The Oscar-qualifying New Orleans Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in the Southeast U.S., serving audiences numbering upwards of 30,000, hosting as many as 500 filmmakers, and providing cash awards and prizes valued at over $150,000. This year, the festival will take place in-person across venues in New Orleans + films will be available to stream via a virtual cinema.

The festival is committed to lifting up impassioned storytellers who create from spaces of urgency, importance, and a desire to share their unique perspectives In the last edition of the festival,
- Films from directors of color made up 58% of the lineup.
- Films directed by women and gender non-conforming directors accounted for 57% of the lineup.
- Filmmakers represented 44 different nationalities.
- Films made in the American South represented 45% of the lineup.

To better communicate the guiding principles employed by our programming team in making decisions, we created a document outlining our values and programmatic practices, listed below. We strongly encourage all submitters to familiarize themselves with this to see if their work aligns with the kinds of films we seek to support through the New Orleans Film Festival.

We seek work from impassioned storytellers who create from spaces of urgency, importance, and a desire to share their unique perspectives.
- While we acknowledge and respect that nuanced storytelling can come from many different sources and perspectives, we strive to decenter privilege and whiteness and prioritize artists who have been historically denied access to resources and opportunities within the industry–including Southern artists, women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities.
- We look for evidence that filmmakers have built their production teams with inclusivity in mind, ensuring a plurality of perspectives and exhibiting a commitment to a more diverse creative landscape.
- We look beyond stories of struggle and trauma, particularly those featuring Black and brown communities, and instead offer space for narratives of cultural strength, spiritual depth, and shared humanity.

We counter extractive storytelling by championing regionalism and supporting the creative leadership of those closest to the stories being told.
- We shift our attention away from the mainstream and toward stories from those working in spaces outside of and often ignored by centers of power.
- We recognize that South Louisiana and the American South more broadly are sites where stories and inspiration have been thoughtlessly mined by “outsiders,” a harmful practice that sidelines artists with a stronger connection to the region and frequently results in stereotyping and a lack of authentic representation in the work.
- We believe that important insight and nuance result when filmmakers tell the stories that they’re closest to: films inspired or informed by their own lived experiences, or about communities of which they are a part.
- We respect the role of the moving image as a cultural record of our communities, and we seek to ensure that these histories of our region are addressed with care for those whose stories are being told.
- We hold artists accountable to respecting the subject matter of their work, including the individuals, cultures, and communities they are addressing.

We acknowledge the injustices and deleterious effects of traditional curatorial work of arts institutions like our own and seek new ways of envisioning our programmatic practices.
- We recognize that qualitative notions of “artistic merit” and “aesthetic quality” are informed by a racist lineage and hierarchical systems designed to maintain a white, ableist, and hetero-normative perspective on art and the world.
- We seek to expand our understanding of how excellence can reveal itself through artistic approaches and techniques such as language, visual stylings, and culturally-specific storytelling practices that have been historically underappreciated.
- We involve a multiplicity of voices in our programming process in an effort to eschew unilateral decision-making.
- We acknowledge that value is not dictated by prestige or laurels, and thus keep our focus on the potential of the work and the artist and away from institutional affiliations or perceived stature within other filmmaking spaces.
- We understand that programming and curatorial work is a form of gatekeeping–of inviting some artists in while shutting others out; we seek to combat the exclusive nature of this process by building more accessible bridges of opportunity for artists, connecting them to spaces, experiences, and resources that they’ve not been afforded.
For artistic opportunities including labs and development programs (including Emerging Voices, Southern Producers Lab, South Pitch), we waive all submission fees to ensure access.
- We offer film festival submission discounts to those with a stated need, and partner with organizations and individuals to ensure an equitable disbursement of waivers.

We create space for confrontational art and nontraditional artistic approaches.
- We invite audiences to engage with work that addresses the social and political inequities of our collective past and present.
- We welcome nonconformist and misfit films that often get excluded from other exhibition avenues for not adhering to elitist industry standards.
- We celebrate innovative work that, in its form and construction, offers a rebuke to conventional means of storytelling and forges new storytelling pathways.
- We lift up exciting projects that empower, transform, and, like all great art, encourage reflection and creative response.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

When can I send in an entry to be considered for the New Orleans Film Festival?
NOFF is accepting submissions through June 18, 2021. We cannot accept any submissions after that date.

