We want better. Better cities, towns and neighborhoods. So we launched a film festival.

Better Cities Film Festival collects, curates and presents the very best films on the theme of making better cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

We honor the top films and filmmakers with awards. (And applause!) And we screen those films to a vast audience around the world through our flagship event (a four-day film festival), and through satellite screening events in a growing number of host cities.

Better Cities Film Festival was originally founded by Joshua Paget in 2013 as the New Urbanism Film Festival. Discussions and decisions about urban planning and design are too often limited to the university classroom or city council chambers. The festival was launched with a vision to move that conversation onto the silver screen and into the streets, engaging the broader community in the vital work of placemaking and neighborhood revitalization.

During its five-year run in Los Angeles, the festival received over 700 submissions from all over the world, and screened over 200 films, pairing them with experts who helped lead post-film discussions about the local built environment.

In its second year, by popular demand, the festival took an unexpected turn: community groups and organizations wanted to use the power of film to help revitalize and improve their hometowns. It was time to “take the show on the road.” We instituted a way for other cities and towns to host local screenings. In some cases, they wanted to screen the “best of the fest” - a reel of the top award-winning festival films. In other cases, by special request, we dug through our vast archives and curated custom playlists of films especially relevant to the current issues facing a particular host city.

By 2018, the festival had enjoyed a five-year run in Los Angeles, and sold-out screenings in over 30 cities around the world, ranging from international hotspots like Shen Zhen and Milan, to smaller domestic cities and towns like Laredo and Oxnard.

In 2019, First+Main Films acquired the the New Urbanism Film Festival, with the goal of expanding it to more cities and more audiences. Founder Josh Paget remains as the festival director and driving create force. Together we've rechristened it Better Cities Film Festival.

It’s all about inspiring more people to create better places. And it’s coming soon to your hometown. Invite us.

We give awards for the best short film in each of these categories
-Active Transportation
-Economic Development
-Healthy Cities
-Street Art / Public Art
-Tactical Urbanism
-Urban Design

This festival attracts filmmakers, artists, street artists, architects, urban planners, political leaders, bicycle advocates, faith-based community leaders, and fans of the urban environment. Here's a list of some of our past guest speakers.

Melissa Balmer, California Bike Coalition
Tafarai Bayne, chief strategist for CicLAvia
Howard Blackson, president California Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism
Andy Boenau, host of Urbanism Speakeasy,
Ann Bridges, painter
Madeline Brozen, UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies
Chris Bruntlett, director, Vancouver Cycle Chic
Melissa Bruntlett, director, Modacity
Tamika Butler, executive director, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Diego Cardoso, L.A. Planning Commission, Director of Planning at LA METRO
Jenna Chandler, editor of CurbedLA
Caroline Cicero, professor of urban planning at USC
Rick Cole, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Budget & Innovation,
Dao Doan, award winning urban designer
Craig Detweiler, PhD professor of communication at Pepperdine University
Chris Elisara, executive director, Center for Environmental Leadership
Scott Epstein, chair Mid City West Community Council
William Fain, architect and urban planner, partner Johnson Fain,
Dawn Finley, co-founder, Feminist Library On Wheels
Nat Gale, LA Great Streets Program Director, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti
Debra Gerod, Partner, Gruen Associates, President American Institute of Architects Los Angeles Chapter
Dean Haglund, actor, the X-files,
Jose Huizar, councilmember, Los Angeles City Council, CD14
Eric Jacobsen, author, Sidewalks in the Kingdom and The Space Between
Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Academy Award nominated director The Garden
Joe Linton, editor of StreetsblogLA
Daniel Lovering, director Through the Place
Colin Marhsal, host of Notebook on Cities and Culture
Gerhard Mayer, architect & author, Arquitectonica
Michael McDonald, architect Studio MMD
Kellie Morris, author, We All Ride Bikes
Bob Nesson, director, Power to the Pedals
Taylor Nichols, Mid City West Communit Council Transportation committee co-chair
Moncho1929, street artist
Neal Payton, West Coast director of Torti Gallas Partners,
Max Podemski, planning director Pacoima Beautiful
Stefanos Polyzoides, architect & urban planner MoulePolyzoides, founder of Congress of the New Urbanism
Peter Quintanilla, Prince’s Foundation for Building Community
Thomas Rigler, producer of the KCET series CITYWALK
Karamagi Rujumba, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
Rebecca Autumn Sansom, director, Trainsforming America
Meghan Sahli-Wells, Mayor of Culver City, co-founder of the Culver City Bike Coalition
Scott Schultz, creator, BUSted True tales from people who ride the bus in LA
Kyle Sears, New Parish Collective
Maria Sipin, co-host of Women Talk Bikes
Ryan Swanson, founder The Urban Conga
Jeffrey Tumlin, urban designer, Nelson Nygard
J. Keith Van Straaten, host, Beat the Geeks,
Nona Varnado, executive director, Bicycle Culture Institute
Valerie Watson, director of LADOT Vision Zero
Will Wright, AIA-LA honorary, Government affairs liaison
Dan Zack, planner, City of Fresno

