For independent filmmakers, film festivals are a rite of passage that can significantly boost the filmmaker's career as well as the film’s overall success. With the explosion of independent cinema, new festivals are being announced yearly. However, most filmmakers have a limited festival budget, and choosing the right festivals is essential. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the top thirty film festivals to help maximize your film and budget. This list is categorized based on the festival’s notoriety, format, genre focus, and other characteristics.

As you begin the film festival application process, you can use Assemble’s free festival submission tracking template to stay organized. You can use this fully customizable document to collaborate with your team, track submission status, and more.

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Let’s take a look at the top thirty film festivals to watch out for in 2024.

What Are The Top 10 Film Festivals?

Cannes Film FestivalCannes Film Festival

Set in the city of Cannes, this festival has been running since 1946 and is one of the most prestigious film festivals on the list. The festival’s lineup features some of the most highly anticipated films of each year. It is also a highly competitive film festival, as only 70 films are selected from over 2000 submissions. 

Festival Dates: May 14 - May 25, 2024

Submissions Open: December 2023

Website: Cannes Film Festival


Venice International Film Festival

Venice Film Festival

Starting in 1936, the Venice Film Festival is one of the world's longest-running film festivals. The festival's competitive section features various categories to which you can apply. It aims to put a spotlight on independent and arthouse cinema from across the world.

Festival Dates: August 28 - September 7, 2024

Submissions Open: February 2024

Website: Venice International Film Festival


Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film FestivalSundance is one of the most recognized North American film festivals. Notable directors like Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Steven Soderbergh received their first big break at this festival. It receives over 13,000 submissions each year, so it is highly competitive.

Festival Dates: January 18 - January 28, 2024

Submissions Open: August 11, 2024

Website: Sundance Film Festival


Toronto Film Festival

Toronto International Film FestivalThe Toronto Film Festival is a popular Canadian festival that has been running since 1976. This festival has premiered major films such as The Fabelmans, American Beauty, and Mr. Nobody, to name a few. You can submit to a variety of categories spanning from experimental feature films to documentary films. 

Festival Dates: September 2024

Submissions Open: March 2024

Website: Toronto International Film Festival


Berlin International Film Festival

Berlin Film FestivalAlso known as Berlinale, it is one of the major film festivals in the world. It was founded in 1951 and has been a staple of European cinema. The European Film Market (a trade fair) also takes place simultaneously, making Berlin the place for filmmakers to be during February. 

Festival Dates: February 15 - February 25, 2024

Submissions Open: Features: November 1, 2023; Shorts: November 15, 2023

Website: Berlin International Film Festival


South by Southwest

South By Southwest

South by Southwest is a collection of film festivals, panels, conferences, and musical performances. The multimedia event offers attendees networking opportunities like no ​​other. The film festival covers various categories and brings out A-list celebrities for screenings. If you are interested in SXSW, check out Assemble’s Top 10 Filmmakers to Watch at SXSW 2022

Festival Dates: March 8 - March 16, 2024

Submissions Open: August 29, 2023

Website: South By Southwest


Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film FestivalFounded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, the Tribeca Festival is a staple in the American film festival circuit. Taking place in the heart of New York, this festival includes many red carpet screenings, drawing some of the year's best indie and studio films.

Festival Dates: June 5 - June 16, 2024

Submissions Open: September 18, 2023

Website: Tribeca Film Festival


Austin Film Festival

Austin Film FestivalThe Austin Film Festival is a filmmaker-focused festival that promotes writers and storytellers. Among the many categories, the festival’s screenplay competition is highly rated. It is common for writers selected as finalists in the festival to secure representation at the festival. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Submissions Open: March 2024

Website: Austin Film Festival


New York Film Festival

new yorkHosted at the Lincoln Center, The New York Film Festival is one of the most prestigious and exclusive events in entertainment. Feature films screened at the festival are hand-picked by the selection committee. However, they do accept submissions for short films across multiple categories. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Submissions Open: February 2024

Website: New York Film Festival


BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film FestivalThe British Film Institute hosts the BFI London Film Festival. It is the most recognized film festival in the UK. The festival takes place over two weeks during October and screens hundreds of features, documentaries and shorts. Their feature length program is open to only UK-based productions. However, their short film program is available to the UK and all international productions. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Final Deadlines: June 2024

Website: BFI London Film Festival


Top American Film Festivals

Slamdance Film Festival

Slamdance Film FestivalThe Slamdance Festival shines a spotlight on up-and-coming filmmakers. Like the Sundance Film Festival, it occurs in Park City, Utah. The festival was a jumping-off point for many award winning directors such as Rian Johnson, Ari Aster, Bong Joon Ho, and more. 

