Why Submit a Film to Blackbird?

With so many film festivals to choose from across the globe, it becomes very difficult to decide which festivals are worth submitting your film to... As filmmakers ourselves, we understand how expensive the festival submission process can be as well as how disappointing it is to receive that regretable rejection letter months later.

So, Why Trust Blackbird With Your Film?

Firstly, please know that we cannot guarantee that your film will be "Officially Selected" to screen at Blackbird and, in truth, the odds are actually quite low that any given film will be selected. In an effort to be as transparent as possible, we have included SELECTION STATISTICS from the past four festival seasons that we would encourage you to review before submitting. However, as a festival, we can guarantee that your film will be given a fair and equitable opportunity.


Here's Our Promise to You:

At Blackbird, we guarantee the following each season:

  1. Every film submitted via FilmFreeway will be watched and reviewed by, at least, three (3) judges.

  2. Over 90% of Officially Selected films are from the submission pool and less than 10% of selections are curated/invited.

  3. Officially Selected films will be screened in front of a live audience regardless of the filmmakers ability to attend.

At this point, you and your team have likely spent months, if not years, producing your film and now it's time to find an audience who will appreciate the many hours you've devoted to this production. At Blackbird, we understand this and respect your time and effort. Please take a moment to review the information and tips provided on this page and consider if the Blackbird Film Festival is the right choice for you and your film.


Nick Ronan

Top notch in every way. This is the best run festival I have ever attended. Stellar communication, great programming, and an army of exuberant interns make this festival a true gem.

Christina Raia

 The (student) interns did a wonderful job of welcoming people and keeping things moving smoothly throughout the festival weekend. I really enjoyed being part of Blackbird FF and will definitely submit future work.

Chelsea Gonzalez

I cannot speak highly enough about this film festival! What an incredible experience! The organizers are amazing and SO on top of it. If you can attend, GO! I have never been to a film festival where I have gotten so close with all of the other filmmakers. Truly love this festival and hope to attend many times in the future.

Lorraine Toth

I was beyond impressed with Blackbird's coordination, professionalism, award ceremony, promotion and social media skills. I highly recommend this festival. The awards and medals they gave out are gorgeous as well and to be treasured for years to come!

Riley Sugars

I made so many new friends and was so impressed with the festival. There is a real sense of friendship at Blackbird. Love you guys and will definitely be submitting next year.

The Judging Process

At Blackbird, we pride ourselves on curating cohesive festival programming themed around different topics and styles. At Blackbird, our programmers do not simply throw together screening blocks based on budgets or alphabetical order... Instead, our team of Judges and Programmers work tirelessly from September to January each year to review every film and create the best possible lineup of unique and interesting independent films.


The Judging Process

The secret to Blackbird's success is our THREE STAGE judging process whereby every film is watched and review by, at least, three (3) judges. The stages are as follows:

STAGE #1 - Student Judges

(September to December)

Every film submitted via FilmFreeway is watched and reviewed by, at least, three (3) first stage judges. First stage judges are required to watch, review and rate each film independently. In addition, first stage judges are also required to meet once a week as a group to vote on which films will advance to the second stage of judging. This stage of the judging process is highly competitive and approximately only 50% of the films advance to the next stage. First stage judges are comprised of college students studying media production and/or film studies at SUNY Cortland. If interested, please CLICK HERE to view a sample of the review form used by our First Stage Judges.

STAGE #2 - Professional Judges

(September to December)

Films that first stage judges recommend to the second stage are reviewed by, at least, two (2) second stage judges. Second stage judges are professional filmmakers, educators and/or festival alumni who have screened a film during a previous Blackbird season. Unlike first stage judges, the second stage judges work remotely and independently to watch, review and rate the films. Second stage judges may also nominate films for awards.

STAGE #3 - Programming Committee

(December to January)

Once all the second stage judges have submitted their reviews, the programming stage begins. At this stage of the process, the programming committee watches and reviews all films that have successfully advanced through the first and second judging stages. Typically, programmers are looking for themes across selections in an attempt to curate 10 to 12 cohesive screening blocks for the festival weekend. A complete breakdown of the "Programming Selection Hierarchy" can be reviewed HERE. At this stage, programmers may also consider the race and gender of directors in an effort to create a more diverse and equitable festival program.

In the end, programmers typically schedule approximately 80 to 100 films to screen during the festival weekend.


Zach Daulton

Had a fantastic time at the Blackbird Film Fest! Met so many amazing people and saw a lot of great films. Looking forward to entering again!

Kit Vinsick

I highly recommend filmmakers submit to this rising festival! It offers unique, quality programming and an outstanding experience in a fun town in Central NY. 

Jall Cowasji

Loved being a part of this festival. Very well organized and as a filmmaker I felt really well taken care of.

I give it 5 Stars!

Jennifer Dean

The communication before and during the festival was exceptional. They had a really fantastic group of films and went out of their way to make it a good experience.

Ben Tobin

I felt like the staff and the audience really engaged with my film. This wasn't an assembly line festival, each film was given its due.

Selection Statistics

At Blackbird, we believe transparency is an important part of the festival submission process. As filmmakers, you have the right to know how many films are being submitted and, of that number, how many are being selected to screen. Please visit our Submission Category page for additional selection information per category. Outlined below are the Selections Statistics for the four most recent festival seasons.



Total Submissions:  2073

Films Accepted:  95

Acceptance Rate:  4.58%


48 Female Filmmakers

40 Male Filmmakers

7 Prefer not to share



Total Submissions:  1801

Films Accepted:  83

Acceptance Rate:  4.61%


41 Female Filmmakers

37 Male Filmmakers

5 Prefer not to share



Total Submissions:  1581

Films Accepted:  117

Acceptance Rate:  7.40%


61 Female Filmmakers

54 Male Filmmakers

2 Transgender filmmakers



Total Submissions:  789

Films Accepted:  116

Acceptance Rate:  14.70%


38 Female Filmmakers

66 Male Filmmakers

12 Undisclosed



Total Submissions:  557

Films Accepted:  97

Acceptance Rate:  17.41%


25 Female Filmmakers

45 Male Filmmakers

27 Undisclosed

Submission Tips

& Discounts

At Blackbird, programmers will curate as many films as possible each season while maintaining the high level of quality and thematic motifs our audience has come to expect. However, we can only screen so many films in a weekend and so, inevitably, many amazingly fantastic films don't make the final cut... So the question becomes, how do Blackbird programmers determine official selections during the final stage of the judging process and why might they choose one film over another? If interested in learning more, please CLICK HERE for Submission Tips from our Festival Director, Sam Avery, as well as an overview of our "Programming Selection Hierarchy".


We appreciate that you have taken the time to review our website and therefore would like to offer you a discount. Please use code: WEBSITE for 30% off submission fees via Filmfreeway. Thank you for considering the Blackbird Film Festival.