Criteria

2025 RULES IN DETAIL

Welcome to our 14th Annual Edition of the pioneer International Mobile Film Festival for only movies shot with mobile phone cameras for the big screen, launched in the Spring 2009. Please read this article carefully and contact us if you have any questions. We will do our best to answer promptly.

When contacting us, please provide your full name and details about the project you would like to submit.

BONUS: We’ve partnered with Videomaker! Our partnership offers a free one-year digital subscription to Videomaker magazine when you submit your project to IMFF 2025. Each subscription features tips and tricks, buyer’s guides for filmmaking equipment, and various editorial content regarding the industry of video. Submissions for IMFF 2025 are now open.

HOW TO SUBMIT: We use FilmFreeway as the only platform to submit films, unless something changes, this is where all submissions should be submitted. We may ask for higher quality links for judges to view and rate films, if your film is selected. FilmFreeway limits the streaming quality of all films to 720 HD. 

There are no refunds.

Submissions now open.

SUBMISSIONS FOR ALL COMPETITIONS AND CONTESTS IS NOW OPEN.

Deadline for Feature Films is October 19. Deadline for Short Films is November 19. All deadlines.

All Deadlines are final and there are no exceptions. Each Contest and competition has its own deadline listed in each category/competition on FilmFreeway.com.

Films will need to be downloaded at full HD 1920X1080 resolution. Films must be under 2GB for feature films and not more than 1 GB for short films.

All non-English films must have embedded subtitles in English. The subtitles must be embedded in your downloaded videos. We do not stream films or videos in our film festival. All films may be subject to embedded close captioning in English to screen at the festival.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: ONLY FILMS SHOT WITH SMARTPHONE / MOBILE PHONE CAMERAS QUALIFY. NO OTHER MOBILE DEVICE QUALIFIES.

No other mobile device is eligible…we decided when we launched in 2009 to give everyone an equal arena to compete using the same device. Any brand or make qualifies. All films and projects should be original works created by the submitting filmmaker(s). Plagiarism or unauthorized use of others’ work is prohibited.

EDITING

No apps that make edit decisions for you are allowed.

USE OF AI

Using AI (artificial intelligence) is not allowed for any competition or contest in the festival.

Stay tuned to emails from us once you submit your films. You must respond to emails and inquiries from us.

It’s very important that you read the rules because once you submit your film there are no refunds. Also, there is a process after submission. Please read your emails. If we consider selecting your film, we will send you a link to a release form you will need to sign online. We only send the link to filmmakers who are being considered for an official selection. We need this signed form in order to distribute your film in our film festival during our live and online venue.

If you don’t receive our emails, you may miss deadlines and timely requests that require prompt resolutions and requests. You risk being disqualified from the process. Please understand that if you are interested in including your film the disappointment is mutual. Do not risk your film being disqualified for ignoring communication from us. We will do all we can on our end but we won’t chase filmmakers down.

Most films selected will screen in San Diego during the live festival event. We must consider our audience and program schedule in our selection decisions. If your film does not get selected it does not always mean your film is not good. However, we are looking for the best high quality mobile films in both feature and short film competitions to screen in our film festival. If your experience level is low, consider the “Rookie” competition instead.

Be aware that some or all selected films may also be available online during our post event festival to take place at a date to be determined, if we choose to do so.

FEATURE FILM COMPETITION: We are looking for exceptional quality NARRATIVE films with higher production quality and story-driven narrative. Minimum length 60 minutes. Maximum length 120 minutes.

The Feature Film Competition is one category: Narrative fiction story based films which qualify under the criteria specified in this page and in the FilmFreeway.com platform for IMFF.

Only three feature length films will be selected to screen in San Diego at the in-person festival. Filmmakers agree to attend and present their film in person.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION: Films must be between 3 & 10 minutes and Not One second shorter or longer, including intro, end credits and/or video black at beginning or end.

The Short Film Competition seeks short high quality films of all genres, for example: horror can submit to narrative, etc.

The Short Film Contestants who win awards in each category (excluding The Rookie Award category) will be in the running for First, Second and Third Place and will receive a trophy and certificate. Must be present during the awards ceremony to receive trophies free. We will not cover shipping and handling.

