Submissions are now closed for Watersprite 2021!

IMPORTANT: You must fill out the ID submission form (which appears after you checkout, and is also sent to you in the "Checkout Success" email) as soon as you submit your film. Otherwise, your submission will be marked as incomplete.

Watersprite is looking for the world’s best short films in fiction, documentary and animation. For the past 11 years, Watersprite has received entries from 95 countries and provided a creative, inclusive space for the filmmakers of the next generation.

All filmmakers nominated for a Watersprite award are offered a free travel and accommodation bursary to fly to Cambridge and experience all that the festival has to offer. Please note, travel bursaries this year will be dependent on the Covid-19 situation, but we will endeavour to provide all nominees with bursaries as usual.

We offer a wide array of exciting awards across several technical and genre categories, which aim to provide long term career support, offering unique opportunities, such as working with respected industry professionals and getting access to the best equipment available. Watersprite goes beyond one-off cash prizes to instead provide you with real, practical opportunities to progress your career in the creative industries.

This year, Watersprite will take place from 5th to 7th March 2021. We will have a diverse offering of industry events, panel discussions, Q&A's, workshops and screenings, all of which are completely free of charge!

Our previous keynote speakers have included Academy Award and BAFTA winners, including Bill Nighy, David Yates, Olivia Coleman, Richard Curtis, Biyi Bandele, Finola Dwyer and Eddie Redmayne.

If you aren't eligible to submit a film, please sign up to be an online judge and have the chance to watch the best short student films from around the world.

FICTION - Fiction films often use a narrative to convey a story. They may be a drama or a comedy, or any other narrative subgenre. They involve real people and animals, rather than animated ones.
ANIMATION - Animated films involve a narrative in which more than 75% of the running time involves character and/or abstract animation. It may involve, although is by no means limited to, cel animation, stop motion, puppetry or CGI. Photorealistic animation is also considered as animation.
DOCUMENTARY - Documentaries are non-fiction films which concern real-life events, experiences and issues. They often are told in a journalistic style and express opinions or advance views on a particular subject.


FILM OF THE YEAR AWARD - This is awarded to one of the three Genre Award winners.
SOCIAL IMPACT AWARD - This is awarded to a film with a clear humanitarian subject matter, which can range from the local to the global and from the social to the environmental. The film should critically engage audiences, raise awareness of an issue and allow viewers to reflect on the importance and social impact of the topic that is presented, serving either as a call for change or a way of highlighting the details of a current problem. The film can be of any genre. The 2020 prize consisted of a meeting and development package with world-leading Harry Potter director David Yates.
CREATIVITY IN CRISIS AWARD - This celebrates the most imaginative and compelling short film inspired by, and produced during, the Coronavirus pandemic. This section concerns eligibility criteria and submission guidelines which are specific to this award. All Watersprite General Rules still apply.

Watersprite Mentorships are designed to develop the careers of under-represented filmmakers and address structural barriers to equality in the Screen Industries. The year-long mentorships partner the winning filmmakers with a specialized industry mentor and celebrate their talent alongside sustained Watersprite support and platforming. Mentorships are open to any filmmaker who identifies as belonging to a group, and filmmakers are welcome to apply to multiple mentorships. In 2021, we are holding three mentorship programmes:

The WOMENS MENTORSHIP - 1.1 People vulnerable to or with experience of sexism.
This mentorship is open to anyone who identifies as a woman / female. This includes but is not limited to cisgender women, trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are significantly female-identified.

The LGBTQI+ MENTORSHIP - 1.2 People who are disadvantaged or discriminated against on the basis of their sexual / romantic orientation or non-cisgender identity.
This includes but is not limited to individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender, Gender NonConforming, NonBinary and Intersex.

The FILMMAKERS OF COLOUR MENTORSHIP - 1.3 People who are vulnerable to or have experienced racism or disadvantage on the basis of their ethnicity.
This includes but is not limited to people of African or Caribbean heritage, people of South Asian heritage, people of Latin American heritage, people of East Asian and South East Asian heritage.

Please read the full Watersprite Guidelines at

1. General Information
1.1 Submissions via Private Link will open on the 22nd June 2020.
1.2 Public submissions open on 22nd July 2020.
1.3 Submissions will remain open until 23:59 GMT on 12th August 2020. We reserve the right to close the submission platform at an earlier date. We recommend submitting your film as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
1.4 The filmmakers themselves must submit their films, and not agents acting on their behalf. This is to avoid large numbers of bulk entries which can affect the entry distribution and the judging process.

