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Frequently Asked



Filmmaker FAQs

*Unless specified, answers apply to both Indy Shorts and the Heartland International Film Festival (HIFF).*


Where can I find basic submissions information such as deadlines, categories, and eligibility requirements? Where do I submit?

For short films (films under 41 minutes, including credits), click here.

For feature films (films 41 minutes and longer, including credits), click here.

How do you distinguish short films from feature films? Is there a maximum run time for feature films?

Short films are designated as under 41 minutes, including credits. Feature films are 41 minutes and longer, including credits. 

There is no official maximum runtime for feature films, but we rarely program films longer than 2 hours 30 minutes. 

What types of films do you program? What kind of projects are you looking for? What stands out?

Heartland Film curates, promotes and celebrates thoughtful and engaging films from diverse perspectives. We pride ourselves on featuring story-driven films that impact the viewer in some meaningful way. This impact can be present in many forms, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Incites dialogue, passion or action

  • Educates the audience on a new and important topic

  • Changes preconceived notions or shifts perspectives

  • Takes the viewer on a journey of self-reflection and discovery 

We consider a wide variety of genres. Ultimately, we look for a solid blend both message/story and artistic/technical quality.

Do you consider web series/episodic content or music videos?

At present, our festivals do not have an episodic content section. You are welcome to submit episodes for consideration if they can stand alone as their own film. We consider all submissions, but we traditionally do not program music videos. 


How do I determine if my film is a US or World Premiere? Does my film have to be a premiere to be eligible? 

World Premiere means this would be the first time your film is shown in any festival.

U.S. Premiere this means your film has screened outside the US and this would be first time your film is shown in the United States


Your film does NOT have to be a premiere to be eligible for the festival.

A group of people smile in front of a camera
An audience applauds

How can I qualify for Indiana Spotlight? 

To qualify for Indiana Spotlight, your film must either include principal production (director or producer) or cast (leading actor/actress) born in or currently living in Indiana and/or the film was shot in Indiana. Indiana Spotlight films will still be in consideration for the Indiana Spotlight Award as well as the Narrative Grand Prize, Documentary Grand Prize, or Animated Grand Prize (Indy Shorts only award).

May I submit my project as a rough cut? 

We accept work-in-progress titles, but we advise submitting the most complete version possible. We judge a submitted film as-is.
If your title is a work in progress, you must indicate the elements that are in progress with a title card at the beginning of your film. 


How old can my project be and still qualify for submission?

All films submitted for 2024 festival consideration must have been completed on or after January 1, 2023.

If my film includes non-English dialogue, do you require English subtitles? 

Yes. All films that contain a significant amount non-English dialogue MUST include English subtitles at the time of submission. Please do not send us an un-subtitled version with the intention of providing a subtitled version later. Please ensure that all subtitles are hardcoded to your video file as opposed to using hidden subtitles that need to be turned on in order to display on the screen (i.e. using the CC option on your Vimeo/YouTube upload). 

Which video formats are accepted? 

All films must be submitted as online screeners via FilmFreeway, which offers direct digital upload or entry of Vimeo or YouTube links. If you use a video link, be sure to update the privacy settings to allow for embedding. It allows the Vimeo player to be displayed within the FilmFreeway interface. We do not accept links via email, nor links for platforms other than Vimeo and YouTube. Please do not submit file sharing links (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive). If you use a password-protected link, please refrain from changing your link and/or password during the submission timeline. 

Am I required to obtain rights clearance for trademarked or copyrighted material? 

From a legal standpoint, you must license or obtain permission from the appropriate legal rights-holder for any and all trademarked and/or copyrighted materials included in your project before you can exhibit it publicly. If your submitted project contains unlicensed or uncleared materials, it is the responsibility of the owner or owners of your project to license, clear, or to otherwise replace these materials in the event that Heartland Film or any other entity chooses to accept the project for festival exhibition. While you are not required to license or clear this material until that time, Heartland Film will not be held responsible for ensuring you have obtained licensing rights or other clearance for these materials at any point during the application process, nor will we be held responsible for the inclusion of unlicensed or uncleared trademarked or copyrighted materials held within the final version of your project. 


It is the sole responsibility of the entity or entities claiming ownership of the submitted project to secure licensing and/or permission from the trademark or copyright holders of the material in question. This includes music, stock images/footage, or any other elements that could violate an existing legal trademark or copyright. Projects that are accepted into Indy Shorts or HIFF will be required to sign a waiver stating that all materials contained within the project do not violate any existing trademark or copyright. Quite often, rights holders offer reduced rates for independently-produced projects, so we encourage you to contact them directly to avoid any potential rights infringements. 

Can I submit multiple projects in the same year? 

Yes, as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements. 

Do you provide feedback if a film is not selected?

Due to high volume of submissions we are unable to provide feedback on individual entries.

People holding Iggy

Can I submit my project to multiple categories? 

Please submit to one category only, and the most specific category possible. For example, if your film is submitted as an Indiana Spotlight Narrative or Horror it will also be eligible for consideration for the overall Narrative prize, Indiana Documentaries will also still be considered for overall Documentary, etc.


What if my contact information or anything else about my submission changes? 

Please update your submission accordingly in FilmFreeway. For further info/instructions, click here.

Do you accept student films? 

We accept student (university and conservatory level) films in all categories and provide discounted submission fees to students, listed in FilmFreeway. 


Indy Shorts has a High School Film Competition for high school-level films (students aged 14-19). You must have completed the film before entering your first year of university in order to be eligible. 


Do you watch all of the submissions?

Films submitted to Indy Shorts and Heartland International Film Festival are judged on their overall artistic and technical quality. Each submitted film goes through an involved judging process, and is screened in full by at least one member of the selection committee. Films that move up through the process could eventually be seen more than six times by members of the screening committees, programming staff and juries. 


If you watch all of the submissions, why doesn’t my Vimeo link have any views? 

We use a third party site for our review process after films are submitted via FilmFreeway, so Vimeo tracking results might not always be accurate. Rest assured, every submission is watched at least once by our screening team. 


Do you offer fee waivers and/or discounts? 

Please DO NOT contact us requesting waivers or reduced submission fees. As a nonprofit organization, our operations and the process of viewing the volume of submissions we receive are very costly. Thus, waivers are reserved only for Indy Shorts and Heartland International Film Festival alumni. We strive to keep our fees as reasonable as possible, and encourage all applicants to take advantage of our early and official deadlines to save on submission fees. 

As a non-profit arts institute, we rely on entry fees to help us defray a fraction of the costs associated with processing your submission. We understand the limited budgets that filmmakers are faced with. Our festival is only possible through our sponsors, patron donations and entry fees.

ALUMNI WAIVERS: If you are a director or producer that has had a film play in the lineup  at Indy Shorts or Heartland International Film Festival, please email with the subject line “Alumni Waiver Request,” and list your past Indy Shorts or HIFF film(s’) title and the year it screened in the body of the email, and we will send you a waiver code. 

I have a question that is not answered here. Who do I contact? 
For other submissions-related questions, please email the Heartland Film Programming Team at We receive a high volume of emails, so we thank you for your patience.

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