The South Dakota Film Festival, September 14-17, 2023, is a filmmaker-friendly festival with a casual vibe and big-name attendees such as Kevin Costner, Graham Greene, Adam Greenberg, Molly Ringwald, Cary Elwes, Doug Jones, Anthony Michael Hall, Stephen Tobolowsky, Lisa Ann Walter, and Hawk Koch. Located in Aberdeen, South Dakota with jet service to Minneapolis or a scenic drive from anywhere, the SDFF is the premier film festival in South Dakota and the region. Past premiere screenings have included "Into the Wild," and past films shown have received national critical acclaim, including Oscar nominated short films "Miracle Fish" and "Weekends." While the festival emphasizes films from the Great Plains, it aims to screen the best films submitted regardless of their origin.

The South Dakota Film Festival gives awards in all categories each year—including jury awards. Some examples are Best Comedy Short, Best Cinematography, Best Regional Film, among many others.

Films to be screened in person at the festival September 14-17, 2023. You will be notified as soon as we know. Though we are hopeful we can be in person again!

Films must be submitted through No physical media, including DVD and Blu-ray, will be accepted as submission copies. If the filmmaker's work is selected, an approved exhibition copy must be provided.

By submitting an entry or entries, you agree to the Official Entry Rules and acknowledge that the decisions of the adjudicators shall be binding and final.

To Enter: All entries in the "shorts" category can be a maximum length of forty (40) minutes to qualify. Entries submitted to the "features" category will be at least forty-one (41) minutes in length. Upon becoming an "Official Selection," promotional material will be requested—including, but not limited to trailers, press kit, photos, personal bios, bonus material—for promotional use on our website. Any entry in a foreign language must be dubbed or subtitled in English. Each entry must also be accompanied by a non-refundable entry fee in US dollars.

The South Dakota Film Festival, its affiliates, employees, officers, directors, licensees, and assignees will not be responsible for late, lost, incomplete, illegible, damaged, garbled, technically corrupt, postage-due, or misdirected entries.

Eligibility: The Competition is open to individuals who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, or, if under the age of eighteen (18), entries must be accompanied by written parental consent. The South Dakota Film Festival reserves the right to verify and confirm such consent and disqualify any entrant under eighteen (18) without valid consent.

By entering this Competition all entrants grant to the South Dakota Film Festival the unrestricted right to use their respective names, photographs, likenesses, voices, and/or biographical information for South Dakota Film Festival programming, publication, publicity, advertising, and all other promotional purposes without compensation, review, or approval unless prohibited by law. All federal, state, local, and international laws and regulations apply.

Additional Entry Regulations: Each entrant represents and warrants to the South Dakota Film Festival that his or her entry is (i) completely the original work of the entrant(s), (ii) not copied from any other source or currently contracted or distributed, disseminated in any media or format (except for previous broadcast on campus television or limited Internet broadcast on a website controlled and maintained solely by the entrant), (iii) not in the public domain, and (iv) not in violation of or conflict with the trademark, copyright, rights of privacy, rights of publicity or any other rights, of any kind or nature, of any other person or entity. If the South Dakota Film Festival, in its sole discretion, has reason to believe that any entry contains any material that may infringe or violate any law or any rights of a third party, South Dakota Film Festival may immediately disqualify such entry and take all other measures South Dakota Film Festival may deem appropriate. Entries that contain any content determined by South Dakota Film Festival in its sole discretion as indecent, inappropriate, morally objectionable, or otherwise unfit for dissemination or broadcast will be immediately disqualified. Entries not meeting stated running time requirements will be disqualified. Entries not satisfying these Official Entry Rules in any respect will be disqualified. Each entrant further agrees to sign and to obtain (at the entrant's expense) from all necessary third parties, all releases, permissions and other written documents, in a form acceptable to South Dakota Film Festival, as may be required by the South Dakota Film Festival and any of its affiliates or sponsors upon request so as to confirm, record, and/or protect their rights in the entry. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, each entrant acknowledges and agrees that upon the South Dakota Film Festival's request, he or she shall provide to the South Dakota Film Festival all necessary written releases and permissions pertaining to on-camera talent, writers, composers, and any other third parties providing any services or materials in connection with such entrant's entry to the Competition.