2.1 All films must have a total running time of 23 minutes or less.
2.2 All films must either be in English, dubbed in English or subtitled in English.
2.3 All films must have completed production no earlier than January 2019.
2.4 We will accept a maximum of two films per entrant per year.
2.5 Films may only be submitted to Watersprite once. We will not consider films which have been amended from previous submissions.
2.6 All entrants must be at least 16 years of age at the time of the festival. Under 18s will need parental permission to attend.
2.7 For a film to be eligible for consideration, at least two out of the following three must have been students during film production: Director, Producer, Writer.
2.8 In order for a film to be eligible for a Watersprite technical award, the person responsible for that particular technical aspect of the film must have been a student during film production.
2.9 Watersprite defines 'student' as those who are in full or part-time education at any age or those who graduated no more than one year ago. Proof of student enrolment will be required at the submissions stage.
2.10 The exception to this rule is ‘Best Performance’, for which the actor must be an amateur in a student-directed film, and must not have an agent.

3. Submission Procedure
3.1 Submissions must be made online via upload onto Watersprite’s FilmFreeway page with all the required information.
3.2 All entrants must specify the year in which their film was made.
3.3 Entrants must submit their film to the most appropriate genre category. Entrants must only select one genre.
3.4 Entrants should select all categories on the submission form where a student was responsible for that particular technical aspect of the film.
3.5 In order to be eligible for the Best Screenplay category, you must upload a copy of the film’s screenplay in English when you submit your film. Upload the document to your submission’s “Files & Attachments” section of its FilmFreeway page.
3.6 In order to be eligible for the Original Film Music category, the film’s entire score must be original work by a student.
3.7 Only the film’s main actor may be considered for the Best Performance Award. Where a film has two protagonists with equal screen time, please select which actor you wish to nominate.
3.8 After submission, entrants must provide photographic proof that those who were responsible for their respective technical awards were students at the time of film production. The entrant must upload this proof via the Google form which appears immediately after you have submitted your film. The link to the Google form is also emailed to the entrant in the email entitled "Checkout Success". Valid forms of student identification are: student card, a copy of a student finance bill, or a letter from the university/institution.
3.9 After submission, there is an option for entrants to apply for a Mentorship Programme. If you wish to apply, please read the Mentorship Programme section below.
3.10 Film must be submitted in the correct format. Films which do not correspond to the required format will not be considered.
3.11 Entrants will be asked to upload a copy of the film’s poster onto the project page on FilmFreeway, if available. While not necessary during submissions, a poster will be required immediately if your film is selected for the shortlists. The festival will use this for marketing purposes.
3.12 Entries which do not comply with the Watersprite guidelines may be at risk of disqualification

4. Judging
4.1 Upon submission, every film will be reviewed by the Watersprite Committee for eligibility.
4.2 The Watersprite Committee may re-categorise the submitted film into a more suitable Genre category.
4.3 Films will be considered according to the following criteria: excellence in executing its creative function.
4.4 Every eligible film will automatically be considered for the Watersprite Film of the Year and the Watersprite Social Impact Award.
4.5 Wherever the person responsible for a film’s particular technical aspect was a student, that person will automatically be considered for a technical award.
4.6 Some genre films cannot be considered for certain technical awards: Documentaries cannot considered for Best Performance or Best Screenplay; Animations cannot be considered for the Best Performance category.
4.7 Four nominees will be chosen for each award. From these four nominees, one winner will be selected. If your film is nominated, a member of your team is expected to attend the Awards Ceremony on 6th March 2021. If the 2021 festival does go ahead in Cambridge, Watersprite will endeavour to contribute to the travel, visa and accommodation costs of all nominees; however, we are not obligated to do so. In the event that the festival does not take place in Cambridge due to COVID-19, Watersprite will organise a suitable alternative Awards Ceremony and festival.

5. Mentorships
5.1 We hold three mentorship programmes:
5.1.1 The WOMEN AND NON-BINARY MENTORSHIP - for filmmakers who identify as women, non-binary, genderqueer, and/or gender nonconforming.
5.1.2 The LGBTQ+ MENTORSHIP - for filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.
5.1.3 The FILMMAKERS OF COLOUR MENTORSHIP - for filmmakers who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or People of Colour).
5.2 Only the Director, Producer or Writer may be considered for a Mentorship. The applicant must have been a student during film production.
5.3 Applicants must identify with one of these groups. Nominations are announced publicly, so please consider whether you are happy to openly identify when applying for the mentorship. If you would like to discuss this further, please get in contact with us.
5.4 The applicant’s film submission does not need to concern the themes of the Mentorship. For example, an applicant for the LGBTQ+ Mentorship does not need to feature LGBTQ+ stories, people or issues within their film.
5.5 An applicant may apply for more than one Mentorship Programme. However, an applicant will only be nominated for one Mentorship Programme.
5.6 We will accept multiple applicants per film. However, the Mentorship will only be awarded to one person.