Prizes include:
Cash awards in varying amounts.
Award Certificate
Gifts from our sponsors and media partners
Free submissions for life
All Access Pass to BCFF2021

As used herein, the term ENTRY includes a film, an animation, a television (TV) pilot, a documentary, a web series of any type or kind, and/or a music video, stills, and combinations thereof.
BCFF means Better Cities Film Festival
General Rules
1. Film ENTRIES must be submitted online via FilmFreeway.com
2. Each ENTRY will only be considered for screenings hosted after the corresponding deadline on FilmFreeway.
3. Films must be submitted to the proper length category and with the proper fee to be considered for the festival. Fees paid to an inappropriate category will not be returned.
4. All ENTRIES must be in English, subtitled, or dubbed into English.
6. All authors and/or owners of the ENTRIES including the films selected for screening at the festival grant BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free right and license to use stills and excerpts of up to two minutes long for promotional purposes, online, at BCFF exhibitions, or at any exhibition promoting the BCFF. The authors and owners also grant to BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and right to right to make copies of the ENTRIES, including films selected for screening and derivative films based on the films selected for screening, and including the rights to distribute copies of the films selected for screening to third parties and the rights to publicly display the films selected for screening, and the rights to publicly perform the films selected for screening by means of a digital audio transmission, and to otherwise use the ENTRIES in any way and manner it chooses.
7. BCFF is not responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged entries.
8. Exceptions to the festival regulations must be authorized by the Festival Director of the BCFF.
9. Multiple entries are permissible, but each entry must be made separately via FilmFreeway.
10. Submissions will not be returned. 11. All fees are nonrefundable.
12. BCFF reserves, in its sole discretion, the right to refuse to consider any submission. In the event BCFF refuses to consider a submission no fees and no entry fees will not be returned or refunded.
13. Film ENTRIES may be screened more than once at the festival or at any future festival event.
14. BCFF retains rights to screen all ENTRIES at any future BCFF event without compensation to the authors and owners without needing permission from the authors and owners.
15. All authors and all owners of the ENTRIES including film submissions waive the right to collect any screening fees from BCFF and waive the right to collect any other fees associated therewith.
I/We wish to have our film/animation/TV pilot/documentary/web series/music video/ entry(ies), collectively referred to ENTRIES included in the BCFF. If more than one (1) party signs this agreement as submitter, then reference to “I”, “me”, “my” throughout this agreement shall apply to each party; jointly and separately.
I hereby do grant BCFF, its festival director and producers, a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and rights to use stills and excerpts of any ENTRY up to two minutes long for promotional purposes, online, at BCFF exhibitions, or at any exhibition promoting the BCFF, and grant to BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and rights to show for promotional purposes on television, on the BCFF website, Twitter, and Facebook page, on sponsors’ websites, print and digital promotional material, press releases, etc., any media including the ENTRY and/or stills submitted by me with this application. No more than two minutes or up to the length of the trailer submitted by the filmmakers may be used. I understand that no materials included with this application/submission will be returned.
I hereby do grant BCFF, its festival director and producers a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and permission to use my entire ENTRY for broadcast, duplication, copying, and advertising in association with BCFF, for the purpose of viewing on television, in theatres, on the internet, on the BCFF website, on sponsors’ websites, podcasting and/or for archival purposes and for any other valid, lawful purpose in any and all media now known or hereafter developed or devised, worldwide and in perpetuity. I waive any right to inspect or approve the finished videotape, sound track, photograph, advertising copy, audio piece or printed matter that may be used or to the eventual use that it may be applied. I hereby do grant to BCFF, its festival director and producers a non exclusive, global, royalty free license the rights and permission to make or have made derivative works of my ENTRY.
I hereby release, discharge and agree to hold harmless BCFF, its officers, agencies employees and sponsors, from and against any liability as a result of any use, distortion, blurring or alteration that may occur or be introduced in any use or broadcast of the material.
I waive any and all rights to compensation for and use by BCFF of the ENTRY, and I waive any and all rights to any compensation for derivative works created by BCFF based on the ENTRY, and waive the right to compensation, for any broadcast, duplication, and advertising of any ENTRY presented at the festival.
All intellectual property ownership of all ENTRY remains with the personnel who contributed to the ENTRY. I still retain the right to sell, distribute, and exhibit my ENTRY elsewhere, including but not limited to other festivals and broadcast outlets. I own the intellectual property rights to all material submitted with application and that will be viewed at BCFF.

