How To Apply

How to Apply

The 2021 Student Academy Awards competition is planning to open for submissions in March. Please check back closer to March for updated rules and deadline dates. The deadline for submissions will be June 1, 2021

Please use the link below to access the online submission platform.




The Student Academy Awards (SAA) recognizes and honors student filmmakers who demonstrate excellence in the creation of motion pictures. By awarding these outstanding achievements, the Academy strives to support and inspire emerging filmmakers and to foster growth and education in the art and science of motion pictures.


Competition opens: April 1 2021
Competition closes: June 1 2021

Awards Ceremony: October 2021


US school categories: Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Alternative/Experimental
International (non-US) school categories: International Narrative, International Documentary, International Animation, Alternative/Experimental


Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals (which include cash grants of $5000, $3000 and $2000, respectively) may be awarded in each of the domestic categories as well as International Narrative. Additionally, only Gold medals may be given to winners in the International Animation and International Documentary categories.






The student director/s must have been enrolled as a student (full-time or part-time) in a degree-granting program at an accredited U.S. college or university as recognized by the SAA Executive Committee ( see School Eligibility).


CILECT member schools are allowed to submit up to ONE film per International category. The student director/s must have been enrolled as a student (full-time or part-time) at a college or university that is a current member of CILECT (The International Association of Film and Television Schools). 


The student director/s must have been enrolled as a student (full-time or part-time) in a degree-granting program at a college or university based outside the U.S. (see School Eligibility) AND their film has been selected for competition in three qualifying film festivals (see SAA Qualifying Festivals List) between June 2, 2019 and June 1, 2021.  Proof of “in competition” status must be provided.


1. Domestic (U.S. based) must be accredited by one of the following agencies:

a. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

b. New England Association of Schools and colleges

c. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

d. Northwest Accreditation Commission on Colleges and Universities

e. Western Association of Schools and Colleges

f. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

2.   International (non-U.S. based) must meet the following criteria

a. Schools must be either a member of CILECT ( or be accredited by the responsible governing body in their country.

b. International programs that are part of American based colleges and universities fall under international rules regardless of the nationality of the student. For example the NYU program in Dubai would be an “International School”.

c. Programs must offer an associates, bachelors or graduate degrees

d. Animation Training Programs do not have to provide college degrees but may offer a certificate to its students upon completion of the program.

e. Program must be either a non-profit educational organization or a government sponsored educational institution.


ALL student films (US and international schools) must satisfy the following criteria except where noted:

1. Films must have been made in a teacher-student relationship within the curricular structure of the teaching institution.

2. Films (other than those by international students qualifying through the film festival qualifying process) must have been completed and submitted for final credit/grading between June 2, 2020 and June 1, 2021, and within one year of the student’s graduation date unless the Covid-19 pandemic delayed completion of the film and pushed the student past the one year mark. Pandemic-delayed films have a temporary window of two years from graduation for 2021. (International students qualifying through the film festival qualifying option already have a two year window in which to qualify; see Student Eligibility above.)

3. Films must be the same version submitted to the student’s school for credit/final grading and may not be altered once submitted for Student Academy Award consideration. Do not submit work in progress.

4. Films cannot have been entered in any previous SAA competitions. Making changes to a film submitted in a previous year, even significant changes, does not make the film eligible again.

5. Films submitted for the Academy Awards competition (regardless of the outcome) are not eligible for entry into any subsequent SAA competition.

6. Films (including any still images) must not display any festival laurels, or awards won.

7. Films must be no longer than 40 minutes including opening and closing credits.

8. All films submitted must be in English, subtitled in English, or dubbed in English.

9. Advertising films, promotional films, and films made as works for hire are not eligible.


1. The SAAs honor up to three credited directors. If your film has more than three directors, please submit the names of up to three who are the most responsible for creative content. If there are any credit discrepancies or controversies, the Academy will insist that credits be settled before the film may be considered for an award. The Academy will not be bound by any contract or agreement relating to the sharing or giving of credit, and reserves the right to make its own determination of credit for purposes of SAA consideration.

2. Entry forms and films must be submitted digitally via

3. Films must be viewable on FilmFreeway. Enable your privacy settings to allow your film to be embedded on FilmFreeway.

4. You must supply your faculty adviser name and email as they will be contacted to verify your film and student status.

5. Each film must be submitted to one category only. If a film is determined to be in an incorrect category, it will be reassigned to the correct category.

6. Films advancing to the semifinal round of judging may be asked for additional formats such as a DCP or HD quality digital file. Any hard media provided will be returned to the entrant after the competition ends.

7. Failure to satisfy all the entry requirements will result in disqualification.


1. Student Academy Award participants may only promote their status in the competition within the explicit guidelines provided by the Academy.

2. Promoting any film entered into the SAA competition to Academy members (either by the filmmaker or by a third party, sometimes referred to as campaigning) while the SAA competition is active is not allowed, and will be considered cause for disqualification.


1. Student Academy Awards medal-winning films are eligible for entry into the following year's Academy Awards competition, provided the films satisfy all criteria for the Academy Award category for which they are entered.

