The Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival was founded by award-winning Bay Area filmmakers, actors, critics, artists and cinephiles to catch the independent films that fall through the cracks and end up... underground. In 10 years it has evolved into one of the biggest (if not the biggest) underground film festivals in the world by volume, with over 200 official feature and short film selections most years.

Although we are “underground,” that has more to do with the “underground” nature of the filmmaking (low budget, independent) than genre. We showcase dramas, comedies, action, adventure, crime, musicals, horror, sci-fi, thrillers, fantasies, mysteries, romances, animation, children’s, religious, lgbt, foreign, documentaries, experimental – basically anything, and it doesn’t have to bizarre or on the fringe, though we definitely delight in those.

We do love our crazy home state with all of its rogue pythons, sequenced hurricanes and face eaters, but we have plenty of slots for films from beyond the Sunshine and from around the world, plus other worlds and worlds that don’t even exist – just as long as it’s interesting and innovative. In addition to many Floridians, New Yorkers, Californians and Canadians, we've had filmmakers attending from as far away as Mexico, Ireland, Poland, England and Japan.

Most past attendees declared that the awards ceremony was the highlight, as we played clips of all nominees in each of the 28 categories in televised awards show style, and not just any random clip, but clips highlighting why each film or performance was nominated for that particular category. Yes, a lot of hard work, but more entertaining than most film festival award ceremonies featuring just names of films many audience members didn't see and so was well worth the response. One filmmaker pointed out that it was almost the equivalent of getting an additional showing in front of a sold out large auditorium. We also had winners unable to attend (which were just a handful) send in an acceptance video that we played after announcing them as winners at the ceremony. And there was an Awards Party following the ceremony at a nearby upscale restaurant, among other parties. Please see the TBUFF site for pictures from the awards ceremony/party and nominees/winners.

TBUFF is an all-genre festival and plays both shorts and features, including narratives and documentaries. Film selection is by nature a subjective process so it’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what we’re looking for – it’s just like Potter Stewart said, we’ll know it when we see it.

In 2022, we gave out 28 awards at our Academy-like ceremony , including Best Feature, Best Short, Best Director, Best Documentary, Student Film, Leading and Supporting Actor and Actress, several different genres including comedy, horror and sci-fi/fantasy, technical categories, audience awards for both short and feature, and of course, Best Florida Film.

1. We accept works in progress, but they must be at a stage such that we can see its potential, and we reserve the right to reject a selection if the film is not in a polished format by the time the schedule is released.

2. Non-English language films are accepted but the submission and exhibition versions must have English subtitles.

3. Entries will only be returned if an appropriately self-addressed stamped mailer is included with the submission, and TBUFF is not responsible for any damages to submitted materials.

4. Filmmakers must have all rights to all material contained within their submitted films, including music.

5. Each film submitted requires a separate submission fee; there is no limit to the number of films one individual may submit for consideration in any year.

6. If your film is selected for TBUFF exhibition, you will receive free festival passes as well as some tickets to your own showing, but with rare exception, the festival will not cover your travel or lodging costs. You do not have to present to win awards.

7. If your film is selected, short video snippets and stills from the film, along with any other promotional materials provided, might be used to market the festival.

8. TBUFF reserves the right to disqualify any film submitted through these websites without refund of any application fees.

9. Multiple versions of the same film will not be considered.

10. If TBUFF cannot get your film submission to play, we will attempt to contact the applicant for a replacement but if a replacement cannot be delivered to TBUFF before the final deadline, TBUFF can disqualify the entry and is under no obligation to return the submission fee.

11. TBUFF reserves the right to disqualify any film for non-payment of the submission fee or for not meeting any of the stated rules on this page or other TBUFF pages on this website.

12. TBUFF is under no obligation to provide comments regarding submitted films -- all decisions about film festival selections and scheduling are final.

13. By clicking here the submitter acknowledges and agree that to the best of his/her ability that he/she is duly authorized to submit this film to the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival and holds all rights within the film, and will allow the film to be exhibited at TBUFF and its promotional materials to be used for marketing the 2020 festival.

Overall Rating
  • Denise Fairbanks Simpson

    Festival was ok. I was only able to attend for 1.5 days. The first day I was there (Friday) was not well attended, I felt kind of bad for artists whose films were shown on that day. I saw some really great films with very few people in the audience. Saturday had more people.

    March 2023
  • Always a lot of fun. 2022 was the 8th year in a row that a film I've directed has been represented at TBUFF. Looking forward to year 10!

    January 2023
  • Thank you so much for having our film "SECOND GEN" be a part of this amazing festival, bringing these films to audiences.

    January 2023
  • Christopher Leto

    Amazing event as always! Great films and great people!

    December 2022
  • Bill Badi

    TBUFF truly appreciates small, independent cinema, and has done a wonderful job of creating community that celebrates low budget filmmaking. They're the real deal. This year, I travelled from South Africa to attend. I'd love to attend again. Great festival.

    December 2022