The Open Mind Film Festival 2023 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 living with mental health issues.

This third annual Open Mind Film Festival is open to high school students throughout the United States. Today, many notable personalities are stepping forward to tell stories and share struggles with issues that impact their lives and their mental health. We invite students to join this important conversation by submitting short films that highlight their experiences and concerns. Use your cell phone or video camera to create a short film to tell us your unique story.

The host for the Festival will be announced in the fall. Our host in 2022
was singer-songwriter Grace Gaustad. Grace has appeared on The Today Show and CNN to talk about her struggles with mental health.

Please email us at OpenMindFilmFest@gmail.com to ask any questions.

The Film Festival is scheduled for April 27, 2023. Selected films will be screened in a virtual format OR possibly at The James Bridges Theatre on the UCLA campus.

First Prize: $700
Second Prize: $500
Friends Choice Award: $300

Winners will be selected by a panel of judges which will include filmmakers and other respected individuals with an interest in filmmaking and mental health. These judges will be announced in fall 2022.


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

-Length of Film: 5 minutes maximum.

-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 information form.

-We will be accepting films until March 11, 2023. All qualified films will be viewed by a panel of judges.

-Finalists agree to have their films shown at the Open Mind Film Festival event and to have their content used in promotional materials for the festival.

-Finalist filmmakers will be asked to submit a Vimeo version of their film and to submit a very brief recorded video introduction to their film.

-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
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  • Verdult V

    Amazing festival that promotes a space for high schoolers to share their experiences with mental health. I am so grateful to have been selected for Open Mind’s Festival!

    May 2022
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    Response from festival:

    Thank you Winston. We were very happy to include Desired Reality!

  • Danielle Mannion

    This festival was extremely professional and powerful! This organization cares about students and that came accross in every communication from the staff. We are so grateful to have this real world application for our student's film.

    May 2022
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    Response from festival:

    Thank you Danielle, We were so pleased to include Life Support! We hope to see more films from your students for our Open Mind 2023.

  • Erin Kokdil

    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
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    Response from festival:

    Thank you Erin..We hope the Youth Media Academy will submit films for the 2022 Festival as well.