An original on the festival circuit for 20 years, touted by the Huffington Post as "the future of Independent Film" and voted one of Moviemaker Magazine's Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals on the planet (and the only one in Los Angeles to make the list), Dances With Films presents over 130 films each year to the LA Filmmaking and Film-going community.

Dedicated to giving opportunities to creative talents who may not be considered 'Names', DWF stands out from the crowd with not only the community we've built, but by the success of our alumni and the shared loyalty of DWF relationships.

Some of our latest - 2011 & 2012 alum Gina Rodriguez just won a Golden Globe for her work on "Jane the Virgin". And our latest alum films are already showing up in theatres - 2014's "The Toy Soldiers" had its nationwide premiere a mere 5 months after being seen at DWF!

HBO’s critically acclaimed and hit series ‘Getting On” and “Big Love” were created by DWF Alums Will Scheffer and Mark Olsen after screening their feature film "Easter" at DWF 2004. 2008 actor alum Jesse Eisenberg was nominated for Best Actor in "The Social Network" for the 2011 Academy Awards. 2010 Audience Award winner "Go For It!" received a nationwide theatrical release through Lionsgate in 2011. Betsy Brandt "Breaking Bad'' & “Parenthood” was seen early on in her career in the Grand Jury Winner of 2005, "Shelf Life." And her co-star in “Breaking Bad” Bryan Cranston premiered his directorial debut with us in 2000! 2010 feature "Cost of a Soul" was seen nationwide at AMC Theatres in conjuction with Relativity Media's Rogue. - Just a few examples of our alumni accomplishments.

What Alums Say:
As Audience Award winner John Mann said after he signed with WME immediately after his screening, "DWF kicked me up to the next level." He recently finished "Magic 8 Ball" for Paramount and "The Nutcracker" for Universal and now has "A Tall Dark and Grimm" in the pipeline with Henry Selick slated to direct. With sponsors CAA & ICM now on board, it seems the whole world is discovering that success isn't always in a name.

As you can see, DWF provides great exposure to the decision makers of the film industry. In fact past year's panels and 'conversations with' series rocked it with Zola Mashariki, SVP Fox Searchlight, Steven Wegner EVP Alcon Entertainment, Casting Icon - Debra Zane (Hunger Games, , Melanie Miller, VP Acquisitions Gravitas Ventures, Keyvan Peymani, ICM Partners and many more!

And on the creative side, DWF also produces up to eight short films during the week of the festival. The 2 Minute, 2 Step Short Film Challenge has become an exciting favorite program at the festival.
Utilizing the latest digital technology and pure filmmaking ingenuity, submitted 2 minute scripts are shot and edited in just four short hours. Once completed, the two-minute films are then screened prior to competition films each night at festival.

We even have a something for the Kids!
We are pleased to present our latest category 'Dances With Kidz!' for the 2nd year. This program consists of films created for kids and most importantly... BY kids.

The Academy:
We also qualify two short films for Academy Award consideration!

Virgin Produced:
DWF now supplies a series of short films to Virgin Produced who in turn shows these short gems on their Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia Airlines on a rotating basis!

The Family:
Finally, the community of Dances With Films that has evolved since 1998 is a strong and loyal one. The Festival offers the opportunity for filmmakers to strengthen and expand connections that will endure for years to come.

For more information on all the above statements, please go to

Awards & Prizes

The awards vary depending on the category, however our prize packages in the past have included:

Industry Choice:

All films presented at the festival compete for the ‘Industry Choice Award’. A panel of Industry Leaders look at the best of the best to award this prestigious honor to a filmmaker whose work stands out. That filmmaker then has the opportunity of meeting with one or more of these executives for guidance in their respective careers. Previous winners have met with Industry Leaders such as Producers Mark Ordesky (Lord of the Rings) and Steve Wegner (Dolphin Tale, The Blind Side).

Best of Fest Award:

Although our awards package is currently being developed for the season, in the past we have presented winners with: Distribution Deal with Gravitas Ventures * Canon 5D SLR Camera * Movie Magic Budgeting & Scheduling * Final Draft Software * Showbiz Software Producer Packages * FilmTracker from Studio System * Panavision Production Package

Audience Choice Award:
Although our awards package is in being developed for the season, in the past we have presented winners with: Movie Magic Budgeting & Scheduling * Final Draft Software * Showbiz Software Producer Packages * FilmTracker from Studio System

Specific to shorts:

Every short film will be in competition whether in our Competition or Fusion series, for the Top Audience Award which will receive an Academy Award qualifying run via our sponsor - Laemmle Theatres.

Virgin Produced:
DWF now supplies a series of short films to Virgin Produced who in turn show these short gems on their Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia Airlines on a rotating basis under the Dances With Films brand!