How do I submit?
FilmFreeway is the exclusive method for submitting films for festival consideration. We do not accept submissions via emailed links.

If I submit, what are my film’s chances of being selected?
In 2019, we received just over 5600 submissions and selected 218 of those to screen at the festival. In 2020, we received 4655 submissions and selected 160 of those to screen at NOFF.

What percent of the NOFF lineup comes from submissions?
We strive to program as much of the lineup as possible from submitted films. In 2020, 95% of the lineup came from submitted films, and in 2019, 92% of the lineup was from submitted films. The remainder were mostly end-of-year “prestige titles” that came from studios and distributors.

Will someone actually view my submission?
Yes. We take the screening process extremely seriously. Members of our programming team watch every single film from start to finish, and every film is considered and discussed by the staff before a final decision is made.

Who will watch my submission?
Every submission is viewed at least once by a staff-level member of the NOFF programming team in addition to one to three times by a member of our volunteer screening corps, comprising film industry professionals, filmmakers, avid moviegoers, film students, longtime festival submissions screeners, and New Orleans Film Society staff members.

Do you offer any waivers or discounts on entry fees?
We only offer a small number of fee waivers each year, to special cases (e.g. alumni filmmakers, filmmakers based in countries that cannot legally send money to the U.S.; financial duress). We also work with a number of partner organizations to ensure that underrepresented communities in filmmaking are able to submit free of charge. We are also very generous with offering discounted submission fees, and these are granted on a case-by-case basis. All inquiries regarding discounts should be addressed to noff@neworleansfilmsociety.org. Additionally, NOFF incentivizes filmmakers to submit early (so that we can start the review process early). The earlier you submit, the more inexpensive the submission price.

What kinds of films are you looking for?
We seek to program a diverse slate that represents a variety of themes and content. We are particularly interested in new work from filmmakers from different backgrounds. We encourage you to fully read this document outlining our “Programming Practices.” As for genre, NOFF has no preferences and programs from all genres of film. We habitually screen horror films, comedies, period dramas, thrillers, etc. No matter what genre you’re working in, your film will be given equal weight and consideration.

Do you have a special category for films made by youth?
No, NOFF does not have a designated youth-produced category, but youth are encouraged to submit their work and we regularly program student work.

My project is episodic -- do you have a category for that?
We encourage filmmakers of episodic work to submit the pilot episode in either the narrative short, documentary short or animated short category, depending on where it best fits. In the past, NOFF has programmed both longer, television-length pieces as well as shorter webisodes and other formats. If selected, our programming team will work with the filmmaking teams to determine how many episodes to screen at the festival if more than the pilot is available.

Would it help if I sent a press kit for my film?
No. In fact, most press kits submitted with films will be skipped over in favor of simply watching the film itself. However, we do suggest including a cover letter on FilmFreeway explaining why you’re interested in sharing your film with NOFF (do you have some connection to New Orleans? are you especially interested in reaching a New Orleans audience? do you think that your film aligns with what we stated we seek out in our Programming Practices? have you heard good things about NOFF from fellow filmmakers? were you drawn in by our description on a website?). We also like to know more about who is behind the film (what’s your background? why are you telling this story?). That information can be helpful as we make our final decisions.

Can I email you a Vimeo link as part of my submission?
Because our submission review process involves almost 70 staff and volunteers, we need the screener of your film to be accessible directly through FilmFreeway, where it can be assigned and tracked throughout the season. It is not helpful to reach out directly through email to members of our programming with information about your film or with a link.
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My film was completed last year. Is it still eligible?
In order for the film to be in competition, it must have been completed on or after June 1st, 2019. If your film doesn’t meet this requirement and you would like to petition for an exception, email us with more information at noff@neworleansfilmsociety.org.

I submitted my film last year, but it wasn’t accepted. Could I re-submit this year?
We discourage filmmakers from re-submitting their films unless substantial changes have been made. Do you feel that your film is effectively a different film than the version you submitted last year? If not, we suggest that you don’t re-submit it.

