Deadlines and Fees | Rules and Guidelines | About The Festival

Submissions for the 2020 Rooftop Films Summer Series Are Closed

If you have any questions regarding submissions or deadline waivers, please email by

2020 Deadlines and Key Dates

Early Bird: $15, November 29, 2019
Regular: $20, January 3, 2020
Late: $25, January 31, 2020
Extended Late: $30, February 14, 2020

Notification Date: No later than May 15, 2020

In May 2020, we will begin celebrating our 24th year of presenting the best independent films outdoors in New York City.

Submitting to Rooftop

At Rooftop we believe that the role of a festival is to help filmmakers bring their work to engaged and enthusiastic audiences. Rooftop Films is committed to helping filmmakers get their films seen, not to profit off of their dreams and ambition. Therefore, we aim to make it as easy as possible for filmmakers to submit to our festival.

We keep our submission fees and ticket prices low so that filmmakers and audience members can, at least in one small way, contribute equally to the Rooftop community and neither need be saddled with an unfair expense. Furthermore, if you submit a work to Rooftop Films you automatically get two free tickets to any Summer Series show, whether or not we screen your film.

We have always had a low, recommended submission fee, which must only be paid once regardless of how many films you submit to the festival. No film will ever be turned away due to lack of funds. If you are submitting multiple films or are unable to pay the submission fee for any reason email to request a fee waiver.

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Rules and Guidelines

Rooftop Films is committed to providing a venue, an audience, and a community for the wide array of short and feature length films that are under-served by conventional commercial distributors, industry festivals, art galleries, and repertory theaters. We want films that tell us about where and how you live. We seek independent movies with original ideas, regardless of production values. We screen the work of experienced professionals, long-time amateurs, and first-time filmmakers alike. We strongly encourage women, veterans, people with disabilities, people of color and gender nonconforming filmmakers to submit to our festival.

We show films of all genres, formats, and lengths, as long as they’re daring, creative, and unique. We always search for films that break down boundaries or feature innovative, personal, and eccentric or hilarious takes on old forms. Films can be from any genre and in any format. We love animation, satire, fiction comedies and dramas, experimental and abstract films, personal and political documentaries, and every other form of film, entertainment or video art.

We screen hundreds of short and feature length films each summer and work tirelessly year round to bring these films to new audiences.

If you have any questions regarding submissions, please email


  • Fiction Features are features length films, sixty minutes and longer. We screen dozens of feature length films each summer.
  • Fiction Short Films are short films 59 minutes and under. We screen over 100 short films each summer.
  • Documentary Features are non-fiction feature length films, sixty minutes and longer. We screen dozens of feature length documentaries each summer.
  • Documentary Short Films are non-fiction short films, 59 minutes and under. We screen over 100 short films each summer.

Previews & Entry Form

  • All submissions not made through FilmFreeway must include our Submission Form.
  • Submissions must be in English or have English subtitles and there must be a preview AND screening copy available in English or with English subtitles, excepting music videos and films without dialogue.
  • Rooftop accepts submissions via online secure links or NTSC or PAL DVD (any region). Please write or print your name, email, phone number, and the name of the film directly on the preview tape or DVD. Preview DVDs will not be returned. Please do not send a self-addressed stamped envelope. Do not send a master tape as a preview copy.
  • Feel free to send along any additional press material, cast and crew bios or any other information about your film.

Screening Rights

  • Should your work be selected to be part of the Rooftop Films Summer Series, Rooftop Films reserves the right to screen your film at any Rooftop screening throughout the summer, between the start and end dates of the Summer Series for which your film was submitted.
  • After the Summer Series end date, Rooftop Films shall not screen any submitted films without the expressed consent of the filmmaker.
  • If your film is accepted, Rooftop generally screens digital files but we can often assist filmmakers in making transfers from other types of masters if necessary.
  • If your film is accepted, we will get a screening copy from you, and will mail them back at our expense.

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Deadlines, Fees and Notification

Earlybird: $15, November 29, 2019
Regular: $20, January 3, 2020
Late: $25, January 31, 2020
Extended Late: $30, February 14, 2020

Notification Date: No later than May 15, 2020

To ensure that your film will be considered for the Summer Series your film must be submitted on or before 11:59 PM EST on the day of the applicable deadline. All films submitted late will be considered for the following year’s Summer Series.

Fees and Notification

  • All submission fees must be paid in U.S. currency. If you are submitting a film from outside the U.S., please pay with a credit card online or with a U.S. money order to avoid the conversion costs.
  • The recommended submission fee can be paid via cash, money order, a check made out to Rooftop Films, or online via the Rooftop Submission Form or FilmFreeway.
  • The submission fee need only be paid once per filmmaker or curator. You may submit as many films as you like without paying an additional fee.
  • All filmmakers who submit a film to Rooftop will receive two free passes to any single regularly priced ($16) Rooftop Films show. We couldn’t have our festival without filmmakers, and even though we can’t show all of your films, we hope you can participate in the festival even if your film isn’t accepted. The tickets are transferable (in case you don’t live in New York).
  • All on-time submissions will be notified of their status before May 15th. All filmmakers will receive notification, whether or not their film is chosen to screen as part of the summer series.
  • Please do not contact us to find out whether or not your film has been received. We do not have a large enough staff to respond to such inquiries.

No film will ever be turned away due to lack of funds. If you are unable to pay the submission fee for any reason email to request a fee waiver.

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The Festival

The Summer Series runs annually from May through August 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.

“The audience numbers are mind-boggling. Most of the industry people I’ve met at other festivals seem to have seen my film at Rooftop, yet I think Rooftop is perhaps the only truly populist screening venue for underground movies in America.”
–Benh Zeitlin, Director, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Curating our Programs

We received over 3,500 submissions in 2019, and every single one was watched and appraised by our tireless screening committee! While our primary goal is to showcase the best new movies we can find, we also believe that our mission entails more than just “choosing great cinema.” We believe that it’s our responsibility to present works in exciting and innovative ways so we can reach the widest audiences possible and maximize the impact of each film in our arsenal.

This is, of course, why we choose to 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, and 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.

We also 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, 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.

If you have any questions regarding submissions, please email

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 $50,000 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, NYCEDC, Edgeworx Studios, Red Hook Post, Irving Harvey, Technological Cinevideo Services, The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, elkind Lighting & Camera, and Downtown Community Television.

Past grantees include three 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, Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, 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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