The nonexclusive, global, royalty free licensing and permission to use my entire ENTRY exists in perpetuity. In the event that I sell my intellectual property rights in the ENTRY to another entity, I sell the rights to said intellectual property encumbered with this nonexclusive, global, royalty free license to the ENTRY. Thus, BCFF will still have the right to use my ENTRY even if I sell the intellectual property rights to another entity.
I understand that BCFF, its producers and sponsors are relying on this release and accordingly, I hereby irrevocably waive any and all rights to seek or obtain any injunction or other equitable relief against BCFF, its officers, agencies, employees and sponsors.
I do hereby agree and consent to and hereby do grant BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and rights to license my ENTRY or ENTRIES to any third party film organization, a third party entity, or other person without having to compensate me and without having obtain any consent from me, and without having to advise me of any such licensing of ENTRIES, and without having to compensate me.
I warrant that the use of the rights granted here and of any material supplied by me/us will not violate the rights of any third party. I agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless BCFF, its officers, agencies, employees and sponsors from any claims by third parties alleging that our content or material infringes on any third party’s rights. This Release and Hold Harmless Agreement shall bind my assigns and any representative.
This contract is the entire agreement between the parties hereto, and replaces and supersedes any prior agreement or understanding, verbal or written, with respect to the subject matter hereof. No amendment, addendum, modification or waiver of this contract or any portion hereof shall be valid unless contained in a writing signed by both parties hereto.
In consideration for this release and in consideration of permitting BCFF to use my ENTRY as detailed above, I receive the opportunity to have my ENTRY shown at BCFF and any future BCFF events. I accept and hereby do acknowledge that there is no promise of payment, in any form for likeness, image, biography, recording, equipment, or for any other contribution to us on this production.
I hereby certify that I am over eighteen years of age and competent to contract in my own name. If I am signing on behalf of an organization, I certify that I have authority to do so and that my signature binds the organization and its performers to all elements of this contract.
I have read the foregoing release and authorization and agreement, before affixing my signature below, and warrant that I fully understand the contents thereof.
I am authorized to sign and give consent for everyone (including but not limited to performers, writers, directors, technical crew, distributors) who contributed to all ENTRY(IES) and all materials submitted with this application to the Better Cities Film Festival 2019.