SHORT FILM CATEGORIES AVAILABLE TO SUBMIT: (MORE DETAILS BELOW IN THIS ARTICLE)

Narrative – Documentary – Ultimate Mobile – Cosplay – Screendance – Geography, Wildlife and Travel – Experimental – Music Video

Submitting to the correct category can help your film being selected and maybe even win that category. You can submit one film to multiple categories, or more than one film to multiple categories but only one film will be selected per filmmaker. There is no guarantee a film will be selected regardless of the categories it is selected to.

THE ROOKIE AWARD CONTEST: If you are not experienced, you can enter films that fall within the categories listed above into “The Rookie Award” category for new, or non-experienced, filmmakers. This is the best option for novice youth films. We still require a level of quality with video and audio to be selected. Please find details about this special category on our website and within the category on FilmFreeway before you submit. We are available if you have questions and will do our best to respond promptly.

RELEASE FORM:

All feature length and short films, including Rookie films will require, after notification of a selection, a signed agreement to finalize the official selection of your film to screen during our film festival. You’ll receive notice with the form after the final deadline of the contest or competition you have submitted to. 

NOTICE: You must complete and sign the separate release and authorization form only if your entry is officially selected, in order to be officially selected. You may also be required to submit licenses, proofs and other items such as talent release forms; upon request, for all competitions and contests.

Upon completion of Release Form, once your film is officially selected (January-February 2025), please avoid publicly promoting your film’s availability for online streaming and viewing until at least 24 hours after the live event film festival has ended. You may still promote your film for screening in another film festival. We’re available if you have questions.

*All contestants, please make an effort to be in attendance to receive free engraved trophy with your name, in case you win top awards in Best Feature; Short Film Competition’s First, Second or Third Place Awards. Festival will not cover the cost of shipping and handling of trophies.

All Competitions: We require filmmakers to communicate with us directly during the approval process. We do not pay or offer screening fees. We will contact all filmmakers whose films are selected prior to the official selection to ensure all qualifications have been met and verified.

Our correspondence includes signing the release form that gives us permission to include your film in our festival with a statement that we have the right to distribute the film in our film festival and that all information and licenses required are genuine. Without returning the signed form we cannot screen your film in our festival. The form protects filmmakers and our festival.

SHORT AND FEATURE FILM COMPETITIONS:

Vulgar, porn, or demeaning and offensive films will be disqualified.

Respect other artists by not using media of any kind without proper licenses, permissions and clearance. Proof of licensing may be required to qualify.

We have extended deadlines and beyond those deadlines we offer no exceptions. It takes a lot of work to process and prepare films for screening in an event. We reserve the right to refuse all films beyond the deadlines set by our festival.

All films must be submitted through FilmFreeway. After the deadline has passed, and your film is selected, you will receive a form to sign to release your film to us for screening in our film festival. You’ll receive official selection laurels and a letter welcoming you to the IMFF 2025, 14th edition. We urge you to keep checking for emails from us so you don’t miss requests from us. Do not use work or school email addresses.

All Films must be shot with smartphone cameras only. Horizontal films only with high resolution. Must be formatted to play on large wide screens and look good.

Subtitles must be embedded in your film if it is in any language other than English, or if spoken language is hard to hear.

Not more than 10% aerial footage from drones is acceptable.

Short Films must be exceptional quality films.

SMARTPHONE PHOTO CONTEST: Frame A Story (One story in one frame)
Storytelling with a photo: Your photo should inspire the imagination of the viewer and it tells a story. Photos will be incorporated into a video montage sharing your photo and name on the large screen during the festival. Up to the limit allowed by FilmFreeway with a maximum of six photos. All smartphone brands, makes and models qualify. Only smartphone/mobile phone cameras qualify.

MORE DETAILS:

RULES SUMMARY FOR ALL FILM SUBMISSIONS

We accept more than one film. Only one film per filmmaker or entity will be selected. | All films must be available to download full quality 19 HD and formatted for the wide screen.

REQUIRED FOR ALL COMPETITIONS: English embedded captions/subtitles for all foreign, non-English spoken, or hard to understand or hard to hear dialogue and narration/voice overs in all films is required.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE – AI (Artificial Intelligence) used for screenplays, filmmaking, or photography at any point during your production will be cause for disqualification.