Festival Dates: January 19 - January 25, 2024

Submissions Open: May 5, 2023

Website: Slamdance Film Festival


Atlanta Film Festival

Atlanta Film FestivalThe Atlanta Film Festival takes place during the spring and has every year since 1976. Inclusivity is at the forefront of this festival, with a special spotlight on filmmakers of color, LGBTQIA+ filmmakers, and female filmmakers. They offer a variety of categories to submit to, with some unique options such as Food Films and Puppetry Films.  

Festival Dates: April 25 - May 5, 2024

Submissions Open: May 8, 2023

Website: Atlanta Film Festival


New Orleans Film Festival

New Orleans Film FestivalThe New Orleans Film Festival is an excellent option for up-and-coming filmmakers as the festival is committed to highlighting new voices in cinema. As such, the selection committee ensures that 90% of the films screened come from submissions.  Additionally, they also spotlight female filmmakers and filmmakers of color.

Festival Dates: November 2024

Submissions Open: November 2023

Website: New Orleans Film Festival


Cinequest Film and VR Festival

Cinequest Film and VR FestivalBased in San Jose, the Cinequest Film Festival is a convergence of art and technology. The proximity to Silicon Valley makes this multimedia festival truly unique. The festival features a variety of competitive and non-competitive film awards, including a section for VR/AR experiences.

Festival Dates: March 5 - March 17, 2024

Submissions Open: May 1, 2023

Website: Cinequest Film Festival


Nashville Film Festival

Nashville Film FestivalThe Nashville Film Festival was established in 1969, making it one of the longest-running film festivals in the American South. Besides the film festival, there are conferences, panels, and musical performances. As Nashville is a hub for the music industry, the festival emphasizes this theme to promote collaboration between filmmakers and musicians.

Festival Dates: September/October 2024

Submissions Open: January 2024

Website: Nashville Film Festival


Chicago International Film Festival

Chicago Film FestivalEstablished in 1964, the Chicago International Film Festival is a long-running and respected event. Its showcase, featuring hundreds of screenings, highlights international filmmaking. The festival features a variety of competitive categories you can apply to, ranging from the International Feature Film Competition to the New Directors Competition. They also feature specific categories for documentary films. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Submissions Open: January 2024

Website: Chicago International Film Festival


Portland Film Festival

Portland Film FestivalThe Portland Film Festival might be younger than most festivals on this list, but it has grown rapidly over the last decade. It is hosted across multiple theaters in the city and offers various categories for feature length films, documentaries and shorts. They also have special categories for music videos, advertisements, PSAs, and even social media content such as Instagram Reels and TikToks. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Submissions Open: December 2023

Website: Portland Film Festival


Santa Fe International Film Festival

santa feThe Santa Fe Film Festival is a forum for international and independent cinema. They host a variety of screenings and events, allowing independent filmmakers to network with distributors, talent agencies, and more. This festival is one of the few in the country that has a category for films with an Indigenous theme or creative team. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Submissions Open: November 2023

Website: Santa Fe Film Festival


San Diego International Film Festival

san diegoThe San Diego International Film Festival brings together some of the best cinematic storytelling worldwide. Their selection committee places particular importance on films that discuss social issues the world currently faces. Their unique submission categories include Military, Social Justice, and Equestrian films. 

Festival Dates: October 2024

Submissions Open: January 2024

Website: San Diego Film Festival


Top Genre Film Festivals

Fantasia Film Festival

Fantasia Film FestivalThe Fantasia film festival takes place in Montreal and is one of the world’s most prominent genre films. They showcase unique, low-budget, independent films across various genres ranging from science fiction to horror to fantasy. The three-week event occurs during the summer.