2. If the eligibility and/or category of any entry is questioned, the Academy reserves the right to make a determination as the SAA Executive Committee may deem appropriate at its discretion.

3. The Academy reserves the right to amend or modify any procedure, process, or rule, as may be considered necessary by the SAA Executive Committee for the proper conduct of the Student Academy Awards or to adhere to any standards set forth by the Academy.

4. The Academy is not responsible for late, missing, or damaged entries.

5. The decisions of the Academy regarding any matter relating to the SAA will be final and binding in all respects.

US school categories: Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Alternative/Experimental

International (non-US.) school categories: Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Alternative/Experimental

ANIMATION - Animated films may present an original narrative story, an existing story or fable, or an exploration of a mood or thought.  Either comical or serious, they usually fall into one of two general fields -- character animation or abstract animation.  Various techniques include cel animation, computer animation, clay animation, stop-motion, pixilation, cut-out pins, camera multiple-pass imagery, kaleidoscope effects, and drawing on the film frame itself.  Winning Animation films are chosen by judging the product as a whole, as well as the artistic and technical skill of the filmmaker in whatever motif or animation technique the student has chosen.

DOCUMENTARY - Documentary films are nonfiction visual essays that seek to present historical subjects, current social or political issues, or specific human experiences in such a way as to have a dramatic impact upon the viewing audience.  Documentaries may be filmed in the cinéma vérité style where camera and microphone merely record the event without injecting the comments or subjective conclusions of the filmmaker, or may be a reenactment.  In the latter case, the distinction between dramatic and documentary film lies in the fact that while dramatic film is fictional, documentary film deals with factual situations and circumstances.  Winning films in this category are chosen on the basis of artistic technique, as well as the ability of the documentarian to fashion reality into a film essay which leaves the audience better informed and/or moved.

NARRATIVE - Narrative films strive to portray life, a character or a narrative story much the same way a novel does, but within the context of an audiovisual medium.  Past narrative films by students have included, but were not limited to, dramas, comedies, musicals, and many other story oriented genres.  Winning entries in this and all other categories reflect the merit of the film when viewed as a whole, as well as the professional execution of its component parts, such as script, dialogue, direction, cinematography, lighting, acting, editing and scoring.  Narrative category films may be adaptations of existing pieces of literature or original stories written by the student filmmaker.

ALTERNATIVE/EXPERIMENTAL – Sometimes referred to as “experimental,” films submitted in this category risk disqualification if they could also be submitted in any other category (i.e. the narrative, documentary, or animation categories, as defined by these rules).  This category is not meant to be a “catch all” category for films that have unusual narratives or simply lack structure and/or craftsmanship. Alternative films challenge traditional cinematic boundaries and conventions of expression. Alternative films employ progressive aesthetic and/or technical elements. Alternative films convey a reinterpretation of traditional structural components such as story, imagery, words, time, space, motion, sound, light and color. Alternative films often expand the language of cinema and generally are non-narrative and may not necessarily have a story arc. The Academy strictly evaluates if films submitted in this category are appropriately alternative.

1. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shall judge entries on the basis of resourcefulness, originality, entertainment, and production quality without regard to cost of production or subject matter. Entries shall be judged only within their respective category.

2. All stages of judging, including Preliminary, Semifinal, and Final rounds, shall be overseen by the members of the Academy.

3. Upon submission, entries shall be verified for eligibility and category.

4. Preliminary entries will be judged via their online digital submission.  At this stage, the Academy has the option to re-categorize the entry into a more suitable category. Filmmakers will be notified of advancement to the semifinals on or around July 15, 2021.

5. Semifinalist entries shall be judged online only. Filmmakers will be notified of advancement to the finals by August 14, 2021.

6. Finalist entries shall be judged online only.  Final ballots will be tabulated by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and filmmakers in each category will be notified of their final status by September 15, 2021.

7. Presentation of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal award winners in each category will be made at the Student Academy Awards Ceremony in October 2021.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal awards (which include cash grants of $5000, $3000 and $2000, respectively) may be given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of outstanding achievements in student filmmaking in each of five domestic and international film school categories: Narrative, Animation, Alternative/Experimental, Documentary, and Narrative (International Film Schools). Gold medals may be given in two international film school categories: Animation (International Film Schools) and Documentary (International Film Schools).





How much does it cost to submit my film?
Nothing. The SAAs are free to enter.

I am high school student, can I submit?
Unfortunately, we only accept submissions from students attending a college or university.

I am a part-time student, can I submit?
Yes, as long as you are studying for a degree and meet all the other eligibility requirements.

Can I submit more than one film?
Yes. There is no limit on the number of films you can submit if you are a domestic student (studying in the US) provided they all meet the eligibility requirements. Remember you can only submit each film to one category only. International students, please read the rules relevant to your status.

Is there a minimum running time for short films?
No, there is no minimum, as long as it runs no more than 40 minutes including credits.