APPS – Automatic editing apps which make editing decisions for you are not allowed. Using some apps may degrade the end quality of your footage or include undesirable app branding watermarks. We will not accept films with watermarks.

PARTICIPANTS – You must be human beings. That is all we ask for. We don’t limit artists/entrants/participants because of their age, income level, disabilities, race or ethnicity, sex or anything! If you are a human being you qualify as a filmmaker if you enter a qualifying film. We encourage anyone who believes they may not qualify even though they are human to give it a shot. Submitting is easy! We only accept submissions through FilmFreeway and we must download the films, once selected, from FilmFreeway. We have a new category/competition for less experienced filmmakers in The Rookie Award Category. The Short Film Competition is now for more experienced filmmakers.

EQUIPMENT – In case we weren’t clear: FILMS MUST BE SHOT BY MOBILE PHONE CAMERAS ONLY. All other production equipment, lights, cranes, dollies, etc. are allowed. Since mobile filmmaking has become an industry, you can find customized equipment online and stores if you need it. No apps or filmmaking accessories are required to qualify. We do recommend filmmakers do some research to produce the highest quality films and base their films around great stories. Put effort into your film no matter what category you choose to enter your film to, for the best chance at being selected.

ENTRIES – You can submit many times but only one will be selected regardless of the number of entries submitted. One prize per film regardless of the number of people credited. If you are an organization, please contact us. We can promote your entity or an individual within your organization per your specific request.

LENGTH – Short Film Competition: 3 minutes to 10:00 minutes including credits.

All films must adhere to the time limits. Not one second shorter or longer including intro and end credits and/or video black at beginning or end. The same applies to The Rookie Award competition/category.

Feature Mobile Film Competition – 60 minutes to 120 minutes (2 hours) total including intro and end credits.

Rookie Award Competition – Minimum 00:60 seconds (1 minute) to 05:00 minutes maximum including credits.

FORMAT – We prefer (.mp4) (.mov) files. FULL QUALITY 1920×1080 HD video in widescreen format (Horizontal). No square or vertical formatted films. Questions? Contact us! Be sure to embed subtitles to your films if they are not in spoken English or hard to understand.

COPYRIGHTS – We cannot accept any THIRD-PARTY music, images & photos or graphics in your video without the correct licensing specific to your film. Licensing for music is tricky and can be confusing depending on how the music is used in your film. One license may not work for all the ways you use music in your film, such as background, transitions, etc. Music is not the only proprietary license you may need, such as visual branded items. It’s best to be informed before you begin production.

DRONES – The only acceptable device camera other than a mobile phone camera is that of a drone for capturing aerial footage. The total length must not be more than 10% Aerial footage/video captured with a drone camera.

In order to qualify, the entire rest of your film must be shot with only mobile phone cameras. Not One Second More than 10% of the film may include aerial video or aerial footage recorded with a drone. This is the only exception to another camera or device allowed. You must do your own math! Example for a *Short film of five minutes: 10% of (5 minutes) = 30 seconds.

Drone Specs: You must enter the name, brand and the model of the drone and smartphone you used to film/capture your footage and certify the information with your signature in a separate registration form which all filmmakers must submit and sign *even if they did not use drones in their film.

You must include the time code where drone footage begins and drone footage ends and you must also include several time codes if 10% of your drone footage is spread throughout your film in different areas. It’s a bit of a pain so unless you really feel your film needs aerial footage, it’s simpler without it.

You must include the time code where drone footage begins and drone footage ends and you must also include several time codes if 10% of your drone footage is spread throughout your film in different areas. It’s a bit of a pain so unless you really feel your film needs aerial footage, it’s simpler without it.

*By submitting media to our film festival competitions, you acknowledge that you have read and understand the terms and conditions. NO REFUNDS. All films and projects should be original works created by the submitting filmmaker(s). Plagiarism or unauthorized use of others’ work is prohibited.

**Affiliates, employees, interns, contractors, & subsidiaries are ineligible to participate. We do not allow or consider preferential treatment by extending application deadlines.

