Could UpVotes Be the New Programming Model? Check Out the 2015 Reddit Film Festival

Imagine, for a moment, what the independent film festival circuit would be like if films were programmed by public upvoting. Are you inspired? Horrified? Curious? 

That's exactly the model behind the 2015 Reddit Film Festival: filmmakers post their work and the highest upvoted films win. Assuming the purpose of film festivals is to bring unrecognized work into the spotlight for distribution, a democratic programming method would radically change what films get released. Depending on your philosophical view of humanity, it could be for the better or for the worse. (Or stay the same?)

Either way, the Reddit Film Festival should be an interesting experiment to watch. And, if you're interested in being a part of it, you could win between $500-$2000 in cash prizes for categories in shorts, features, and web series. From Reddit:

ShowUp is sponsoring a reddit film fest with actual cash prizes! is the new online network for up-and-coming artists, and all winners are automatically invited to exhibit their work on the site as it launches October 5th, though not required to do so. The categories are broad to encourage participation and get lots of variety for voters to choose from. Voters - check back often to see the new submissions!

Rules of the Reddit Film Festival 2015:

  • Contest starts September 18th and runs until midnight US CST October 2nd.
  • Please limit this thread to actual submissions, questions about the fest are welcome as a post to ShowUp
  • The highest UpVoted work in each Category will win the prize
  • Only submit your work: you must be able to prove you own the rights to the project to receive a prize. 
  • You don't need to post personal information in this thread, we will PM you for your information after winners are determined
  • Vloggers, reels, cat videos, and "viral videos" will be removed, this is for filmmakers only, whether shot on an iphone or a Red
  • Web series must have a minimum of 3 episodes, with a run time of 5+ minutes each
  • A short is anything under 40 minutes
  • A feature is 40+ minutes
  • All music must be licensed for use OUTSIDE of YouTube. 
  • "Film Festival Only" music licenses are permitted 
  • You are allowed multiple posts, please limit it to 3 per category
  • No "Documentaries" promoting your brand unless you are an official 501c3 non profit

If you plan on submitting, good luck! 

What do you think of this programming model? What would it take to make it work?     

Your Comment


Betteridge's law of headlines applies strongly here, meaning that the answer is no. This is pretty much a terrible idea as it would mainly be a contest of who belongs to the largest or most active clique (especially on something like reddit), not which films are best. An independent panel of screeners and judges is still the best solution available.

September 24, 2015 at 10:58AM, Edited September 24, 10:58AM


FWIW, I completely disagree. For folks who want what traditionally curated festivals provide, there are hundreds of those. I think this will be successful, it will simply be successful at producing a different kind of curation. I don't think one model is "better" than the other, and I look forward to having both available in the future. From the standpoint of a viewer and a filmmaker, it's a win win...just more choices for people.

September 24, 2015 at 11:49AM


Bad idea. In the end people with a huge group of followers=mainstream will make it in.

September 24, 2015 at 12:27PM


Do you have much experience with reddit? You might be surprised by how some niche subcultures behave there.

For example among the documentary lovers, there is often a valuable dissent from the norm. Just try lauding praise on the big budget box office success "King of Kong" sometime, and people will pop out of the woodwork immediately and point out all the ridiculous flaws, inaccuracies, and fabrications in it and tell you about "Chasing Ghosts" which interviews all the same people but didn't make past Showtime and VOD to the big screen. You wouldn't have learned that at any of 2007's festivals where "King of Kong" was a darling.

I've discovered all kinds of film through reddit, thanks specifically to the upvote/downvote model and subreddit behavior, that I never would have found out about from more traditional means. I don't think it's better necessarily, but I like having it around as well.

September 24, 2015 at 1:09PM


Thanks for your comment. I guess my skepticism arises from the fact that the internet in itself is quite muddy and the mechanics rarely/not always is transparent.

I still have the negative impression in my mind regarding how kickstarter is taken over more and more by mainstream Hollywood, rendering the platform more and more useless for indie film makers.

But you probably have a better insight into Reddit then I do!

September 24, 2015 at 10:27PM


Certainly some gems will rise to the top, but ,like nearly anything else on the Internet, this will be a popularity contest. There is a drastic difference between upvoting a film you like in /documentaries and a filmmaker with a decent following hitting up Twitter and Facebook for upvotes. People with a fan base are going to almost always win this.

I still like the idea, though. It's another way to get your film attention. Just don't expect a remotely unbiased contest.

September 25, 2015 at 8:27AM


Popularity and 'up voting' are already in full swing over at the "Internet Film Festival". Most of the stuff you see has gone viral (by accident or design) and in doing so wound up in your in box.

Essentially this is great. A truly democratic way of films receiving exposure based on the popular vote. The major downside for me is that 'going viral' has become many film makers aim. This limits a lot of people to making films that have a memorable catch or gimmick. Something snappy to rise above the internets short attention span.

This isn't a terrible thing as long as people remember to make personal films as well. Some of the films that have moved me the most just don't get the popular vote. These kinds of films are like a much needed conversation between a filmmaker and their (possibly smallish) audience.

I worry that we might loose some of these kinds of conversations as more and more film makers consider 'virability' over personal resonance.

Rant/warning over.

September 24, 2015 at 2:01PM

Lee Gingold

There's a really good essay by David Banks over at The New Inquiry that outlines why this (well the Reddit model in general not the film fest in particular) is not a good way to highlight the best content.

September 25, 2015 at 3:23AM

Jonathan Kennedy

Interesting essay from David Banks - thanks for sharing it.

September 28, 2015 at 8:18PM

Oakley Anderson-Moore