Each entrant further acknowledges that the South Dakota Film Festival and its affiliates, employees, officers, directors, licensees, assigns, and sponsors (collectively the "Designated Entities") may engage and have engaged in extensive activities in connection with developing, writing, acquiring, publishing, disseminating and broadcasting literary, artistic, and other material, including stories, ideas, themes, plots, titles, screenplays, teleplays, treatments, formats, and concepts (collectively, the "Materials"). In submitting an entry to South Dakota Film Festival, each entrant acknowledges and understands that any materials that the Designated Entities may hereinafter use or exploit may have originated with the Designated Entities themselves or may have been acquired from the Designated Entities' employees or other parties, and that such Materials may duplicate, parallel or resemble the entrant's entry to the Competition.

By submitting an entry, entrants acknowledge that they understand and agree that the Designated Entities' use of Materials containing features and elements similar to or identical with those contained in their entry shall not entitle the entrant to any compensation whatsoever. As an inducement to South Dakota Film Festival to accept the entrant's entry into the Competition, each entrant hereby waives any claim or right of action against any of the Designated Entities or their successors in connection with the Designated Entities' use of any Materials (or any portions thereof) whether or not such Materials contain any features or elements similar or identical to those contained in an entrant's entry.

Judging: The official judging panel, consisting of individuals selected by the South Dakota Film Festival, at its sole discretion, will make a number of official selections (the "Official Selections") from all eligible entries received. From these official selections, winner(s) may be selected and announced at an awards ceremony (or online). The judging may be based on the following criteria: (i) originality and creativity; (ii) overall quality of all elements and aspects of the production of each entry, including, without limitation, writing, acting, directing, editing, etc.; and (iii) adherence to and appropriateness for a particular format or type of program. An interview with the entrant, conducted at the sole discretion of the judges, may also be required prior to the judges' decision. The judging will be conducted in mid-July. At that time, the selected entrants may be required to submit requested information, including but not limited to additional releases and permissions from necessary parties, to assist in the judges' due diligence research. The selected entrants will be notified by telephone and/or e-mail. South Dakota Film Festival shall not be responsible in any way for any missed, lost, or misdirected notification or an entrant's failure to receive a communication from South Dakota Film Festival.

Award Categories: The South Dakota Film Festival reserves the right to award a number of competitive prizes and/or awards, in categories selected by the South Dakota Film Festival in its sole discretion, as it may deem appropriate.

Overall Rating
  • Jamey Hastings

    I had an absolutely wonderful time at South Dakota Film Festival. The festival team is welcoming, fun, and took such amazing care of filmmakers during our time in Aberdeen. The theater is beautiful, and the quality of films in the festival is top notch! I had a blast and would recommend this festival to anyone! I hope I get to come back soon.

    October 2023
  • A great festival! So thankful our short was among some amazing films. We are truly honored.

    Kyle vs Karen - Short Film

    September 2023
  • So much fun to be in the Capitol Theatre! A great film line-up and impressed by the number of filmmakers who came.

    September 2023
  • We were very excited that Raven was selected for short animation film category. I highly recommend the "South Dakota film festival". Great organizers and fast responses.

    September 2023
  • This was such a blast of an experience. First off, every volunteer did their best to make you feel welcome. They were happy to talk, and it really felt like everyone knew who you were. They had seen your film and had informed questions, which I really appreciate.

    On top of that, the theater itself is a treat. The main room has an amazing big screen, and their sound setup worked great too. The flow of presentations was excellent, with filmmakers having the ability to answer Q&A after their film showed.

    The VIP Room had delightful catering, generous beverages, and good company. It was also cool to do a livestream interview with a volunteer, to help generate buzz about my film.

    And the best part: the Retrocade Arcade. The after party gave VIP's the ability for unlimited plays at the arcade, and this site was a treat.

    Communication from the festival director was on point. He had an amazing spreadsheet with a list of deliverables. They customized their website amazingly, and made good use of the promotional materials. It's a small thing, but them uploading the trailers to their social channels is really great for promoting the show!

    And I am so jealous I didn't win an award, because the custom trophies they hand out are so cool looking.

    I feel pressure to make a better film, so I can get selected again next year.

    September 2023