SOME CATEGORIES FOR SHORT FILM COMPETITION IN DETAIL:

The following categories are available. Most are self-explanatory, but we have further defined details for unique categories, below.

Narrative – Documentary – Ultimate Mobile – Cosplay – Screendance – Geography, Wildlife and Travel – Experimental – Music Video

All films in this competition must be 3-10 minutes length and meet the rules and criteria above for the short film competition.

ULTIMATE MOBILE FILM CATEGORY

Regardless of the genre, if you completely shot and edited your film with your phone without using any other device, this one is for you! Shoot, edit, finalize your project including audio capture and music, special effects, everything must be done on a smartphone and no other device. It’s a big challenge, are you up for it?

SCREENDANCE FILM CATEGORY

With the collaboration of choreographer and soloist filmmaker Jamiel Laurence, we are introducing a unique category to our film festival. Screendance is for dancers using smartphones to choreograph performances for the camera. Using camera movement and style, this category hopes to inspire dancers who perform in front of the camera to team up with a camera person, or more than one, to shoot a story driven performance precisely for the screen.

“The universal language of dance has always held a special place when being performed in the realm of cinematic capture. Fred Astaire once said “Either the Camera will Dance, or I will” and this really captures the essence of the synergy between dance, choreography and filmmaking. With the rise in popularity and easy access to mobile filmmaking technologies, choreographers are naturally finding new and exciting ways to evolve dance alongside developing mobile form factor stabilisation and affordable lenses & filters. The International Mobile Film Festival is a welcoming group of like minded creatives, and the ideal place to have your Screendance work seen by new audiences and industry professionals alike.”

Jamiel Laurence: Dancer. Choreographer. Filmmaker.

COSPLAY FILM CATEGORY

Cosplay Film category is for films featuring cosplayers of all ages. We are looking for superheroes, steampunk, comic book and cartoon cosplayer films for this category. If you are a cosplayer round up your friends and your team! Shoot your film with your smartphone and read the rules, because the rules apply to all categories. Make it fun. You can make your film in any genre, music, documentary, dark or comedy, drama; it’s your call. And speaking of call, this is your call to action! You got the costumes, you got the camera on your phone and you got stories so we are looking forward to your films to screen them during IMFF in San Diego…and yes, you can dress in your cosplay outfits for the red carpet!

GEOGRAPHY, WILDLIFE & TRAVEL
If your film is about animals and species or natural wildlife environment around the world or in your backyard, this category is sure to be a creative challenge for mobile filmmaking. Includes Travel videos including panoramic montage, and educational videos. All rules apply.

Music got you down? Don’t fret. Here is some info to research using music in your films to ensure the proper licensing. This is not the only resource, but it’s a good start. http://www.copyright.gov, New 2018 Copyright Law and ASCAP.

If you have questions or need help, contact us. When contacting us, please provide your full name and details about the project you would like to submit.

*We will allow a couple shots from another mobile device or traditional cameras only by individual basis after a conversation which determines you need it to tell your story and cannot recreate it on your phone. This is usually historical footage that cannot be recreated, and again, limited to one or two shots not lasting more 3 or 4 seconds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about attending the festival:

Will you pay for travel? Unfortunately we cannot.

Do we have to buy tickets to attend? We do not ask filmmakers who have submitted films to our film festival (even if they are not selected) to pay for tickets to attend the festival. If filmmakers would like to support us for putting on a great festival experience you can pay for a ticket, but it’s not required.

Why should I attend the festival in person? The festival is a very exciting event. The attending filmmakers are asked to watch each others’ films together during the festival because it is a show of support. We offer plenty of breaks during the festival for everyone to network and connect, even discuss each others’ films and exchange contact information to collaborate on projects together.

VENUE QUESTIONS:

Is there parking? Unless the venue changes, parking is free and there are several parking lots to park.

Are pets allowed? The rules for the venue dictate pets are not allowed.

Are there places to eat and drink? There are bars and restaurants in the area within walking distance to enjoy great San Diego cuisine.

Where is the venue? Unless the venue changes, Marina Village and Mission Bay, where the festival is held, is about a mile away from Sea World and a five-minute drive to the beach.

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