6. Creativity in Crisis Award
6.1 The film does not need to be explicitly about COVID-19, but the film must be inspired in some way by the events of the global pandemic, its aftermath or your experience of containment measurement. We understand and welcome that everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been different, and governments’ measures on public life have varied all over the world.
6.2 The film must have been shot and edited after the 11th March 2020, the date when the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Films shot before this date will not be considered.
6.3 The film can be a collaborative effort, although film production should follow the advice of public health authorities and should adhere to containment measures, if any, in your country. Any films found to have broken containment measures will be disqualified.
6.4 The film can take any form: fiction, animation and documentary, music video or experimental film.
6.5 You must enter your film for the Creativity in Crisis award on the submission page. Your film may also be considered for Watersprite’s Genre and Technical Award categories, provided that the film meets those categories’ eligibility criteria. In this case, you must submit your film to both the Creativity in Crisis Award category and a Genre category.
6.6 The entrant must upload a production diary to the “Files & Attachments” section of their submission’s FilmFreeway page, marking the dates of filming in bullet points and any reflections or highlights of particular days’ (or hours) during the filming and editing process. If you have not already written a production diary, you may find a template on our website at .

7. Recommended Upload Format
7.1 Your video file may not exceed 10GB.
7.2 You are not required to provide a screening quality copy of your film at this stage, as films will initially be judged online. By accepting Watersprite's terms and conditions on the Online Submissions form, entrants agree to provide a screening-quality DVD if they are nominated.
7.3 Video
7.3.1 Codec: H.264
(sometimes referred to as MP4). A codec is the format in which your video will be encoded. Different codecs have different features and varying quality.
7.3.2 Frame Rate: 24, 25 or 30 FPS. If you know at which frame rate you shot, it is best to encode at that same frame rate. If you are uncertain at which frame rate you shot, please set to either "Current" or 25 FPS. If there is an option for keyframes, use the same value as you used for the frame rate.
7.3.3 Data Rate: 2000 Kbps (SD), 10,000-20,000 Kbps (HD). This setting controls both the visual quality of the video and the file size. In most video editors, this is done in terms of kilobits per second (Kbps). Use 2000 Kbps for standard definition or 5000 Kbps for high definition.
7.3.4 Resolution: 720x576 (4:3 SD video), 1280x720 (HD), 1920x1080 (HD)

. If you have the option to control the pixel aspect ratio (not the display aspect ratio) make sure it is set to "1:1" or "1.00", sometimes referred to as "square pixels".
7.4 Field Order
7.4.1 If you are shooting on an older camera, enable this option. Otherwise, you may get bizarre horizontal lines appearing in your video.
7.4.2 With newer camera models this will not matter, so this option can be left unchecked. (Use progressive).
7.5 Audio
7.5.1 Codec: AAC (Advanced Audio Codec)
7.5.2 Data Rate: 256 Kbps
7.5.3 Sample rate: 44.1 kHz
7.6 Recommended free converters: MPEG Streamclip (Mac & PC), Handbrake (Mac & PC)

Overall Rating
  • Matisse Gonzalez

    Amazing festival. I was able to meet lots of people and make friends even thought everything was online. Also, the film selection was impressive. Such great quality

    March 2021
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Matisse! 💖 So pleased you made some good connections and it was lovely to meet you! Wishing you all the best with Gravedad and beyond.

  • Joe Chen

    An extremely warm and friendly student festival in Cambridge! The events are inspiring, and the programmers are considerate. Thanks for nominating me and my film as one of the LGBTQ mentorships. It is a great festival that spreads the diverse voice to a significant amount of audiences, always trying to give more opportunities to young filmmakers. They also have follow-ups even after the event to get us, creators, more possibilities. Can't love them more.❤️

    April 2020
    Response from festival:

    Joe - thank you SO much for this amazing and thoughtful review. We can't love The Mother more ❤️

  • The most generous festival and with the kindest and most generous organizers. A unique opportunity for any film student!

    April 2020
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Frida! What a joy to see you win the LGBTQ+ mentorship and share your words with Watersprite audiences. Hope to see you again soon.

  • sean Stone

    Extremely well-managed festival in the beautiful city of Cambridge. The accommodation is top-notch, Beautiful breakfasts and dinners provided. As well as the awards ceremony was beyond expectation. Being a student filmmaker myself It was amazing to To get to know student filmmakers from around the world. Cannot recommend it highly enough. I'd like to say big thank you to all the staff who the majority of students. themselves! This was a highlight of my year.

    April 2020
    Response from festival:

    Woah, thank you so much Sean! We can't recommend Only Looking Forward more so snap. It's great to know how much you appreciated the festival and we're beyond glad it was a highlight of your year.

  • Absolutely amazing festival; the support it offers student filmmakers is unparalleled. The weekend is packed with brilliant events, and being there with loads of the other filmmakers is so lovely!

    April 2020
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Louis! It was amazing to have you and so glad you enjoyed it. Look forward to seeing what's next!