and Terms of the LightReel Film Festival. They also certify that they hold all rights for the presentation of their film and that all rights and permission have been made. All films accepted into the LightReel Film Festival are not subject to nor are threatened by any litigation. Upon accepting these conditions, filmmakers transfer the right to use excerpts of submitted films, stills, and trailers, for the purpose of publicity and marketing of the film on the various social networks, on the website of the festival, as well as on other non-commercial purposes related to the promotional of the event to the LightReel Film Festival. Filmmakers hereby agree to indemnify The LightReel Film Festival, if said rights have been not properly administered.

If you have any further questions, please visit our FAQ page:

Beginning on August 22, 2022, The LightReel Film Festival will accept entries with a completion date after April 3, 2023. Film submissions to the LightReel Film Festival must not be scheduled for theatrical release or television broadcast prior to June 3, 2022. No submissions should have been publicly screened in Washington, DC.

For a film to be under consideration for the festival, each submission must be accompanied by a submission fee both paid in full and featuring a working screening link. In addition, all films submitted must be free from any legal disputes and third-party claims. All rights for music and public exhibition should also be cleared by submitting filmmakers. Only when all necessary materials have been received will the submission be officially “In Consideration.”

The filmmaker is responsible to ensure that all submission requirements are met, which includes contacting the LightReel Film Festival after seven (7) days to discuss the next steps to move their film into the “In Consideration” category if it has not been posted within a week.

If the film has not been listed “In Consideration” within SEVEN business days of submission, it is the submitting party's responsibility to contact the LightReel Film Festival to find out the next steps to move the film into consideration category. On March 31, 2023, filmmakers will be notified if their film has been accepted into the LightReel Film Festival.

Filmmakers are not required to send press kits and cover letters, but they are appreciated. We DO NOT accept hard copies but if you wish to submit either, please attach it to your submission.

The festival STRONGLY prefers filmmakers to submit online screeners, via either a password-protected Vimeo link or by uploading directly to FilmFreeway. Filmmakers are responsible for ensuring that their screener link and password remain active through April 7, 2023. If a password or URL changes after submission, filmmakers are encouraged to email the festival immediately. The festival will attempt to contact filmmakers for an update if we discover an error with the screener submission.

Filmmakers who fail to respond by the final submission deadline will automatically be disqualified, without refund of submission fees. All online submission screeners MUST be available to stream. The festival does not accept any submissions that must either be downloaded or have watermarks for public presentation.

All foreign-language film submissions must be submitted with English subtitles. Any submission that does not provide working subtitles will be automatically disqualified without refund of submission fees.

*All narrative features or documentary films must be theatrical premieres in the District of Columbia. *

Short films are exempt from this requirement, but a District of Columbia premiere is strongly preferred. The festival will program some short films online on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing feature film submissions that have NOT been released online, on VOD, or on DVD to the public in the District of Columbia.

If a submitter’s film is selected for another District of Columbia festival, it is the submitter’s responsibility to notify the LightReel Film Fest of any updates as they occur in the premiere status.

*On rare occasions, exceptions to this rule may be made solely at the discretion of the festival programming staff. Feature films that are not District of Columbia premieres will NOT be eligible for competition. In addition, any films that have acquired U.S. distribution of any kind prior to selection at the LightReel Film Festival will not be eligible for competition.

It is the filmmaker’s responsibility to closely keep track of deadlines as they consider submitting their project within a certain window. All deadlines are set for 11:59 pm EST.
Any submissions with an unpaid balance after a deadline will be required to pay the following deadline’s submission fee. Failure to pay the appropriate fee may result in disqualification without a refund.

The deadline for all works that are selected for inclusion in the festival is April 3, 2023.

If your film is accepted into the LightReel Film Festival, filmmakers will grant the festival the right to utilize an excerpt from said film submitted for exhibition for promotional purposes.

All accepted films will screen at least once during the festival, with the option of an encore screening for select films/shorts blocks that win festival jury awards. All scheduling is purely at the discretion of the LightReel Film Festival staff.

The festival will only return submission flash drives upon request and local filmmakers are encouraged to pick up their drives. International submissions sent on flash drives will not be returned to the festival highly recommends filmmakers submit their work online. All flash drives that are in possession of the festival after a year will be destroyed.

The LightReel Film Festival DOES NOT PAY SCREENING FEES. Filmmakers who submit their films acknowledge that the festival will not pay to present their work. **NO FEE WAIVERS**

Filmmakers acknowledge that by entering their film for consideration at the LightReel Film Festival, they authorize that their work is cleared for festival exhibition. They also accept full legal responsibility for the intellectual property contained therein.

Filmmakers associated with the project shall indemnify and hold harmless the LightReel Film Festival, FAAAF, and any representative or affiliates from and against 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 a project is listed “In Consideration” on FilmFreeway, the festival is unable to offer refunds for any reason, including (but not limited to):

- Submission to the wrong category
- Change in premiere status or distribution
- Duplicate submissions
- Failure to pay the full submission fee by the final deadline
- Failure to provide a working screener by the final deadline
- Project’s failure to comply with submission Rules & Terms
- Rejection from the festival
- Withdrawing your submission for any reason (including changes of heart)

The LightReel Film Festival reserves the right to disqualify any submission without refund of submission fees.

Opening Submission Date | August 22, 2022
Super Early Submission Deadline | October 23, 2022
Early Deadline | December 18, 2022
Official Submission Deadline | February 19, 2023
Late Submission Deadline | March 17, 2023
Notification Date | March 31, 2023

Overall Rating
  • Alan M. Brooks

    I had such an AMAZING time at the Lakefront Film Festival. Having my film "Mr. & Mrs. Ellis" selected at this festival was truly an HONOR!! Participating on the Filmmaker Focus panel was so fun and I felt so welcomed by the team. I recommend this festival!

    September 2021
  • Megan Ebor

    Lakefront Film Festival was one of the best experiences I have had on the festival circuit. It is not an easy task to make a virtual event feel as if we were in person, yet, it seemed effortless for this experienced team!!! Everything was top notch, from the filmmaker interviews, the logistics for virtual programming, to screening all of the wonderful films, all were executed very well. I look forward to submitting my future work to this festival. Kudos to the festival director and team for a fantastic event. We were honored to be a part of LFF2021!!!

    August 2021
  • N/A (Public reviews disabled when I was reviewing.)

    September 2019
  • Sreejith Nair

    Had a great time at this film fest! Tim Gordon was very gracious and encouraged networking among the filmmakers and audience members. This film fest was also a perfect chance for me to visit Baltimore for the first time. Totally worth it!

    August 2019
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, Mr. Nair and I noticed that I saw you screening a film at this year's festival. Please let us know when you have another project that we can either feature at the festival or spotlight on our upcoming virtual cinema series. Continued success!

  • Joe Dzikiewicz

    I only found out that the 2018 Lakefront Film Festival was cancelled when I went to the website to see when my film was going to show. I had gotten into the festival, but got no further notifications. And when I emailed them to find out more, they did not respond.

    If you enter this festival, expect a strong possibility that there will be no festival. And no refunds of entry fees. And no further communications from them at all.

    It happened to me. It could happen again. They are not to be trusted.

    July 2018