A Code of Ethics for
Short Film Festivals

The Short Film Conference’s Code of Ethics offers guidelines for short film festivals to follow. It is hoped that these guidelines will be followed by festivals for the benefit of filmmakers, audiences & the entire short film industry.

The Board of Directors is currently looking into an alternative for non-festival members.

I. Introduction

1.1. A short film festival is defined as a cultural event that considers cinema and video as an art form and a film or a video as a work of art. A short film festival’s primary role is to present the state of the art within contemporary short film production as well as tendencies reflecting the current cultural, aesthetic, social and institutional trends.

1.2. It should also strive toward, or even focus exclusively on, keeping the history of short film alive. The relevant task is to sound out, select and contextualise these works, thereby making them accessible to an audience. Festivals are therefore duty-bound to provide a spectrum of new and exciting contributions in their competitions, and to keep alive the film history and the aesthetic, social and political discourses linked to this in curated programmes. Ultimately, the intention is to make both historic and current film culture visible to a public and/or industry related audience who meet beyond the anonymity of the internet so as to look at and discuss short film programmes together.

1.3. Short film festivals should be aware of the responsibility they bear to the filmmakers and their works, as well as to the audiences. Short film festivals are a space of reflection and exchange dedicated to short films. Short film festivals are part of the short film industry and are not exclusively a platform to show films, meaning that festivals are part of the full circuit of the short film industry and should therefore also take an active role in securing a livelihood for creators of short films. Festivals should be aware that their decisions and actions must be in favour of the creators.

1.4. It is important to have diversity within the festival world and their programming and we acknowledge the difference between short film festivals and short film events which respect the spirit of the points mentioned above. Respecting each other also means that festival dates are determined in terms of the regional, national and international festival calendar.

II. Competitions

If a festival defines itself as an international festival then it should try to be as international as possible. English should be the lingua franca of the festival. This should be reflected in an English (bilingual) catalogue, and the official festival documents (such as submission forms, rules and regulations, press releases) should also be available in English.

2.2. The international nature should also be reflected in the variety of films selected for the competitive programs.

2.3. Any festival must define its conditions of participation in a written document, including information on main awards, dates of registration, and how submitters are notified of (non-)selection.

2.4. In case of selection, the festival should notify the relevant contact within four weeks before the beginning of the event, and at least two weeks before  in the case of non-selection.

2.5. Once a film is selected it is a festival’s responsibility to get a final written confirmation of participation from the rightsholder. If there is no answer from the rightsholder, then a festival doesn’t have automatic permission to show the film.

2.6. If a rightsholder doesn’t accept an invitation to be screened at a festival – even after submitting a film – then a festival should take no legal action. Festivals should respect a personal decision by the filmmaker.

2.7. The festival must respect the copyright of the selected as well as the submitted films.

2.8. Awards can consist of cash and/or services. Cash prizes ought to be transferred within four weeks after the end of the festival. The money must be transferred so there is a proof of payment. Usually this would be a bank transfer or PayPal.

2.9. Any prize must be conferred on a winner regardless if representatives are able to attend the festivals. I.e: a festival must not demand the presence of a representative as a prerequisite to be given a prize.

2.10. Awards are selected by the invited jury and according to the festival’s regulations. It’s recommended to have the jury present at the festival for watching the films in the cinema. If the jury cannot be present, it must be guaranteed that they see the films in the best quality possible and under the same conditions.

2.11. The festival must specify in their regulations to whom the prizes are donated (i.e. is it conferred on the director, producer or some other party).

2.12. It is recommended to invite the filmmaker or a representative of the film to the award ceremony by offering accommodation and – if possible – help to cover traveling costs.

III. Screenings during the Festival

3.1. A festival is respectful of the filmmakers’ work and will do its best to screen the work in its original version, format and technical requirements.

3.2. The festival has to screen the best available quality of the screening copy. Preview files aren’t screening copies unless the right holder gives the festival a written permission.

3.3. The festival must have insurance covering any risks or possible damages of the prints and/or digital containers between receipt and return delivery within reasonable considerations

3.4. Rightsholders should be informed about which programme(s) the film is in and when, where and how many times these programmes are screening.

