Independent Film Night Selection Criteria

I was rejected…now what?

If we rejected your submission to our Independent Film Night or Independent Documentary Night, you’re in good company!

We reject about 95% of all the submissions we get, and that includes high-quality films that deserve to be seen on the big screen.

We’re not screenwriters or cinematographers, which means we’re not really qualified to give you specific feedback on your film. Most films that we pass on have an issue with one or two of the elements on this page, so read on, and please resubmit in the future!

Please note that emails or voicemails that demand a reason for rejection or insult our staff or institution go unanswered.


To keep Independent Film Night moving at a good pace, we look for films that are between 5 minutes and 20 minutes in total run-time, credits included. This is a hard limit. Even a wonderful 2-minute film or 22-minute film just isn’t what we’re looking for.

Most films we accept fall somewhere in the 7- to 15-minute range.

We tend to reject films that spend the first one to two minutes displaying logos or credits.




Genre is less of a consideration than the topic, themes, and content of a film.

We jump at the chance to screen genre films with twists and turns, or films that use the elements of their genre in an unexpected or fresh way.

That said, we absolutely do not screen films containing excessive gore or violence, nudity for the sake of nudity, or sexual assault. Profanity is fine as long as it serves a purpose.

We get so few comedy submissions that we almost always accept them, as long as the production value is strong.

We also reject films that don’t match the focus of the event. If it’s an Independent Film Night and we’ve asked for only fictional films, documentaries are not considered. If it’s an Independent Documentary Night and we’ve asked for only documentaries, fictional films are not considered.


Production Value

We understand that an independent filmmaker is limited by budgetary concerns, equipment, etc. We’re not looking for perfection: we’re looking for films that don’t tip their hand when it comes to production value.

Here’s what that means: really quiet audio or weird buzzes/hums will will take the viewer out of the story. The same is true of a shaky/unsteady camera, or if your film is too dark or grainy, or if you’ve filmed in a location with a busy/distracting background.

If you include these elements as deliberate choices, it should be obvious to a casual viewer that these are deliberate choices.


Topics and Themes

We receive many submissions on a handful of topics and themes. If your film is about one of these themes, it must be exceptional in other areas if we’re going to choose it.

  • Civil rights issues

  • Cancer

  • Loss/grief/suicide

  • Murder and kidnapping

  • Dystopian governments

  • Monsters (especially zombies and vampires)

  • Break-ups

  • Stories that take place in a bar

To be clear, we happily screen films that contain these themes. But they must be more than a straightforward portrayal of the theme. Use what we think is going to happen in order to surprise us!



Many people who come to our Independent Film Nights attend regularly, so if your film happens to resemble another film we’ve selected for this event, or if it happens to resemble a film we just screened at our last Independent Film Night, we may have to pass.

That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t consider your film in the future, though!


How to increase your chance of selection

  1. Read what we’re looking for. If we are only considering documentaries, your zombie film will not be considered.

  2. Submit exactly one film. We receive hundreds of submissions for each event. Pick your best one and save the rest for a future event.

  3. Write a cover note that explains anything we might need to know about your film. We don’t need a synopsis because the film should stand on its own, but if you’re local to the Philadelphia region or we’ve worked with you before, please remind us!

  4. Let us download a MP4 file. It must be a MP4 file…no WAV, MOV, etc. FilmFreeway and Vimeo give you the option of providing a file for us to download, so please take advantage!

  5. Provide a valid email address and respond to our emails in a timely manner. We don’t need to receive a response within the hour, but if you plan on being away from your email or unreachable for more than a couple of days, please consider submitting to a future event.