The Rochester International Film Festival, the world’s oldest continuously-held short film festival, has been produced each year since 1959 by Movies on a Shoestring, Inc. Each festival includes a wide variety of narrative films, documentaries, and animations submitted by independent filmmakers from all parts of the world.

All filmmakers are invited to submit entries for consideration. Each film selected for the festival is awarded our distinctive Shoestring Trophy. Since films are made to be seen, we offer appreciative, movie-wise audiences to view your work at the Dryden Theatre, George Eastman House International Museum of Film and Photography in Rochester, NY.

Movies on a Shoestring Inc.was founded in 1959 by a group of Rochester-area movie enthusiasts to provide a venue for independent filmmakers to present their cinematic creations. The name was a double entendre: most amateur filmmakers shot on 8 mm back then, and the narrowness of the stock led it to call it “the shoestring gauge.”

We held our first public exhibition at the Rochester Public Library. It consisted of 16 films made by people from the Rochester area. During the second year a film from Toronto, Ontario, Canada was included, and in a modest sense Movies on a Shoestring became an international festival. That was also the year we moved the show to the Dryden Theatre through the courtesy of George Eastman House. Three hundred people attended the performance.

1964 was our first truly international year. We received films from all over the United States as well as five foreign countries. This international activity prompted us in 1965 to identify our shows as the Rochester International Movie Film Festival and to become a charter member of the International Association of Amateur Film Festivals, a world-wide organization dedicated to establishing standards and consistency among festivals of this type.

By 1971 Movies on a Shoestring had firmly established itself among the world’s leading amateur festivals, so we modified our name to the Rochester International Amateur Film Festival. In 1983 we accepted our first video entries. The worldwide growth of film schools and of the film industry in general has led to a great increase in the number of professional quality short films being produced and competing for spots in our festival, so in 1996 we dropped the word “amateur” from our name and became The Rochester International Film Festival.

To provide independent filmmakers even greater public exposure, beginning in 1972, selected films from each year’s festival, based on audience surveys taken at each show, have been assembled into a traveling show called The Best of the Fest. We have made it possible to loan the traveling show, free of charge, to organizations around the state.

Rules & Terms

Our selection process has two stages. Each entry is first viewed in its entirety by MOAS members, who discuss the film and vote whether to keep it for final judging. Every filmmaker receives a critique letter summarizing viewer comments about their entry. When preliminary judging is completed, final judges view all the entries that were kept and make the final festival selections. Each entry chosen for the festival receives our distinctive Shoestring Trophy. We also offer home accommodations and local transportation for filmmakers whose works are screened at the festival.

We cannot waive the submission fees, regardless of the quality of your submission, your financial means or whether your film is independent or commercial. We are a completely non-profit organization. We do not charge admission to the festival to attract large crowds, and the little money we make is directly infused
back into film makers that we host during the festival (we pay for their dinners, we organize tours for them; we host a filmmakers' party etc.). We are all volunteers and depend on the submissions fees and benefactors donations to survive ! This is especially challenging for us since the historic George Eastman house Dryden Theatre where we screen our festival charges us extensive screening fees.
Film makers who have come to our festival keep coming back because of that special support and attention given to their work. Every film maker whose film makes the festival receives a trophy and a chance to be in a "best of the fest" promotional DVD. We also offer certificates of merits for certain films who do not make the cut but have technical or thematic quality.

Conditions of Entry

• Entries must be postmarked no later than February 1, 2018.

• Maximum length of entries is 30 minutes.

• Entries should be submitted by digital download or on DVD (region 1 or region free) format for preliminary screening.

• $35 Entry fee if postmarked before December 1, 2017.
$50 if received between December 1, 2017 and February 1, 2018.
Entry fee can be paid by PayPal (see link below), or by US check/International money order (payable to Movies on a Shoestring Inc.).

• The festival is open to films and videos of all genres.

• Each entry must stand alone as a self-contained work. Episodes of a series, video components of a multimedia installation, or other fragments of larger works will not be accepted.

• Multiple entries on a single disc are not permitted.

• Each Official festival screening copy must be received 14 days before festival. If indicated format is not provided your entry may not be shown.

• Entries must be sent to us by traditional mail. UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services cannot deliver packages to P.O. Boxes.

• All possible care will be taken in the handling of your film; however, Movies on a Shoestring, Inc. cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage to entries.

• For verification that your entry was received, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard or request a confirmation e-mail.

Mail DVD and entry form to:
Movies on a Shoestring, Inc,
P.O. Box 17746
Rochester, NY 14617

3 Reviews

Overall Rating
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    Vincenzo Laurella

    My movie was not screened, but it has won an honorable mention; despite this I recieved a pack containing a certificate and a lot of material. I was not at the festival, but I can say that the communication was really great.

    June 2017
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    Sara Soheili

    I had Good memories with these kind people in festival.

    May 2017
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    Heaven Kid

    This is indeed a great film festival. Not only is the organization perfect, but the service is wonderful as well. We enjoyed being part of it.

    April 2017