3.5. Prints and data containers are to be returned during the two weeks following the end of the festival. In case of tour screenings after the festival, a special agreement must be made with the rightsholder.

3.6. All films and directors of films selected for competition should be treated equally in terms of number, quality and conditions of screenings.

3.7. A festival must not forward prints to another festival without the rightsholder’s written authorisation.

IV. Jury

4.1. A jury for competitive programs should exist in at least three members, the majority of which should be film professionals or film artists. For an international festival, it is encouraged that the jury is diverse in nationality, disciplines and gender.

4.2. The jury must be announced on the web page of the festival before the festival dates and they must be presented in the catalogue or program magazine of the festival, including an outline of their career and current position.

4.3. It should be noted that jury members are often giving up time and money to be on a jury and provide their professional insight. If a festival is unable to pay an honorarium, a minimum should be that a jury member should incur no expenses directly related to their work.

4.4. The invited jury must be accommodated by the festival. If food or drinks are not provided by the festival, they have to be monetised and cashed out at arrival.

4.5. Jury decisions made within the framework specified in the festival’s regulations must be accepted by the festival or other organisations involved with the festival.

4.6. It is recommended that a jury shouldn’t watch more than four programmes (of 90 minutes duration) per day.  The recommended amount is a maximum of three.

V. Communication

5.1. The festival should provide a press service offering advice to anyone who wishes to cover the festival as a journalist.

5.2. Festivals should provide a print and/or online catalogue. This should (at least) include:

  • Relevant contact information of the rightsholder(s) of the film
  • A list of awards, specifying the benefactor(s) and the prize amount or a description of awarded services
  • Contact information of the festivals’ organisers
  • The jury must be presented including their career

5.3. The winners must be informed at the latest one day after the prize ceremony.

5.4. The winners must be communicated through the webpage and/or social media within seven days after the festival.

5.5. Festivals are encouraged to build up their own archives of files, photos, posters, press releases etc.

VI. Out of Competition and Other Screenings

6.1. Films that are not in competition should receive screening fees unless the filmmaker or a representative is invited and all costs regarding traveling and accommodation are covered by the festival.

6.2. Films from the competition that are also shown in another program should also be eligible for screening fees.

6.3. The festivals should proactively offer the payment of screening fees to the rightsholder. The rightsholder is free to have an own pricing model, which has to be respected by the festivals. The screening fee may vary in different countries and on different continents. In Europe it is common to offer a sum of 40 Euros for up to 2 screenings.

6.4. Other screenings, especially those not within the duration of the festival, need to be arranged and agreed upon beforehand. It is not sufficient to place caveats within the festival’s submission regulations. Any extra screenings – including ‘Best Ofs’ and touring programmes outside the scope of the main festival – must be communicated to and agreed upon by rightsholders.

6.5. The amount and the geographical scope of screenings must be limited and clearly defined in the regulation of the festival.

6.6. If the films are shown outside of the country of origin of the festival it is mandatory to get a written confirmation from the rightsholder so as not to interfere with any kind of premiere politics of other festivals.

VII. Collaborations between Festivals

7.1. The Short Film Conference encourages cooperation amongst short film festivals.

7.2. Cooperations must have a value for all parties involved.

7.3. If festivals are asked by other festivals to curate programs it must be made clear how the guest festival is presented in communication and during the festival.

7.4. The host festival is responsible for paying screening fees to the rightsholders, for the process of clearing the rights and film transport must be agreed between the two festivals. It is expected that the guest festival receives an invitation including traveling costs and accommodation.

7.5. In case of guest programs it is necessary that the host festival sends the attendance figures of the screenings within 2 weeks after the festival.

VIII. Industry Guests

8.1. The festival should provide the professionals with a list of all professionals in attendance (in accordance with local data protection laws).

8.2. The festival should offer opportunities that industry guests can meet and know each other during the festival.

8.3. All invited festival guests must get information about their stay by, the latest, one week before the festival.

8.4. The festival should invite the directors (or other representatives) of the short films and facilitate the presence of guests such as journalists and professionals (producers, distributors, buyers, programmers, festival organisers).

8.5. Directors or other representatives of selected short films should not have to pay to attend regular screenings. The amount of tickets must be made clear within the accreditation regulations of the festival.