Five Must-Attend Drone Film Festivals and How to Enter

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Guest Post by drone pilot and writer Kara Murphy.

Anyone who has watched enough films knows that incorporating an aerial perspective into the narrative isn’t a new phenomenon. Before the advent of drones, people got creative. They either attached cameras to kites or dangled out of doorless helicopters to capture a desired effect.

Now that drone adoption has reached mainstream proportions, aerial cinematography has naturally become much more common. So much, in fact, that festivals dedicated to the art of filmmaking from a drone’s perspective have not only been established, they’ve gained enough notoriety to continue on into their third, and even fourth, year.

If you’re looking to reach a wider audience, gain some recognition from the press, get inspired, or see your work broadcast on the big screen, entering these competitions is your best bet. You may even win some cash and new drone gear. Here are five festivals I recommend looking into and, even if you’re not a filmmaker, attending.

InterDrone Film Festival

Arguably the largest commercial drone exhibition in the world, the International Drone Conference and Exhibition is hosting its third annual film festival alongside the rest of the event. Submissions have already closed but conference attendees can view finalists on the big screen Wednesday, September 6th from 5:45 – 7:00 pm.

Toronto Drone Film Festival

A major international drone film festival is finally arriving in Canada in late September. Put on by The Sky Guys, it takes place in conjunction with the Second Annual Big Drone Show. Submissions are open until September 15th and are not only free, they’ll also grant a 70% discount to the two-day Big Drone Show conference. Simply input your basic information including a link to the video you want to enter and select the film’s category.

Los Angeles Drone Film Festival

The sister festival to New York City Drone Film Festival (NYCDFF), Los Angeles Drone Film Festival makes its debut this October 6th – 8th. The final deadline for submissions has been extended to September 6th as the festival’s notoriously indefatigable organizer, Randy Scott Slavin, has promised “some exciting news.” This is one of the few festivals that boasts a still photography category. If it’s even half as well-organized as NYCDFF (more on that, below), then it’s worth the steep $50 entry fee and ensuing trip to one of the most populous cities on the West Coast.

Flying Robot international Film Festival

Returning for its third consecutive year to San Francisco’s historic Roxie Theatre, the world’s first-ever international drone film festival is accepting entries until September 18th. Organizer Eddie Codel likes to keep participation accessible to everyone, including students, with a low $10 Early Bird Deadline fee. Last year, Flying Robot international Film Festival (FRiFF) received 180 submissions across 8 categories from 40 countries. FRiFF’s jury is made up an eclectic group of top robotics industry professionals including Star Simpson, Veronica Belmont, Rhianna Lakin, Mike Senese, and Zoe Stumbaugh (ZoeFPV).

New York City Drone Film Festival

The fourth installment of the very first festival dedicated solely to aerial cinematography returns March 2nd – 4th, 2018. Submissions opened on August 20th and close January 7th. I was able to attend the third event, this past March, and was amazed at the quality of films, the spacious venue, knowledgeable panelists, and thoroughly informative master classes. Luisa Winters’ course on Color Correction was my favorite. Festival founder Randy Scott Slavin did a stellar job emceeing the event and moderating talks. For it’s size and scale, it’s efficiently executed from beginning to end.

When entering your work, make sure you read the rules for each festival down to the category you’re submitting a film. While standard rules call for 5 minutes or less, at least 50% aerial footage, it can vary. You don’t want to get disqualified for overlooking basic instructions. Based on my experience at NYCDFF, I recently wrote an article on nailing the narrative in your aerial films for Drone360 Magazine.

Which festival(s) are you looking forward to the most? Any I missed? Please let me know in the comments.

Kara Murphy is a Part 107-certified remote pilot and writer based in the Midwest. Follow her on Instagram for her more artistic aerial imagery, find out how to hire her here.


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