If you are a high school student passionate about making a mark in the world of cinema and art, you should consider participating in the All-American High School Film Festival.
The All-American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF) is the largest high school film festival in the United States, dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the creative work of aspiring filmmakers.
The festival aims to provide a platform for high school students to showcase their work, learn from industry professionals, and connect with fellow filmmakers.
This is a great opportunity to work on something you’re truly passionate about and share it with the world.
Source: the 2023 photo gallery from AAHSFF
Who is eligible?
The film’s director must be in high school or younger while producing the project. Schools, clubs, and community organizations are welcome to form teams representing your high school film program, film club, or film organization.
The maximum number of team members are 10, although there is no limit to the amount of teams your school or organization can form.
Entry fees are $250 for teams with five or less members, and $500 for teams with 6 or more members.
Prizes and scholarships go to the best films from each category, which are determined by a panel of judges and professionals….sort of like the Oscars!
For 2023, all category winners will receive an official Teen Indie Trophy, a 10 pack of AAHSFF lesson plans, Final Cut Pro editing software, and a 1-year “unlimited use” subscription to Filmic Pro Mobile Camera Application.
Specific category winners receive additional prizes:
The film deemed the “Best Overall” will receive a $5,000 cash prize and camera equipment worth $3,179 in value.
“Best Direction” will receive a 4-year scholarship to Quinnipiac University of $112K.
“Best Drama” will receive a 4-year scholarship to the New York Film Academy valued at $45,000.
Check out the list of prizes for 2023 here.
How to enter & important dates
This year, submissions opened November 1st, 2023, with a free submission deadline of March 1st, 2024, and a regular submission deadline of April 29th, 2024. Directions for how to submit your project can be found here.
Official selections are announced July 18th, with the festival opening from October 18th-20th of 2023.
Depending on your film’s category, your project must meet certain criteria. For example, an animated project is required to be ten minutes or less. Read about the festival’s many different categories and the requirements for each here.
All films will be reviewed and judged by the AAHSFF Team and industry professionals.
Is the All-American High School Film Festival prestigious?
The AAHSFF is incredibly well regarded and known throughout the cinematic community. Some of the judges for the AAHSFF have included famous singer John Legend and British television host John Oliver. High school students from around the country submit their films to the festival, and only one winner from each category is picked. To win an award from the AAHSFF is a very prestigious recognition of your creativity, technical skills, and storytelling ability.
8 reasons to apply to the AAHSFF
1. The award is prestigious
Winning a category from the All-American High School Film Fest is a prestigious honor that is given to very few people. Because you’ll be competing with peers from around the country and even around the globe, winning an award or even being chosen for the showcase would be a huge national recognition. This allows you to stand out on college applications as someone with truly recognizable and celebrated skills in the film industry, even as a high school student. This will certainly be something for people to take note of.
2. There are great awards available
With a potential $5,000 cash prize and numerous scholarships available, winning an award from AAHSFF could be a great opportunity to further your future career or education. These honors might help you afford a higher education or expensive camera equipment to make more and more films.
3. You show colleges your passion and talent for film
By entering something like AAHSFF, you show colleges that you not only have talent in filmmaking, but that you have enough true interest and love for this field to go the extra mile and seek out opportunities to create new films and showcase your work. It signals to colleges that you are serious about this art field and are taking the steps to pursue your passion by entering a selective competition. Many students can say they are interested in filmmaking but end up not having much to show for it. By making your own film and having it exhibited to a wide audience, you’ll be sure to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
4. Your work is given valuable exposure
Selected films are screened at the festival every year. This means your film will be seen from industry insiders, educators, and audiences attending the festival. Famed actors, musicians, comedians, directors, and more present the category awards every year. Participating in the festival therefore gives your work incredibly valuable exposure to the film industry, potentially opening doors for meetings with professionals, future internship opportunities, and more. If you are serious about a career in filmmaking, this is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door and your name in people’s heads. This festival can be used as an important stepping stone for young filmmakers who hope to pursue a career in the field.
5. Participating in AAHSFF is a great learning opportunity
The festival is focused on showcasing talent and creativity, but it’s also invested in promoting educational opportunities for its students. Each year, the festival offers workshops, panels, and Q&A sessions conducted by industry professionals. These opportunities can offer valuable insights, answers, and guidance to help you better navigate the industry and improve on your filmmaking abilities. With so many industry professionals and mentors in attendance, it’ll also be easy for you to ask for feedback or critiques on your work. Take their feedback as a great opportunity to improve your work and set future goals for your next project. In addition, participating in the festival means you’ll be able to watch the winning works of others. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from others’ techniques, ideas, and styles and incorporate what you’ve learned into your own work.
6. You’ll meet fellow filmmakers
There will be someone for everyone at the festival. If you’re interested in acting, there will be professional actors. If you’re interested in set design, there will be set designers present. You can treat the festival as a huge convention for networking and building relationships within the film industry. These will be valuable connections that could lead to future collaborations and opportunities to further your career in film. In addition to meeting professionals, you’ll also interact with other high school filmmakers. This is a great chance to exchange ideas, gain inspiration, and build long-lasting connections with peers who hold the same interests as you.
7. You’ll gain experience in filmmaking
This might be your first time making a film ever! This is a great way to crack the ice and do something you’ve always wanted to do. If you are serious about a future in film, the best way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. In making your own film, you’ll gain first-hand experience on what it’s like to work in a filming environment, albeit small scale. You’ll learn how to work in a team, how to incorporate feedback, what cameras to use, what jokes land best, how to best tell a story, and more.
8. You’ll gain inspiration and motivation
By participating in the festival, you’ll become a part of a large community passionate about filmmaking. Hearing professionals talk about their practice, watching diverse and creative short films, and interacting with fellow filmmakers, can be highly motivating and inspirational. In giving you numerous examples of success stories in the film industry, the festival can inspire you to continue pursuing your passion.
If you are passionate about research in art, media, and culture, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Amelia is a current senior at Harvard College studying art history with a minor in economics. She’s enthusiastic about music, movies, and writing, and is excited to help Veritas AIs students as much as she can!
Image Source: AAHSFF photo gallery