Save yourself a headache and read these answers to our Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Do you accept films completed prior to 2019?
A. We accept all films regardless of date filmed, completed, distributed, etc. Our mission is to curate the best films about urban design.
Q. I produced a series of videos on this issue, can I submit more than one in my series?
A. Yes! If you produced a web series or episodic piece about urban planning, please send it in. You can submit individual episodes as short film entries, or you can submit the entire series as a feature. If you submit as a feature, we’ll watch the whole series and consider it as a feature and also consider individual episodes as short films in the relevant categories.
Q. Can you waive my entry fee? I am a starving filmmaker / work for a good cause and I can’t afford the entry fee.
A. While we are fellow filmmakers and can completely relate, unfortunately we cannot waive any fees. It’s just not fair to all the other starving filmmakers. We do suggest submitting early to take advantage of the reduced fees.
Q. How will I know if you received my DVD?
A. We strongly discourage sending physical copies for consideration. If you have to submit through the mail, please contact us first. We’ll want to make sure your format is compatible with our players. This has been a problem in the past, so please message us and we will help you get your video to us.
Q. Will the DVDs be returned?
A. Nope.
Q. Can I submit more than one film?
A. Sure, you can submit a thousand films – as long as they all accompany their own entry form and fee.
Q. Am I eligible if I live outside the U.S.?
A. Absolutely! Submit it online using FilmFreeway.com. Please note that the film must be in English or have English subtitles.
Q. Can I submit a rough cut?
A. Yes, but the final version must be uploaded before the final deadline. We try to make accommodations for updated versions, but make no guarantees.
Q. Can I submit my film if I am under 18?
A. You can, if you have a parent or guardian submit it for you.
Q. Can I enter if my film has screened at other festivals or on the Internet?
A. Yes. And please let us know if you’ve won any awards!
Q. My film was made a while ago, can I still submit it?
A. Yes. We have no time limit on when it was made. As long as it is still relevant.
Q. Is the deadline ‘received by’ or ‘postmarked by’?
A. Received by. And seriously, submit it online.
Q. I have a film that I think might fit in the theme, but I am not sure. Can you preview it and tell me if I am wasting my entry fee?
A. Send us a link and we’ll take a look. Email us at info@bettercitiesfilmfestival.com. We’ll be happy to watch a trailer or the first few minutes of your film and let you know if it fits.
Q. I just missed your deadline – am I screwed?
A. Email us at info@bettercitiesfilmfestival.com. If we still have enough time to fairly review your project, then we may waive the deadline.
Q. How will I know if I am accepted in the festival?
A. We will notify you by email with a series of instructions arranging to get a screening copy of the film, film stills, a video trailer, press release, and how to tickets for you/your crew. The FilmFreeway.com website will also send a notification but will not provide information or instructions regarding screenings.
Q. How will I know if I won the big contest?
A. We announce the winners on the final night of the festival. If you are not present, follow the hashtag #BCFF2020 for all the updates on the festival, including award winners.
Q. Do you offer any discounts on submissions?
Yes, we offer discounts for students, volunteers, previous years’ winners, CNU members, and members of sponsoring organizations. Email us for details.

Overall Rating
  • Michelle Yates

    Because of the pandemic, 2020 was an unusual year where festivals had to go virtual. Better Cities Film Fest did a fabulous job with this. Communication was excellent! The streaming platform worked really well. The festival provided a platform and space for filmmakers to network and connect remotely. The films were really good! I was honored to have my film screen here, and in spite of the unusual circumstances.

    October 2020
  • Everyone did a wonderful job at the Better Cities Film Festival! I watched several different programs, and each one was fascinating and well-curated. As a filmmaker, I attended a virtual happy hour where i met other filmmakers and the festival organizers. It felt welcoming and the questions and feedback were interesting. The program my film was in, Next Generation & Cities, showed initiatives throughout the world to make positive changes. Experiencing voices and smiles from the US and abroad was refreshing. "Literacy for Environmental Justice" was inspirational to my own non-profit work. "Making our place," filmed in Vietnam, was particularly relevant and heartfelt to me. I saw kindred spirits in the women, appreciating their shyness and uncertainties, and also their actions and their art, their receptiveness to mentorship and hope. "Cycling towards a Brighter Future" also gave a strong sense of community connection and conversation. Better Cities Film Festival definitely succeeds in its mission to show us how to make better cities and better lives with each other. The film festival organizers communicated well and extended respect and thoughtfulness in their selections and interactions. Definitely apply if your work suits the themes!

    October 2020
  • Nice Experience with this festival

    October 2020
  • Tamer Soliman

    Despite being virtual, this is one of the best festival we've ever been a part of. We can only imagine what it would have been liked if we were all in the same city and cinemas watching films together, networking and talking about how to make cities better. Looking forward to the day where we can all gather. ENCORE!

    October 2020
  • The Urbanism Film Festival was a great experience to meet filmmakers and directors and understand what urban design is like in a city. I would go back again just to learn more!

    November 2017