The Understory Film Festival is for local, independent, student, emerging and professional filmmakers in the North Queensland region.

Residents from Townsville to Cairns, across Cape York, the Gulf of Carpentaria region and the Torres Strait Islands are eligible to enter. Entry is free.

Entrants are invited to submit a short film under 8 minutes including credits. There is no minimum duration.

The competition culminates in an open air screening and awards night in the lush Munro Martin Parklands.

Best Film Award
Best High School Student Award
Best Emerging Filmmaker Award
Best Animation Award
Best Experimental Film Award
Best Music Video Award (only music videos for original compositions are eligible)
Best Documentary Award
Best Fiction Film Award
People's Choice Award (voted by the public on the screening night)

* Notes about the awards and prizes
A panel of film buffs and industry professionals will be engaged to judge the films.
Whilst Understory Film Festival accepts films of all genres, this does not mean each genre will attract an award.


a. Submissions are welcome from any filmmaker (Director, Producer, Writer or other key creative) from North Queensland. If you have recently moved from the region you may still qualify.

b. Understory will accept up to three entries per filmmaker only. If you have multiple films, please select your final film three carefully.

c. The duration of your film must be 8 minutes or less, including credits. There is no minimum duration, the film can be as short as you like.

d. The Understory Film Festival will only accept local films created in the past two years.

e. It is free to enter the Understory Film Festival.

f. There is no payment offered to the applicant for submitting your film. There can be no claim for compensation or payment in any form.

g. All submissions are final and will be used for both judging and screening. You cannot apply and then submit a final for screening.

h. Please provide 3 x landscape stills at 300 dpi, 1920 pixels wide x 1080 pixels high for publicity use with your application.


a. Applications close at 4pm Monday 11 October 2021.

b. If you are applying in the High School Category your film must be submitted via a Teacher Liaison or Head of Department, at your school by Thursday 7 October. The nominated Teacher Liaison or Head of Department at your school will then ensure all student applications are sent to the Understory Film Festival by 4pm Monday 11 October.
Please Note: Late applications will not be accepted.


a. Films of all genres will be accepted and we welcome first time filmmakers. You are encouraged to explore your own stories, culture and issues which affect you. Your film can be any style including animation, documentary, drama, music video, experimental, etc.

b. Whilst Understory accepts films of all genres, this does not mean each genre will attract an award.


a. The rating must pass G, PG or M guidelines. Understory will arrange exemption of classification for the screening. See for rating guidelines or contact for more information.


a. Music used within the film must abide by all copyright laws. You must guarantee that all rights have been granted for the use of music within your film. Refer to Australian Performing Rights Association:


a. The Producer grants a non-exclusive license, throughout the world indefinitely, to Cairns Regional Council to allow to show the film to the public by any means including, but not limited to, the internet, cable, satellite, and by any media yet to be devised for the purposes of promoting Understory Film Festival only including future publicity of the festival. The rights described in this agreement are granted to commence immediately upon submission of content to and continue indefinitely. However the Producer may write to Council at any time and request termination of the non-exclusive license, whereupon Council will remove your content from Council’s video hosting account and all associated distribution within 90 days.


a. The Producer warrants to Cairns Regional Council that he/she has obtained all the necessary permissions/talent releases and that the film does not infringe the rights including copyright of any third party.


a. A panel of film buffs and industry professionals will be engaged to judge the films.

b. Whilst Understory Film Festival accepts films of all genres, this does not mean each genre will attract an award.


a. All film entries must meet the judging criteria set out below.
i. Films must contain appropriate content
ii. Films must not breach any copyright laws
iii. Technical quality must be to an adequate screening presentation standard

b. If your film is deemed not to meet the judging criteria you will be notified and your submission will be returned.

a. Not all film entries will be shown at the Understory Film Festival event. Screening time is limited to approximately 90 minutes.

a. Shortlisted entries will be announced on Thursday 4 November 2021. Please see

b. Shortlisted entries will be screened at Munro Martin Parklands Saturday 20 November 2021. Winners will be announced after the screening. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

c. Films that are shortlisted will give Cultural Services non-exclusive rights for up to six screenings of their films at their events throughout the following year, including Cairns Festival.

If you have any questions please phone (07) 4032 6656 or email


1.1 The filmmaker allows Council to utilise segments of their film for the creation of teaser trailers for the promotion of the festival.

1.2 Understory will not be responsible for lost, damaged, misdirected, unusable or unreadable content.

1.3 In regards to intellectual property, you are fully responsible for the clearance of any music, sound, images or graphics contained in your entry. If any record company or music publisher contacts us about an entry’s music rights, we will refer that company to you so be sure to obtain all the appropriate clearances beforehand.

1.4 Understory retains the right to accept only the entries that abide to the guidelines set down in this document.

1.5 Major award winners will allow non-exclusive rights for up to six screenings of the winning films at Cultural Services’ events throughout the following year including Cairns Festival.

I, the Producer, understand and agree to the Understory Film Festival Guidelines and Terms and Conditions of entry as outlined above. I also understand that the judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. I acknowledge that there can be no claim for compensation or payment in any form in future relation to the above stated use, or any associated therewith. Cairns Regional Council may exhibit your film in whole or in part without restrictions or limitation for any Understory Film Festival screening or promotional purposes for Cairns Regional Council, and those acting pursuant to its authority, deem appropriate.