The Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest is dedicated to educating and illuminating young, creative and exemplary New Jersey filmmakers. Our aim is to provide a festival that offers professional pathways, diverse workshops, roundtables and development platforms for emerging filmmakers.

This year’s festival will take place in March throughout the Count Basie Center campus, including Basie Center Cinemas and The Vogel. Nominees, guests and educators will have an opportunity to visit beautiful downtown Red Bank while taking part in a full day of workshops, discussions and viewings. Nominees will be treated to a private lunch and learn with a special guest.

Trophies will be awarded in several acting, directing and other filmmaking categories.

In addition, an Audience Award will be given to the selection with the highest score. Votes will be collected at the Basie Center event on March 23rd, 2024.

Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest laurels will be awarded to all official selections.

Award categories may be updated at any time to reflect this year’s submissions.

Rules and Regulations

(1) Eligibility Requirements

- Films previously submitted to the Basie’s “PROJECT FX” or "Teen + College Film Festival" competitions are not eligible.
- Any film submitted must be made after January 1, 2023.
- At the time of submission, emerging filmmakers must be between the age of 11-25, and have proof of a residential mailing address in the state of New Jersey.
- Students may use any type of equipment to create their submission.
- Films may be no longer than 20 minutes, including credits, opening sequences, etc.
- Entrants may be asked to identify legal ownership of the film.
- Entrant confirms and warrants required legal authority to submit the entry into the festival, including usage of all music, images, and content contained therein.
- Only complete submissions will be considered. Each complete submission must be accompanied by the appropriate entry fee. Entry fees are not refundable. Fees cover registration, notification that your entry has been received, and notification of results. These fees may be paid by credit/debit card only.
- Films must be submitted via
- You may not use copyrighted music or video footage in your film. YouTube and Vimeo are becoming increasingly vigilant about this, and we cannot be responsible for films pulled down for copyright violations. If you require additional support in this area, please contact us at
- Upon acceptance, films must be provided as a .mp4 file for download.
- All films must not contain any form of nudity.
- All entries must be received by 11:59pm EST on 2/8/24.

If you require support with your submission fees:
If you are an elementary school student and require educational assistance:

- All entries must be received by 11:59pm EST on 3/23/24.

(2) Judging & Selection

- Submissions that do not meet the criteria will be automatically disqualified.
- All films will be vetted by a sub-committee of the Judging Panel. The top films in each category will be designated as “Official Selections.”
- In April 2024, the official selections of the festival will be revealed at, as well as the festival’s official Facebook page.
- A judging panel comprised of celebrities and film industry leaders will view the top films and assess.
- Judging will be based on a rubric that evaluates how a student utilizes the medium in a creative manner.
- The judges will take into account the storyline, cinematography, technical aspects, sound, and editing.

(1) You retain all ownership rights in your film. However, by submitting to the Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest, you hereby give the Count Basie Center and its panel of judges permission to view the film and format it for presentation and grant the same a nonexclusive right and license to use, modify, prepare derivative works of, reproduce, perform, distribute, transmit or otherwise display the film (including derivative works thereof) to the public, in all media formats and through all media channels including but not limited to film, video, television, Internet, and other electronic, broadcast and other media, now known or later developed, and to authorize others to do the same, provided the foregoing is in furtherance of the Festival’s non-profit, educational, or promotional purposes. The above licenses granted by you are perpetual, world-wide, royalty-free, non-terminable and irrevocable.

(2) In the event that Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest or the Count Basie Center for the Arts posts the film on its website, you understand that the Festival cannot guarantee that the film, if posted, will not be forwarded, used, modified and/or further distributed by third parties. The Festival and those it may authorize shall not be responsible for unauthorized duplications, modifications, distributions or use of the Film by third parties on the Internet or otherwise.

(3) You agree that the Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest and the Count Basie Center for the Arts and its designees shall have the right to use your name, likeness, and biography in connection with the Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest and in advertising, publicity and promotion related thereto.

(4) It is your responsibility to ensure that the necessary contracts or releases have been obtained from those individuals or entities whose, names, likenesses, trademarks, written materials, scripts, photographs, artworks, musical compositions, or similar materials or rights are used in connection with the film. Copies of such contracts or releases shall be provided to the Festival upon request. You agree that you will not submit your film unless you are the owner of all proprietary rights (such as copyrights, trademark rights, rights of privacy, rights of publicity, trade secret or other rights) in and to the film and all materials included in the film or unless you have written permissions from the rightful owners to use the film and all materials included in the film and to grant the licenses herein granted to the Festival to use the film and all materials included in the film.

(5) You represent and warrant that the film contains no libelous or unlawful material, contains no instructions that may cause harm or injury, and that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to use and to authorize the Festival to use all patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights in and to the Film and any and all material in the film, in the manner contemplated by this agreement. You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest, the Count Basie Center for the Arts, and its trustees, officers, directors, sublicensees, affiliates and all staff from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, costs and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) arising from: (a) your violation of this agreement, and (b) the violation of any third party rights, including but not limited to any copyrights, trademark rights, rights of privacy or publicity, trade secret or any other proprietary right, by your film. This obligation and the representations and warranties made by you in this agreement shall survive the expiration or termination of this agreement.

(6) The Count Basie Center BREAKTHROUGH Film Fest and the Count Basie Center for the Arts is under no obligation to exhibit or display any submission to the Festival. All decisions regarding the selection of films for the Festival and their subsequent display shall be at the discretion of the Festival organizers.

Overall Rating
  • Count Baise Film festival was amazing and I am proud to announce that I my film "ROCKIT" The Making of a Musician won Best High School Documentary.

    May 2023
  • Connor O'Keefe

    Not only did Count Basies Film festival open a world of connections through aspiring young filmmakers like myself, but also with Sony Classic Pictures and big names in the industry. Hearing feedback and constructive criticism was monumental from Tom Bernard and those who were on the panel this year. I highly suggest all highschool and college students enter this to give NJ the name it deserves in the Film Industry and also for broadening personal connections for your career! Thanks again to Jennifer Lee for also being very attentive and commutative throughout the entire process!

    July 2020
  • Maiah Riedel

    This was my first time at this film festival and I was blown away. As for being the first virtual festival, I think that it could not have been better. I did get lost a it when I was trying to view the winners, and I sent an e-mail that was responded to in no time. This was an awesome experience, despite it being online.

    May 2020