The inaugural Open Mind Film Festival is presented by The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. The Friends is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with mental illness.

Are you a high school student in the United States? We invite you to submit a short film to share your perspective on mental health. We are interested in stories of people living with mental illnesses, ideas on reducing the stigma of or coping with mental illness, and ways mental health issues impact you.

Mental health encompasses many things; generally it refers to how people think, feel and behave. Perhaps the questions below will trigger ideas for your short video on how you and/or your friends view mental health.

Are you coping with academic pressures?
Do you have stress related to COVID-19?
Are you anxious?
Are you experiencing grief or loss?
Do you or a friend have an eating disorder?
Are you feeling depressed or lonely?
Have you or a friend been bullied?
Do you have learning difficulties?
Are you struggling with addiction?
Do you have a story about a friend or family member that you could share?
Could you interview someone experiencing any of the above?
Do you want to partner (safely) with a friend to document your experiences?

Use your cell phone or a video camera to create a short film to tell us your unique story.

We would love to know that you plan to submit a film to our festival. Please email us at to ask any questions and to let us know you will be submitting.

The Film Festival is scheduled for May 6, 2021. If conditions allow, selected films will be screened at The James Bridges Theatre on the UCLA campus. If Covid-19 makes a live meeting inadvisable, we will host a virtual festival.

Winners will be selected by a panel of judges composed of UCLA Film School faculty and students, Friends of The Semel Institute Board members, entertainment industry professionals, and Semel Institute faculty.

In addition to a Best Picture Award, our judging panel will determine other awards in various categories based on the submissions we receive for this first time festival.

-Eligibility: Open to all high school students (grades 9-12) currently enrolled in high school in the United States. There is no fee for submitting a film.

-Length of Film: 7 minutes maximum. We encourage the submission of shorter works so that we can showcase more filmmakers.

-Qualifying films must be produced between March, 2020 and March, 2021.

-We accept all forms of film including narratives, documentaries, animations, music videos, and public service announcements.

-Each film must be submitted with a FilmFreeway submission info form. Filmmakers will also be asked to submit a film via Vimeo.

-We will be accepting films until March 11, 2021. All qualified films will be viewed by a panel of judges.

-Winners agree to participate in the Open Mind Film Festival event.

-We are interested in the ideas and concerns of young filmmakers and are open to all content, however films which are excessively violent or sexually exploitive will likely not be selected.

-By submitting a film to the Open Mind Film Festival, the filmmaker(s) acknowledges, represents and affirms that he/she has:

*obtained consent from any and all other persons or entities who have ownership rights, licenses or interests (including without limitation, intellectual property rights, rights of publicity, distribution licenses, etc.) in the film, and
* obtained and otherwise cleared any and all rights to all materials included in such film (including, without limitation, with respect to all music included in the film, all copyrighted works and trademarked content used in the film, all participants featured in the film, etc).

-By participating in this festival you agree to follow the CDC Covid-19 safety guidelines and precautions.

Overall Rating
  • Annie Delgado

    This film festival was incredibly well run. The communication was consistent and clear. We appreciate the fact that a participant from our Youth Media Academy was able to share her film and that conversations surrounding mental health are being destigmatized.

    May 2021