Rules & Terms

Feature films (narrative & documentary) should be over 40 minutes with a maximum of 200 minutes. Short films (narrative & documentary) should be under 40 minutes with a minimum of 1 minute. Music videos should be under 10 minutes. Films must have been completed after January 1st, 2014.

Filmmakers understand that their entry cannot have any known individuals within their given project. No known directors, actors, producers, writers, or monies from known sources (i.e. Imagine or Scott Free Productions). We do not discriminate against 'working' actors & crew.

Entries must be sent on DVD and/or online digital submission. Please check the individual categories for specifics.

Films cannot be tied to a domestic distribution deal.

Once selected, the filmmaker must make available a DCP (referred to as a "print"). Minimum format is Quicktime for projection. DWF does not screen discs (Blu-ray/DVD) due to quality concerns. Failure to produce such print one-week prior to the screening date will result in a liability to DWF in the amount of $500.

At least one representative (producer or director) of each competitive project are required to be part of a Q&A session immediately following their screening(s).

Participants agree that clips from their film and all other material related to their project may be used and/or published in the event program, DWF website and for any promotional purposes which DWF deems appropriate.

No screeners and/or promotional materials will be returned to the filmmaker, unless arranged in advance with the festival office.

If selected, all commercial/private property including all trademark/copyrighted materials shown or recorded on the project is the responsibility of the filmmaker. DWF will NOT take responsibility for any infringement of copywritten materials.

The cost of delivery and pick-up of all materials is the responsibility of the filmmakers.

DWF holds no responsibility for lost or damaged prints. While the utmost care will be taken with regard to prints, it is solely up to the filmmaker to take full responsibility (i.e. insurance).

Rules are subject to change at any time with or without prior notice.

45 Reviews

Overall Rating
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    Melissa Center

    Had a wonderful experience at Dances with Films. Such great people, great spirit, great venue. I learned a lot and forged some wonderful relationships.

    July 2017
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    Jason Honeycutt

    Had an amazing time at Dances With Films. LA festivals rarely cut through but this one did, a big turnout for our screening, especially on an early Saturday afternoon for the Dances with Kidz program.

    Just some quick feedback to make it even better... awards for Dances with Kids, even if it's one award. To me, it's a lot easier to make a gritty, cussing, dark film than one that can be entertaining to audiences including kids and adults. Every other category; features, shorts, music videos, web series, etc., gets awards... just not this one, which is surprising. But just getting into this great festival is an award in itself.

    I think it's such an amazing venue, Hollywood/Highland but there wasn't any signage at all for the general public. I rrrrreally think they could get a LOT more people off the streets, especially tourists, walking through there, if there would be some signs at the elevator and escalator areas. "Hey, I was in LA, went to a film festival!"

    That's just two minor ways to make this awesome festival even better. To me, in LA, there are literally only two festivals that are truly about "independent film" -- Dances With Films and Holly Shorts. The 'other' festival downtown is all about names, managers walking in films, politics, etc... but there are festivals like DWF still fighting the good fight for us truly independent filmmakers who don't have access to piles of money or A-list names... yet, they curate amazing films anyway. I honestly thought I didn't have a chance of getting in here, wasn't going to submit... but I did and holy hell, we got in. Give it a try!!

    June 2017
    Dwf brave
    Response from festival:

    Hellllooo Jason! Thanks for the kind words and the valuable feedback!

    We are definitely considering adding awards to the Kidz section. Your film was in our "pro section" of Kidz! As you know - Dances With Kidz! is primarily made up of young filmmakers (some as young as 6) ... and originally we were looking to have a "competition free" zone for them. (You know, everyone gets a blue ribbon.) That said - we hear you and are considering this for next year.

    With regard to signage at H&H... if only we had major corporate sponsorship... because the Chinese Theatres does not control any of that area and we're talking huge fees in order to advertise there. Would we like to?... Absolutely... American Express - are you out there? Yep... we hear you.

    Jason - we look forward to your next film!


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    Larry Ziegelman

    I've been to a number of great festivals, but "Dances with Films" tops them all. It's a well-run festival, with amazing filmmakers, incredible films and wonderful people running it. It's a "must enter festival" in my book.

    June 2017
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    Andrew Hamer

    Had an incredible time at Dances with Films with the world premiere of my short film!

    June 2017
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    Monika Petrillo

    This was the best festival ever! The staff was so helpful, supportive and communicative! I met so many other wonderful filmmakers, saw so many great films! I basically lived at the Chinese Theatres for a week. The projection was amazing! The best my film ever looked and sounded! The attendance was incredible! And then, to top it all off, my short film WINK won the audience award! I felt so honored! This festival and all the wonderful people that make it happen deserve a huge thanks! Love you!

    June 2017