For Filmmakers


Community Resources During COVID-19

As the situation progresses, we’ll continue to gather resources and information as it becomes available for artists, filmmakers, freelancers, film festival and cinema workers, and the greater NYC community affected by COVID-19 here. If you have information you’d like to share with us, please get in touch at

Submitting to Rooftop Films

Submissions for the 2020 Rooftop Films Summer Series are closed. Submissions for the 2021 Series will open in September. 

At Rooftop we believe that the role of a festival is to help filmmakers bring their work to as large and diverse an audience as possible, not to profit off of their ambition. That is why we keep our submission fees low. If you submit a work to Rooftop you automatically get 2 free tickets ($30 value) to any one Rooftop Summer Series show, whether or not we are able to screen your film. 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.

Here are a few of the perks of screening your film with Rooftop:

A memorable, customized screening

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.

The Summer Series

The Summer Series runs annually in New York City and features daring new films, all 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.

Rooftop has carved out a niche for itself in the independent film 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.

Our Venues

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.

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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. Only filmmakers who have screened a movie at Rooftop Films’ festival are eligible.

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 $250,000 and come courtesy of our sponsors at Eastern Effects, Edgeworx StudiosRed Hook PostIrving HarveyTechnological Cinevideo ServicesThe Adrienne Shelly Foundationelkind Lighting & Camera, and Downtown Community Television.

Past grantees include four films that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—among them, Penny Lane’s Hail Satan?, Petra Costa’s The Edge of Democracy, and Michael Tyburski’s The Sound of Silence—as well as Eliza Hittman’s highly-anticipated Beach Rats follow-up 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 dozens more.

Read more about past grantees.

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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.

Fundraising Assistance

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.

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