Does NOFF consider works-in-progress?
Yes, we often consider films for selection that aren’t 100% complete, especially cases where films are picture-locked but awaiting final color and/or sound. If you’re confident that your film will shine even with incomplete or missing elements, go ahead and submit. We do not, however, feel comfortable assessing films that are not picture-locked or are missing major scenes.

Can I send an updated edit of my submitted film?
If you make substantial changes to your film after it is submitted, you may send us an updated version. However, depending on how far along the film is in our selection process, we cannot guarantee that the newer version will be screened. If you submit a film and then send us a new version months afterward, chances are that the original version will have already been seen by a member of our team, and we don’t have the resources to re-screen a film that’s already been watched and considered. That said, we often revisit films in the final stages of the selection process, so it is possible we will want to see the newer cut. In short, there are no guarantees, but you’re welcome to send it just in case.

If I submit later in the year, are my film’s chances of getting selected lower?
Our programmers keep all selection slots open until after every film has been screened. So, while we screen and review and discuss submissions continuously, all season long, we don’t make any final decisions about what will screen until after everyone has seen everything and we’re about to announce our lineup for the year. Submitting later in the submissions cycle will not hurt your chances.

Is it possible to get feedback on my film once it has been screened?
Our policy is not to offer written evaluations of films submitted to NOFF. The purpose of our review process is to allow our programmers to discover new voices and exciting films with a strong point of view, so it would be against our best interests (and yours) to offer one-size-fits-all advice with the goal of making your film “better.” This is a subjective process, and the decisions of our programming team reflect our own opinions, thoughts, and values. Just because we decide to pass on a film does not mean that we think it is a “bad” or “weak” film.

Does my film have to be a world premiere?
No, NOFF does not require world premiere status. We want your film to reach the audiences it deserves and do not wish to hold it back from that by requiring any kind of premiere status.

What if my film has already been in virtual festivals?
Not a problem. We’re happy for your film to receive virtual screenings prior to NOFF.

Is my film still eligible if it’s available online?
Yes. We regularly program submissions that have already gone live on Vimeo or YouTube.

If selected, will my film be screened in person or online?
We believe in the power of communal viewings that festivals offer and seek that out when possible. In 2020, we launched a series of outdoor screenings for about half of our lineup, and all selections were also made available through an online platform. In 2021, we are planning to continue a hybrid model, with a combination of in-person screenings (outdoor and/or indoor, depending on City regulations and audience comfort levels) and virtual screenings.

When will I find out if my film has been selected to screen in the festival?
Our target notification date is August 27, 2021. You can expect to receive an email from us by that date about your film’s status.

If accepted, will NOFF offer a screening fee for my film?
In 2020, NOFF launched an initiative to pay all accepted filmmakers a screening fee. Short filmmakers received $100, and feature filmmakers received $250. We intend on continuing to offer screening fees to exhibiting filmmakers in 2021.

If my film is accepted, what do I get in terms of hospitality from the festival?
In the past, NOFF offered accommodations to filmmakers from all accepted films—both shorts and features, but in the age of COVID restrictions and our interest in keeping audiences and artists safe, we have discouraged filmmakers outside of the New Orleans area from traveling for the festival and are thus not offering hotel accommodations or travel stipends at this time.

If accepted, will I be able to view other films in the festival?
Yes! All accepted films receive two complimentary All-Access Passes to make the most of the festival, with additional passes for your team members available for purchase at a deep discount.

Are there any awards offered by the festival to filmmakers?
Every year, the festival offers jury awards to films in different categories. The total value of prizes awarded in 2020 was over $100,000 in camera packages, film stock, production services, cash and software. (Fun fact: One of NOFF’s earliest winners was a documentary by first-time director Todd Phillips, who has gone on to direct The Hangover and Joker.)

Who decides which films win the jury awards?
Three jurors are chosen for each film category and they come to a decision regarding which film will win the jury prize. Jurors for these awards represent some of the most talented leaders in the industry, including the likes of Oscar winners Melissa Leo and Tia Lessin; producer Effie Brown (Dear White People); industry writers like Aisha Harris, Nigel Smith, and Manuel Betancourt; Independent Lens producer Lois Vossen; Charlotte Cook of Field of Vision; producers Michael Gottwald and Josh Penn (Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild); and godfather of Third Cinema Kidlat Tahimik.

