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.

25 Reviews

Overall Rating
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    Aurora Fearnley

    Top rate festival. One of my all time favourites. They have such respect and understanding for the indie filmmaker as well as enthusiasm for discovering and showing work.
    They are always looking at new ways to shine a spotlight on talent and giving energy and promotion to films selected. Brilliant Festival!

    February 2017
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    Norman Kaufman

    An Indie Filmmaker's dream FF. Many panels with industry insiders and opportunities to network. A doting staff of film pros that includes a filmmakers lounge for those who submitted their work.

    January 2017
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    Ryan Paul James

    We loved this film festival and you really feel like you're part of a family. We are also getting ready to work with other filmmakers that we met as a result of Dances With Films.

    August 2016
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    Kevin Good

    Top Notch Festival screened at the Chinese Theatre with a beautiful screen and great sound. Amazing networking events, panels and all around kick a** staff that are always willing to go the extra mile.

    July 2016
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    Dayla Kennedy

    Excellent festival! Everything we heard about DWF taking great care of the filmmakers and their films was true!

    July 2016