Here's What a Festival Programmer Looks for in a Short Film

Essential tips from SXSW's Senior Programmer Claudette Godfrey.

We’ve discussed many different tactics for getting your short films into film festivals on this podcast, but at SXSW last month we decided to head straight for the source: the people in charge of selecting the films themselves. 

That’s right we’re talking about the all-powerful festival programmer. And to get the inside scope there’s no one better than SXSW Senior Film Programmer Claudette Godfrey. 

On today’s program, Claudette and I run through exactly what it is that attracts a festival programmer to a certain short. She also gives us a rundown of the things a filmmaker should focus on when submitting, as well as what they should attempt to avoid when working on a project they hope will be selected. 

Claudette makes a powerful case for the value of festivals like SXSW for all filmmakers and if you’re in the middle of planning a festival run, you better listen close.

Listen to the episode by streaming or downloading from the embedded player above, or find it on iTunes here.

Please subscribe and rate us on iTunesSoundcloud, or the podcasting app of your choice. You can play all of our No Film School interview episodes right here:

This episode was edited by Jon Fusco.

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Your Comment


Here’s what they really look for:

1. Do I know the filmmaker?
2. Does someone I work with know the filmmaker?
3. Is the filmmaker famous?
4. Was this film recommended to me by someone famous or well known?
5. Is the producer/director famous or well known?

If the answers to these questions are “no” then you aren’t getting into the big festivals.

April 30, 2018 at 6:49AM, Edited April 30, 6:49AM


Here is what you should probably ask yourself:

1. Is my film really as good as I think it is? (prolly not)
2. Did I shoot a budget I can't afford that involvoes airsoft pistols with the orange tips painted over?
3. Did I cast my friends in roles meant for people twice their age?
4. Do you think it's cool the whole thing was just a dream?
5. Should I be disgruntled at all festivals for not getting into a few and claim they just accept their friends?

April 30, 2018 at 12:17PM

Stephen Herron

I’m actually not disgruntled believe it or not, just putting the truth out there for young filmmakers who think judges are actually watching their short films!

May 3, 2018 at 11:43AM


I love her laid back and open to it all attitude! Totally infectious. This was a great one and makes me want to get to know the SXSW community. Nice job.

May 1, 2018 at 12:37PM


Enjoyed that podcast. I noticed that magic number come up again for film length. I've heard on more than one occasion that 10mins is a good length to be considered for most festivals. Having said that it's interesting that most of the Oscar nominated shorts of 2017 were around the 20min mark. Nice to hear a programmer confirming my thoughts about equipment as well. I hear all the time people banging on about their great camera and other 'professional' equipment like it somehow gets them a free pass into some exclusive club and automatically qualifies them as 'players' on the movie making scene. Like Claudette said in the interview most people in the audience have no clue and probably don't give a shit what equipment you used, all they care about is was the film good.

May 2, 2018 at 2:20AM

John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.

Pricelessly informative....

May 2, 2018 at 9:08PM