The COVID-19 International Student Film Festival

Apr 3, 2020 by

Unfunded, Volunteer Run, Labour of Love Initiated by Sparta Area Schools. Global Submission Deadline is MAY 15.


The COVID-19 International Student Film Festival is an attempt to reinvigorate local school communities by providing a positive common activity and purpose. Also, given the global nature of this competition, students will be able to better understand their present suffering in a much broader context.


What? An Online Student COVID-19 Student Film Festival spearheaded by Sparta Public Schools in Michigan.

Who? A coalition of willing students, schools, and performing and film artists throughout USA and the world (Year 7/Grade 6 – Year 13/Grade 12).

Where? Film Festival will occur online and films will be shot and produced in student’s homes in locations throughout the World.

When? Student submissions due on May15. International winners announced on May 22.

How? Students will work individually or with family members or in remote digital production teams (where students will remain within their own residences).

Why? Because a reinvigoration of the community is acutely needed among students and families living in communities around the world impacted by COVID-19.


What sorts of short films may students enter into the festival? Anything related to their experience during the COVID-19 outbreak. We anticipate a variety of submissions ranging from fiction to non-fiction.

What categories and criteria will be used for judging the films? Essentially, the film festival will include two broad categories: Fiction & Non-Fiction. The chart below provides a glimpse into how films will be placed and assessed. No movie can be placed in more than one category.

OPTION 1: FICTION Any dramatization including but not limited to sonnets, poetry, monologues. Submissions could include such genres and types as musicals, raps, animations, science fiction, western, fantasy, silent films, gangster, animation, etc…Judging criteria may take into account overall presentation, performance and content: Presentation: Reflecting on general quality of production (with special consideration given to level of technology used – phones recordings are acceptable). Under consideration: directing, screenplay, sound, camera angles, costumes, editing, and other aspects; Performance: Quality of acting, singing, rapping, movement; Content: (only applicable to COVID-19 experience) Under consideration: cohesion, originality, relevancy, insightfulness and cleverness.

OPTION 2: NON-FICTON This may include such options as monologues, dialogues, interviews, docudramas, musicals, raps, animation, PowerPoints, Prezis. Judging criteria may take into account overall presentation, performance and content: Presentation: Reflecting on general quality of production (with consideration given to level of technology used – phones are acceptable). Under consideration: directing, set, sound, editing and other aspects; Performance: Quality of voice-over narration, in-front-of-camera communication; Content (only applicable to COVID-19 experience). Totality of information conveyed. Under consideration: clarity of message, originality, cohesion, relevancy, insightfulness, cleverness.

What will the judging process look like? The judging process will consist of 2 phases: Local & Global. 

Local School COVID-19 Student Film Festival Each school develops their competitive process for determining which films will move to the final international round (top 3 films in both fiction and nonfiction). Winners will be announced on May 15.

COVID-19 International Student Film Festival. This final inter-school competition will include judges external to participating schools. They will have extensive performance, film, and or broadcasting experience. Judges may include professional actors, university academics, filmmakers, writers, journalists, and theatre professionals. Overall COVID-19 Film Festival Winners will be announced on Friday, May 22.

What if a finalist submission does not achieve placement in Phases 2? Does that mean it will not receive any award or special recognition? Two answers. First, all final round contenders will receive a digital ”Finalists Certificate”. The final blue-ribbon jury will also announce a variety of additional awards not mentioned in the judging process description. Categories may include “Most Novel”, “More with Less”, “Best Actor”, “Funniest”, etc…

Will junior high/middle school students be competing with their senior high counterparts? No. Middle/JH students will compete separately from SH students. However, the film festival does not oppose some vertical diversity in student production teams. While every film must be submitted either in the JH/Middle or SH category, the following combinations would be permissible: 

A. Junior high students may serve as major or minor actors as well as secondary crew members in SENIOR HIGH productions. Adults may also play minor acting roles.

B. Senior high students may play secondary roles as actors and/or crewmembers in JUNIOR HIGH productions. Adults may also play minor acting roles.

May students produce and perform with family members and work remotely with other students? Yes, brothers, sisters, and guardians/parents may co-create together, and students may digitally work with peers in other households.

Will winners receive prizes? Yet to be determined. Working on it.

Will each school’s student videos be made available to the general public? We hope that each school submits as many films as possible to the web platform of the COVID-19 International Student Film Festival. Student production teams themselves will determine whether or not their names are included in their film credits or YouTube titles. Needless to say, The more films available, the more enriching the experience for all participants.

What are the rules and guidelines for films submitted to the May 15 international round?


  • All films must represent original work by the members of each Production Team.
  • All films must be 2 minutes or less. All others will be disqualified.
  • All films must be produced primarily by secondary students.
  • All submissions to the international festival on or before May 15 must include an Image Release Form (available on request).
  • All films that utilize 3rd -party music must clear this with the original owners/license holders.
  • All films may include names of student production team members; however, all films must include the name of the responsible Production Team and school represented.


  • No submission can contain any third party work, INCLUDING ANY MUSICAL RECORDING OR COMPOSITION, unless (1) Production Team has a license to use such work in the submission from the owners/licensors; (2) such work is in the public domain.
  • No submission may contain pornography or obscene content.
  • No submission can infringe on a third party’s intellectual property/privacy rights.

What if a submission does not adhere to the rules and guidelines of this film festival? If the international film festival organisers are aware of a submission that has not adhered to the above stated rules and guidelines, that submission will be eliminated from the competition. However, if time allows and the violation was accidental, festival organisers will attempt to provide the Production Team an opportunity to resubmit their film. 

What will serve as the web platform for the final round? COVID-19 Student Film Festival YouTube Page.

COVID-19 International Student Film Festival Timeline & Sequence

PHASE 1 (Local School Level)

  • April/May (ANYTIME): Students film about life at home in a COVID-19 world. 
  • Friday May 15: Local winners announced and moved to Phase 2 (COVID-19 International Student Film Festival) 

PHASE 2 (COVID-19 International Student Film Festival)

  • May 16 – 21: Finalists judged by COVID-19 International Blue Ribbon Jury 
  • Friday, May 22: COVID-19 International 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners announced in both the Fiction & NonFiction categories.


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