Submitting to Rooftop Films
Submissions for the 2021 Rooftop Films Summer Series are now open!
In May 2021, we will begin celebrating our 25th year of presenting the best independent films outdoors in New York City. If selected, filmmakers will participate in one of the most unforgettable, unique and artist-friendly, independent film events in the world!
At Rooftop, we believe that the role of a festival is to help creators bring their works to excited and engaged audiences. We’re committed to helping filmmakers get their films screened and we believe that it’s the responsibility of a festival to make that process as easy as possible. That is why we keep our submission fees low. If you submit a work to Rooftop you will automatically get 2 free tickets ($30 value) to any one Rooftop Summer Series show or one free entry to a drive-in screening, whether or not we are able to screen your film. Tickets are transferable. Struggling filmmaker need never despair: no film will ever be turned away due to lack of funds.
Rooftop Films is more than a film festival—we are a film community. When a filmmaker is selected to screen with Rooftop, they become part of that community forever. From then on, we’ll support that film and filmmaker in every way we can.
We don’t screen in theaters, so each event is different. A unique venue, live music, filmmaker Q&As, and free after-parties are just the start. For some films we’ve also included strongman stunts, bicycle tricks, thematic karaoke, an eco-carnival, social issue campaigns, dog step-and-repeats and more. The audience will never forget your screening at Rooftop.
More About the Summer Series
The Summer Series runs annually in New York City and features daring new films, screened outdoors, in front of big, loyal audiences in parks, on boats, and on rooftops overlooking the greatest city in the world. Tens of thousands of people attend Rooftop screenings every summer, making it one of the most popular festivals in New York City and one of the biggest festivals for independent films in the world. We believe that a film festival has a responsibility to present films in exciting and innovative ways so that we can reach wide audiences and show interesting work in a manner that maximizes the impact of the films.
Rooftop Filmmakers Fund
Unlike festivals which give awards for filmmakers’ past works, the Rooftop Filmmakers Fund is an opportunity to help our community of filmmakers make their next movie. Rooftop Films set aside $1 from every ticket sold and $1 from every submission fee received and grants those funds to alumni filmmakers for their film productions. We’ve been screening films since 1997, and every filmmaker who has ever shown a film with Rooftop is eligible for our grants.
Rooftop Films has eleven grants available —seven for feature length films and four for short films. Each year, Rooftop Films will give away over $45,000 in cash grants, $30,000 of which is courtesy of our Water Tower Feature Film Grant that funds two feature-length works per year. Our equipment and service grants are valued at more than $300,000 and come courtesy of our sponsors at Eastern Effects, Edgeworx Studios, Red Hook Post, Irving Harvey, Technological Cinevideo Services, The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, elkind Lighting & Camera, and Downtown Community Television.
Past grantees include Penny Lane’s Hail Satan?, Petra Costa’s The Edge of Democracy, Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, and many more.
Read more about past grantees.
We show films outdoors in New York, among the tall buildings and towering trees, on tar roofs and green grass, and amid the subtle sounds of street traffic and whirring crickets. A film framed by the city skyline becomes more than just a film, it becomes part of the neighborhood. We try to choose films that will add to the environment in which they will be screened, just as we try to choose venues that will enhance the films that we show. We strive to find the perfect location for each film or program, seeking out idyllic spots along a canal for a romantic program or film, or mounting a screening of a documentary about industry atop the roof of a 100-year-old factory. The result is that the films take on new meanings in these unique environments and nuances come to the fore, making a lasting impression.
Read more about the Summer Series venues on the venues page.
We work harder than most festivals to program films together in such a way that the films complement one another. That is why most of our programs are organized around themes, moods, regions, and/or genres. While some festivals tend to toss unrelated shorts and features into disorganized bundles, Rooftop believes that strategically programming complementary films together can add to the impact of all the works included and that a carefully curated show can bring out subtle resonances in even the most textured and accomplished films.
Browse last season’s programming.
Services for Alumni
Follow-up Promotion for Your Film
Many films that screen at Rooftop go on to theatrical runs, TV exhibition, DVD distribution, and more. We have a promotional network that reaches hundreds of thousands of people. Through our blog, email list and social media, we’ll keep promoting whatever happens with you and your film, keeping the buzz going long after your Rooftop screening. Contact us for more information.
If you’re looking to raise money for a project through Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or any other social media platform, let us know. We have a curated page on Kickstarter, and will promote your campaign. Contact us for more information.
Discounted Equipment Rentals
Setting up your own screening? Rooftop has the gear to tech a living room screening for 10 friends or a huge outdoor event for 4,000 people. If you want to show your film again and need a projector, sound system, screen, and more, we offer discounted rates to alumni filmmakers.
Click here for more info on Rentals.
A Network of Support
Beyond all that, our staff is here to help you in any way we can. We’ve given advice on rough cuts, recommended films to other programmers and distributors, written letters of recommendation for grants—whatever it takes to support our community.