The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLO Film Fest) will once again attract stars, great films and film enthusiasts to the Central Coast of California, when it celebrates its 27th Annual festival from March 9th to 14th, 2021.

Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo's laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film Fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the Festival's thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, "Movies Matter!"

We will continue to work with local officials to determine what format the festival will take in 2021: whether it will be held in our physical SLO venues, online via a Virtual Festival format, or in some combination of the two. Regardless of the format, prizes and cash awards will still be presented and our festival will continue its commitment to presenting world-class cinema in San Luis Obispo County.

There are three categories of competition at the SLO Film Fest. The George Sidney Independent Film competition is open to filmmakers worldwide, all ages and all genres. The Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase is open to producers, writers and/or directors living in San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. And the Filmmakers of Tomorrow Showcase is open to youth filmmakers, grades K-12, with films 10 min. or less.

Named for the sixth time to MovieMaker Magazine's list of the "Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee", the SLO Film Fest was also called "one of the best film events in the country" by former MovieMaker publisher, Timothy Rhys after a festival visit. Come and find out why filmmakers, celebrities and the press return year after year to enjoy the Festival's perfect balance of film, wine and fun!

George Sidney Independent Film Competition Prize categories:
Best Narrative Feature
Best Documentary Feature
Best Narrative Short Film
Best Documentary Short Film
Best Student Film (any length)
NEW for 2021: Best Music Video and Best Animated Film

All winners will receive cash prizes: $1000 for feature-length films and $500 for short and student categories. Other prizes may also be awarded.

The Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase films are eligible for awards in the same categories, and other prizes may also be awarded.

George Sidney competition films will also be eligible for Audience Awards in five categories: Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Short Narrative Film, Best Short Documentary Film and Best in Fest (any length.) Prizes will be announced in early 2021.

The SLO Film Fest reserves the right to determine eligibility of any work submitted. All films submitted must have a completion date after March 1, 2019. Preferred format for screening copies is online link – preferably Vimeo or YouTube.

Films selected for screening at the Festival will be notified no later than January 31, 2021. All George Sidney Independent Film Competition filmmakers will be provided with one night’s accommodation at a hotel in the San Luis Obispo area. They will also be given two all-access passes to the 2021 SLO Film Fest.

Filmmakers with films that were produced, directed or written by residents in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Monterey counties are invited to submit their films for a discounted entry fee, for possible screening in the Central Coast Filmmakers Showcase. The same film cannot be entered in the George Sidney Independent Film Competition however. A separate set of jurists will choose a selection of films to be screened as “local” films. If the “local” film is entered in the George Sidney Independent Film Competition it will be judged by the SLO Film Fest Programming Committee along with all other entries from around the world. If a film is entered in the wrong category, it will be disqualified.

SLO Film Fest Alumni filmmakers are invited to submit a new film with a fee waiver.

Submission fees are non-refundable and will not be refunded if a film is not selected.

Overall Rating
  • Nora Mariana

    Truly one of the best festival programming teams we've ever had the pleasure of working with! They did an amazing job pivoting to an online festival so quickly and so efficiently in the midst of this global pandemic. I truly hope we get to meet this staff during another festival run, just to thank them. We remain so honored to have our film participate at this wonderful festival.

    April 2020
    Slofilmfest primary
    Response from festival:

    Thank you so much Nora! Keep making great films!

  • Patrick Norman

    SLO is fantastic; we were so disappointed that they were forced to cancel because of Covid-19, but major kudos to their staff for pivoting so rapidly to their online festival offering. They clearly care very much about their audience AND their filmmakers.

    The staff was friendly, communicative, and so positive and encouraging at every step in the process. Really wish we could have met everyone in-person & celebrated all the great films and hard work from the staff, but that's what next year is for. Overall a lovely experience. Highly recommend SLO!

    March 2020
    Slofilmfest primary
    Response from festival:

    Thank you so much Patrick! Very sorry we didn't get a chance to meet you either. Definitely stay in touch though and keep making great films!

  • Mac Mirabile

    SLO did a great job communicating with their junior filmmakers. In particular, Grace made my son feel very special and he was so excited to be a part of it. I hope he gets a chance to submit again next year and maybe make the cross-country trip. Seems like a great group of passionate professionals.

    March 2020
    Slofilmfest primary
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Mac and parents! I hope he can submit again next year too!

  • SLO had to do a major pivot given the current crisis, and I thought they pulled it off beautifully. Great communication, a real filmmaker driven festival. I look forward to having another film to enter next year.

    March 2020
    Slofilmfest primary
    Response from festival:

    Thank you John! Definitely stay in touch. We look forward to future films from you.

  • Thank you so much for the opportunity to screen in your 'Stay at Home' festival. I wish we had been able to attend and network, but under the circumstances you were a guiding light for many creatives during this difficult time.

    March 2020
    Slofilmfest primary
    Response from festival:

    Thanks so much Jessica! Hope to meet you in the not-too-distant future. And definitely send us future films!