Have a question that’s not covered here?
Email us at noff@neworleansfilmsociety.org, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Due to the festival’s Oscar qualifying status, the recipient of the festival's Documentary Short Jury Award, Narrative Short Jury Award, and Animated Short Jury Award will be eligible for consideration in their respective categories of the Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the films otherwise comply with the Academy rules.

Every year, the festival offers jury awards to films in seven different categories. 2019’s total awarded prize value was over $100,000 in camera packages, film stock, production services, and software. Jurors for these awards represent some of the most talented leaders in the industry, including the likes of Oscar winner Melissa Leo and nominee Tia Lessin; industry writers like K. Austin Collins of Vanity Fair and Monica Castillo of The Washington Post; Independent Lens producer Lois Vossen; producers Effie Brown (Dear White People) and Michael Gottwald & Josh Penn (Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild); experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs; and godfather of Third Cinema Kidlat Tahimik. All official selections of NOFF are also eligible for Audience Awards, which are decided by audience ballot at our screenings.

Additionally, the recipient of the festival's Documentary Short Jury Award, Narrative Short Jury Award, and Animated Short Jury Award will be eligible for consideration in their respective categories of the Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the films otherwise comply with the Academy rules.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

- The filmmaker has read and understood the aforementioned guidelines and regulations and to the best of their knowledge, all statements are true. The filmmaker is duly authorized to submit this film to the New Orleans Film Festival.

- NOFF reserves the right to disqualify any submission without refund of submission fees.

- If your submission screener is missing or inaccessible due to a missing or inaccurate password, we cannot guarantee that your film will be considered.

- All accepted films may be screened more than once, and are scheduled at the discretion of the New Orleans Film Festival staff.

- All submissions are encouraged to include optional subtitles for accessibility purposes. If accepted, subtitles may be required.

- Entries must have been completed on or after June 1, 2019.

- Films produced or financed by a major motion picture studio are eligible for festival screenings but are not eligible for competitive awards. Films that have acquired distribution are eligible for festival screenings but are not eligible for competitive awards.

- Upon submission, the filmmaker consents to their screener material to being shared in its entirety with appropriate NOFF staff; press outlets in efforts to secure press for the film; with final jury members; and with select individuals representing community partners who may be interested in supporting the film’s screening or taking part in a panel or q&a associated with the film.

-The festival is hereby also granted the right to utilize image(s) and/or biographical information of the filmmakers for promotional purposes. The festival reserves the right to fill in any information not supplied by the filmmaker from whatever source available and will not be responsible if incorrect information is entered.

- It is the responsibility of the filmmaker to secure authorization for any copyrighted material that may be used in the film. The filmmaker shall indemnify and hold harmless New Orleans Film Festival 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.

- By submitting, the filmmaker expressly acknowledges and agrees that they shall be bound by the terms of this agreement.

Overall Rating
Quality
Value
Communication
Hospitality
Networking
  • Megan Daniels

    The organizers for this year's online festival worked tirelessly to be sure filmmakers had the best experience possible during the pandemic. In order to provide audiences with the best possible immersive virtual screening experience, they recorded Q & A sessions with the filmmakers for broadcast during the screening. Organizers promptly responded to emails, always provided timely information regarding upcoming events and live networking parties.

    I highly recommend submitting your film to this festival!

    January 2021
  • Leonard Smith

    Love this festival! They did everything like clock-worth. Look forward to working again with them in 2021.

    December 2020
  • I had a great experience with NOFF. Everyone I interacted with was extremely helpful, competent, and super nice. I hope I can get there in person one day.

    December 2020
  • Too bad this time we couldn't go in person. But the festival was great as usual, and we enjoyed many of the online opportunities.

    December 2020
  • Stuart Sox

    The New Orleans Film Society went above and beyond creating an incredible (and safe) festival even in the midst of a pandemic. The virtual screenings made it so easy to access so many amazing films and I was grateful to have my film screen online as well as at their Open Air Cinemas in New Orleans. Thanks NOFS and can't wait for NOFF 2021!

    November 2020