Festival Dates: July 18 - August 4, 2024

Submissions Open: September 1, 2023

Website: Fantasia Film Festival


Fantastic Fest

Fantastic FestBased in Austin, Texas, the Fantastic Fest is the largest genre festival in the United States. They place a particular emphasis on horror, action, science fiction, and fantasy films. A unique element of the Fantastic Fest is its secret screenings, where the audience does not know the movie they are watching until it begins. This festival is affiliated with the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain and occurs during September. 

Festival Dates: September 2024

Submissions Open: January 2024

Website: Fantastic Fest


Top Science Fiction Film Festivals

Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival

Flickers' Rhode Island Film FestivalThe Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival was established in 1997 to champion the spirit of independent filmmaking. While you can choose from a range of submission categories, this festival is known for science fiction and has become one of the most popular festivals for filmmakers of the genre. Interestingly, they also feature a podcast category. 

Festival Dates: August 6 - August 11, 2024

Submissions Open: August 18, 2023

Website: Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival


Top Short Film Festivals

Hollyshorts Film Festival

Hollyshorts Film FestivalSet in the heart of the film industry, the Hollyshorts Film Festival showcases the best short films from around the world. It is an Academy Award-qualifying festival and has seen appearances from celebrities such as John Brolin, James Caan, and Zoe Saldana. Some available categories include live-action, animation, super 8mm, VR, and documentary short films. 

Festival Dates: August 8 - August 17, 2024

Submissions Open: August 28, 2023

Website: Hollyshorts Film Festival


LA Shorts International Film Festival

LA Shorts International Film FestivalEstablished in 1997, it is one of the longest-running and largest film festivals focused exclusively on short films. The festival has featured films from award-winning directors and actors such as Tim Burton, Jon Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, Ricky Gervais, and many more. In 2023, the festival occurred during August and screened over 500 films. 

Festival Dates: July 2024

Submissions Open: December 2023

Website: LA Shorts International Film Festival

Interested in distributing your short film? Click here for Assembles Guide to Short Film Distribution


Other Notable International Film Festivals

Raindance Film Festival

Raindance Film FestivalThe Raindance Film Festival has been running since 1992 and brings together thousands of film professionals each year. The London-based festival primarily showcases independent films from around the world. It offers multiple categories for both short and feature length films. 

Festival Dates: June 19 - June 29, 2024

Submissions Open: August 2023

Website: Raindance Film Festival


Leeds International Film Festival

Leeds International Film FestivalThe Leeds International Film Festival was founded in 1987 and is another prominent festival from the United Kingdom. Their program caters to narrative, documentary, short, genre, and experimental films. The next event is set to take place in November of 2023, and submission dates for the 2024 edition are yet to be announced. 

Festival Dates: November 2024

Submissions Open: October 2023

Website: Leeds International Film Festival


The London Independent Film Festival

The London Independent Film FestivalThe London Independent Film Festival’s mission is to empower emerging filmmakers worldwide. Their selection committee prioritizes independent first or second-time filmmakers working with limited budgets. The two-week event in April 2024 also includes networking events, screenplay competitions, and a distribution fair.  

Festival Dates: April 19 - April 28, 2024

Submissions Open: April 7, 2023

Website: London Independent Film Festival


Cork International Film Festival

Cork International Film FestivalFounded in 1956, this is Ireland’s largest and oldest film festival. Apart from highlighting homegrown Irish films, the program features all types of cinema, from commercial blockbusters to experimental indies. 

Festival Dates: November 2024

Submissions Open: January 2024

Website: Cork International Film Festival


Vancouver International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film FestivalThe Vancouver Film Festival was established in 1958 and is the second-largest Canadian festival. Aside from narrative shorts and features, the programming committee focuses on three categories: Canadian films, documentary films, and East Asian films. 

Festival Dates: September/October 2024

Submissions Open: January 2024

Website: Vancouver International Film Festival



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