Why do you need my faculty adviser’s details?
We verify all submissions with the faulty advisers to ensure you meet all our eligibility requirements. If you do not provide contact details or your faculty adviser is unable to verify your film, your submission will be disqualified.

If I am having problems uploading to FilmFreeway, will you accept submissions via another method?
No. All film submissions must be done through FilmFreeway.

What if I submit my film to the wrong category?
Please read the category descriptions carefully. As per our rules, a film can only be submitted to one category. However, if you do submit to a category, we feel is not accurate we reserve the right to move it to one more suited to your film. 

I am an international student, but I am studying in the US – which category should I submit to?
If you are studying in the US, regardless of nationality or what language your film is in, you must submit to the domestic categories.

I am from the US, but I am studying internationally - which category should I submit to?
If you are studying in an international school, regardless of nationality or what language your film is in, you must submit to the international categories.

My film has been disqualified. How do I find out the reason for this?
You will have received an email from FilmFreeway detailing the reason. If you have not received this, please check your junk mail or your profile on FilmFreeway.

My film has been disqualified. Can I resubmit?
If you have identified the reason for your disqualification and it was a genuine error, you may resubmit. This will still count as the first submission so make sure you answer ‘no’ to the question of whether your film has been previously submitted to the SAAs.

How do I change my privacy settings in Vimeo so that my film will play in FilmFreeway?
If you are linking your video via Vimeo, be sure to update your settings in Vimeo to allow for embedding. Your video will still be password protected. Embedding simply allows the Vimeo video player to be displayed within the FilmFreeway interface. To allow embedding, go to your video in your Vimeo account, click 'Settings' > 'Privacy' > 'Where Can This Video be Embedded?' > 'Anywhere'

Can I submit via Vimeo or YouTube?
Yes. FilmFreeway seamlessly integrates with both Vimeo and YouTube. To submit with Vimeo or YouTube, go to 'My Projects' > 'Project File', then enter your video URL and password. You can update this link at any time.

Can I replace or update my film with a new version?
This may be possible if the judging process has not yet begun. Please contact us to determine if this is possible. If you replace or update your film when the judging process is underway, you risk being disqualified.

I have missed the submission deadline date. Can I have a waiver code?
Waiver codes are only released if you have a genuine reason for missing the deadline. Please email to determine if you can qualify for one.

If I have any technical questions regarding FilmFreeway, who should I contact?
Phone: (604) 229-0600
Toll free: (800) 840-8870

If I have any questions regarding eligibility or the rules, which have not been covered in the FAQs, who should I contact?


If I shoot my own short film with my friends outside of my coursework, can I enter this into the SAAs?
No. Films must have been made within the curricular structure of the teaching institution.

Is the completion date the day we finished shooting, the day we finished the edit, or the date it was submitted for grading?
The date you submitted for grading.

But what if the film I submitted to my school was a rough cut and the final edit was completed later?
Enter the completion date, as the date you finished the final rough cut. The film will still be eligible as long as it was completed within the qualifying dates and you are still a student or graduated within the qualifying dates.

What if not all of the crew are students?
As long as the director is a student, it will be eligible.

What if I am not a filmmaking student specifically but I have made a short film?
As long as the film was made as part of your coursework and you were graded/received credit, you don’t have to be studying in a filmmaking program to qualify.

What if I have 5 directors?
As per our rules, the SAAs honor up to three credited directors. If your film has more than three directors, please submit the names of up to three who are the most responsible for creative content. Credits must be settled before the film is considered for an award.

How do if I know if my school is accredited?
Follow this link for a list of accreditation agencies. If you are unsure who your school is accredited by, you can reach out to your Admissions Office.

What if I wrote the script as part of my course, but the film was made independently?
The film must have been produced and completed as part of your course so this would not meet our eligibility requirements.

I completed my film after I graduated, can I still submit?
You have up to a year after graduation to submit your film, provided it was completed within the eligibility dates.

I submitted my film last year, but it didn’t get through to the next round, can I resubmit this year?
No. Films can only be entered once. Your film will be disqualified if it was entered and judged in a previous SAA competition.

If my film premiered at a film festival can I still submit?
Yes. There are no rules regarding previous screenings of your film theatrically or online.

If my film is, or has been, streaming online, is it eligible?
Yes. There are no rules regarding previous screenings of your film theatrically or online.

What if my parent is an Academy member, can I still submit?
Yes. If you have a family member or friend who is an Academy member, this does not disqualify you from the competition.

What if my film is in another language besides English?
All entries submitted must be in English, subtitled in English, or dubbed in English.


How many rounds are there in the competition?
Three: Preliminary, Semifinals, Finals.


Who are the judges?
Academy members who voluntarily opt in to vote in each round.

Do the judges see my FilmFreeway profile, digital press kit, or personal details?
No. The judges have access to your film only.


Does each member of my team receive the prize money?
Each winning film will receive award amount. The prize money will be split equally amongst the directors if there are more than one.

Can I receive individual feedback on my film?
No. Unfortunately, due to the thousands of entries we received, it is not possible to provide feedback.

When will I receive my competition laurels?
After the competition has ended and the ceremony has taken place