Paonia Film Festival is a biennial event hosted by Historic Paradise Theatre in Paonia Colorado. The Paonia Film Festival spotlights community, with an emphasis on small towns and the empowerment of storytellers.

To us, success means honest voices, a wide spectrum of perspectives, impeccable and accessible hosting, and opportunities for filmmakers to learn more. We hope that the folks submitting to the Paonia Film festival take the time to highlight their own small towns and communities that have a strong sense of identity. We understand that community can mean many different things in our base of the western United States - a place that has wide open spaces, small rural towns, neighborhoods in cities, reservations, off-grid living, and every iteration of ‘community.’ We want to hear from you all.

Whether gritty or glossy, we're looking for nuanced stories from or about overlooked or unknown communities that revolve around themes of inclusivity, exclusivity, growth, and regression.

This festival aims to celebrate emerging filmmakers throughout the Continental Western US and in the Western Slope of Colorado. It is organized in two-tiers to allow competition between filmmakers within the Continental Western US [Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California], and filmmakers local to the Western Slope [Telluride, Crested Butte, Aspen/Snowmass, Glenwood Springs/Rifle, Vail, Durango, Grand Junction/Palisade, Delta, Hotchkiss/Paonia, etc.]

Western US Tier selected films will premiere November 6, 2021 and Local Tier selected films will premiere November 7, 2021 at Paradise Theatre in Paonia, Colorado.

Like us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all things PFF, including our series of free online workshops for filmmakers by filmmakers on an array of topics, now through April 8. Workshop educators include director Bishal Dutta (Life in Color, 2017) and editor Davis Coombe (The Social Dilemma, 2020 and Chasing Coral, 2017).

PRIZES | Decided by Local Judge Panel

Western US Tier
Best Short Documentary - $900
Best Short Film - $900
Best Music Video - $500

Local Tier
Best Short Documentary - $500
Best Short Film - $500
Best Music Video - $400

Western US & Local Tiers
Best Young Filmmaker [<18] - $300

To acquire our grading rubric send an email to with your location, working film title, and subject of your film.

AWARDS | Audience Choice

Best Director
Best Original Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Horror/SciFi
Best Drama
Best Lead Actor
Best Experimental
Best Animation

1. To be considered for this festival your film must be about community in some way, shape, or form. Email for questions and clarification.
2. Director(s)/Producer(s) submitting on the Local Tier must have Western Slope residence.
3. Director(s)/Producer(s) submitting on the Continental Western US Tier must have Continental Western US residence.
4. Western Slope filmmakers may choose to submit on the Local Tier and Western US Tier, but they cannot submit the same film to both Tiers.
5. Total run time must be 25 minutes or less, including credits, for films submitted to all Categories excluding Music Video, which must be 10 minutes or less.
6. You are responsible for gaining permissions for use of any copyrighted images or sound.
7. Submitted films must have been completed in or after 2018.
8. Entry fees are nonrefundable.
9. Films that do not match the Category submitted will not be considered.
10. Films produced in languages other than English must have legible English subtitles.
11. Paonia Film Festival reserves the right to make any necessary changes in regulations, Festival scheduling, or format; including the right to make the entire event virtual.
12. Our FINAL submission deadline is June 20 by 11:59PM MT.
13. Selected submissions can be edited up till August, so long as edits remain primarily technical and the films central ideas/narrative have not been dramatically altered. Please email us to let us know you're submitting a draft.

Overall Rating
  • Great festival in a small Colorado mountain town! I enjoyed the opening night party and events, which lead to making new friends and a collaboration in the future. The Paradise theater is historic, so it's got a lot of personality.

    March 2022
  • We screened our film High Country at the Paonia Film Festival and though we weren't able to attend in person, we had a really great virtual screening experience at the festival. The communication was great and really enjoyed working with the staff. Would highly recommend in the future.

    January 2022
  • Yuri Chicovsky

    I attended all three days with my team. It was the best festival experience we've ever had! The selections and curation were outstanding, and best of all everyone was made to feel welcome and integral. Our film, "Jacket," won two audience awards for short documentary, and we met several filmmakers who have become friends and collaborators. Great for community-building, superb for art's sake. What a wonderful festival!

    December 2021
  • Jack Cosgriff

    Sad I wasn't able to make it :(

    I ended up winning an Award to my surprise! Amazing communication from the festival. Everyone was very kind. I also got an amazing package in the mail from the festival that
    I really appreciated. Will definitely be submitting and attending in the future!

    December 2021
  • What a great experience with Paonia. Happy to be well received but even happier to say that even though I was not able to attend in person, I was made to feel part of the festival at every moment. I've already met friends and colleagues through Paonia and look forward to being there in person with another film soon.

    December 2021