Call For Entries: SDFF 2023

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is a bridge for independent non-fiction filmmakers to reach their audience. From its beginning in 2007, each film programmed for SDFF is a signature of excellence in craft, character and storytelling. We are driven by an immense curiosity to learn and understand the complexity of human experience and the planet upon which we depend for our existence.

SDFF 2023 will be in person and online. The entire program will have theatrical screenings March 16-19. Additionally, a curated selection of those films stream March 20-26.

Over 90% of films programmed for Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival enter through this open Call for Entries. The other 10% may include Distributor suggestions and those films curated for specific spotlight or Conversation sessions.

Within its overall programming SDFF encourages Environmentalism, Journalism, Arts, LGBTQI+ and Social Justice topics. We also encourage documentaries that use animation, hybrid, non-traditional and innovative styles for visual storytelling.

Throughout our history we have programmed films that go on to be Oscar® contenders, BAFTA, Peabody and Pulitzer Prize recipients along with premieres and other notable favorites from the festival circuit.

SDFF is an Academy Award® qualifying festival for the Documentary Short Subject category. Recipients of the SDFF Jury Awards for Short Subject and Mini-Doc are eligible for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Academy Awards® the following year.

Sebastopol is in Sonoma County, California. On a good traffic day, we’re only an hour north of San Francisco. We are a mix of small-town folk, organic farmers, prize-winning vintners, musicians, environmentalists, old hippies and more artists per acre than we can count. We’re curious, engaged, opinionated and welcoming to all. Come join us in continuing the ageless tradition of storytelling circles.

Awards & Prizes
Jury Award Feature: $1,000 - 40 minutes & over
Jury Award Short: $750 - 10-39 minutes
Jury Award Mini-Doc: $750 - Under 10 minutes
Audience Award: TBD - Feature
Audience Award: TBD - Short

All films selected for SDFF 2023 are considered eligible for competition except those titles curated and invited for special programs.

Submission Requirements:

Submission fees are non-refundable. We are sensitive to this issue and keep our fees low. They offset a portion of our administrative costs in bringing you and your audience together.

Passwords must not be changed until the Festival closes all in-person and streamed programs.
We do not accept rough cuts, subsequent cuts or more complete versions of submitted films, therefore changing or updating the originally submitted link is not permitted.

Each accepted film may be screened more than once during the Festival. Programming is at the discretion of SDFF.

Films of any completion date are eligible for submission. However, accepted films must not have been shown commercially anywhere in Northern California* within 60 days prior to the festival.
*Excludes films curated for special programs

Exhibition Formats:
SDFF has multiple screening venues in Sebastopol. Some require DCP; others do not use DCPs . You will be informed of the required screening format when the program is locked.

Foreign language films must be made available with English subtitles.

By entering your film, you agree to provide compatible exhibition format(s) at least 40 days before the start date of the festival to give SDFF print traffic manager time to QC your doc.
Before sending your media, please verify that your film plays correctly. Do not include menus, trailers and other special features.

Most films can be delivered via digital transfer. You can also ship your film file to us on hard drive/flash drive. SDFF will not pay shipping costs to or from the festival. If you want any materials returned or shipped on to another address, please provide postage with your addressed shipping container. The title of your film must be on all shipping materials.


Each entry needs to include the following contact information:
➦ Director: Full name, email address, phone number, postal mailing address
➦ Rights Holder [if different]: company name; contact name, email address, phone number, postal mailing address
➦ Distributor Contact: company name, contact name, email address, department, phone number, postal mailing address.

You are responsible for updating SDFF directly regarding any change to your contact information and ensuring that emails from or FilmFreeway are not blocked by spam filters.

All deadlines are firm.

Filmmaker Agreement to Terms of Entry:
By submitting this documentary, Filmmakers understand that they agree to the following:

Filmmakers have ownership or control of the copyright and are duly authorized to submit this film to Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival 2023.

Should ownership or rights to my film change, this agreement to screen at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival 2023, will be honored, upheld and not be infringed.

If accepted, Filmmakers will not withdraw the film(s) from SDFF 2023. Upon selection for screening at SDFF 2023 up to two minutes of footage from each film and materials accompanying selected entry(ies) may be used for promotional purposes.

NOTIFICATION DATE: November 17, 2022
March 16 – 19, 2023 In-Person Theatrical Screenings
March 20 - 26, 2023 Streamed Selections from Theatrical Program

Overall Rating
  • Andrew Leung

    Welcoming community that was absolutely wonderful

    May 2022
  • The women who run this festival are amazing and go all out for the filmmakers. My film The Art of Un-War was well taken care of and well received. The selections of films are a great blend of local, nationally and internationally. They take over the main cinema of the town and the auditoriums in the art center. This is a small but well respected festival. Try to get in or attend if you can.

    May 2022
  • It's a lovely festival in a lovely place with with lovely people. I was honored to have my film, "Cirque du Cambodia" on the big screen at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts with a very engaged audience, and I saw some really interesting films I would likely have no idea about and that are better to see in a cinema. I would have liked if there were more events to meet the other filmmakers, but with Covid fears, I understand the limits. I got a chance to meet some great people on the last day at the breakfast and happy hour and thanks again for the honor of selecting my film!

    April 2022
  • Mimi Chakarova

    This was one of the best experiences I've had as a filmmaker. The staff at SDFF is beyond wonderful. After two years of virtual events and screenings, our Q&A at Sebastopol was the first in-person event to attend and I'm so glad it was at this special venue!

    April 2022
  • Will Kim

    I have had some of the best film festivals experiences at SDFF. The program organization is tops and all organizers, staffs, and the filmmakers were super friendly. The film quality was beyond excellent and inspiring. Such an honor to have been selected this year and definitely plan to submit my film again in the future.

    April 2022