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San Diego IMFF RULES 2023

IMFF 2023 is the 12th Annual Edition

You need to know the rules before you submit your film. International Mobile Film Festival proudly accepts entries on FilmFreeway, the world's #1 way to enter film festivals and creative contests.

Check all the details below! The rules and criteria are all updated for 2023. How do you submit? Click the button below or the link to FilmFreeway above to submit now.

CHANGES: More details

Time Limit for the Short Film Competiton minimum 3 minutes and maximum 10 minutes.

Rookie Award Films (no change) minimum 1 minute and maximum 5 minutes.

Feature length films (no change) minimum 40 minutes and maximum 120 minutes (2 hours).

Read about our festival transformation


There are other typical categories on FilmFreeway, check out the Categories sections on IMFF FilmFreeway to submit to for more. You can submit your film(s) to more than one category. You can submit more than one film to the same category.


Ages 0 through 17 years, this category gives youth a platform to use their storytelling techniques and abilities. Capturing video with smartphones (all rules apply) is an incredible boost for confidence for the youngest members of society and the film community in general. Youth can use smartphone filmmaking to realize their potential and stand out as innovative filmmakers.

Their participation at our film festival brings special recognition to youth during our film festival where they will share their experience with the world on the red carpet in San Diego. Sometimes, they receive a special youth award and are invited to speak in front of an audience during our festival during a Q&A, if appropriate. 


Regardless of the genre, if you completely shot and edited your film with your phone without using any other device, this one is for you! Shoot, edit, finalize your project including audio capture and music, special effects, everything must be done on a smartphone and no other device. It's a big challenge, are you up for it? 


With the collaboration of choreographer and soloist filmmaker Jamiel Laurence, we are introducing a unique category to our film festival. Screendance is for dancers using smartphones to choreograph performances for the camera. Using camera movement and style, this category hopes to inspire dancers who perform in front of the camera to team up with a camera person, or more than one, to shoot a story driven performance precisely for the screen.

"The universal language of dance has always held a special place when being performed in the realm of cinematic capture. Fred Astaire once said "Either the Camera will Dance, or I will" and this really captures the essence of the synergy between dance, choreography and filmmaking. With the rise in popularity and easy access to mobile filmmaking technologies, choreographers are naturally finding new and exciting ways to evolve dance alongside developing mobile form factor stabilisation and affordable lenses & filters. The International Mobile Film Festival is a welcoming group of like minded creatives, and the ideal place to have your Screendance work seen by new audiences and industry professionals alike." — Jamiel Laurence: Dancer. Choreographer. Filmmaker.


Cosplay Film category is for films featuring cosplayers of all ages. We are looking for superheroes, steampunk, comic book and cartoon cosplayer films for this category. If you are a cosplayer round up your friends and your team! Shoot your film with your smartphone and read the rules, because the rules apply to all categories. Make it fun. You can make your film in any genre, music, documentary, dark or comedy, drama; it's your call. And speaking of call, this is your call to action! You got the costumes, you got the camera on your phone and you got stories so we are looking forward to your films to screen them during IMFF in San Diego...and yes, you can dress in your cosplay outfits for the red carpet!

If your film is about animals and species or natural wildlife environment around the world or in your backyard, this category is sure to be a creative challenge for mobile filmmaking. Includes Travel videos including panoramic montage, and educational videos. All rules apply. 

About Us

A platform for mobile film story tellers from everywhere in the world was launched by in 2009 by founder Susy Botello with S. Botello Productions™ in San Diego. IMFF has raised the bar for mobile filmmakers beginning with IMFF 2022 as it emerges from the pandemic. Learn about what has changed. 



Feature Film Competition seeks high quality well produced story based narrative feature length films. Three films will be selected to screen and compete for the Best Feature Film Award.


Short Film Competition seeks short high quality films from 3-10 minutes, of all genres. Winners in each of the categories in the short film competition (see FilmFreeway) will compete for the top three awards: First, Second, and Third Place.

Both feature and short film competiton selected films will screen during our main event screening in our film festival.


Narrative - Documentary - Ultimate Mobile - Cosplay - Screendance - Geography, Wildlive and Travel - Experimental - Music Video

We want to help here: Submitting to the correct category can help your film being selected and maybe even win that category. 

The Rookie Award is a separate competition for less experienced, and new mobile filmmakers to showcase their films in a separate session during our film festival. The length of the short films in this category/competition is 1-5 minutes. All genres accepted. One of a handful of selected films will receive special recognition during the awards ceremony with The Rookie Award.



Mobile Screenplay Competition: Even though screenwriters don't write for a camera brand, we are introducing a screenwriting competiton for short narrative films. One screenplay per submission.

Frame A Story (One story in one frame)
Storytelling with a photo: Your photo should inspire the imagination of the viewer and it tells a story. Photos will be incorporated into a video montage sharing your photo and name on the large screen during the festival. Up to the limit allowed by FilmFreeway with a maximum of six photos.

About IMFF in San Diego

The world's official International Mobile Film Festival is a pioneer in the smartphone filmmaking industry. Only films shot with mobile phones qualify to participate in our film festival. The live venue film festival takes place during the last weekend in April annually. We embraced a community building platform since launching in 2009. It has grown with our support of other mobile film festivals and filmmakers around the world.

Participating filmmakers from all over the world attend the festival in San Diego to screen their smartphone films, participate in Q&A Sessions, workshops, network with each other and industry professionals, participate in our unique the Red Carpet Extravaganza! & Awards Ceremony. As a global film community, filmmakers and attendees celebrate smartphone mobile filmmaking around the world in America's Finest City. Our live event is an extraordinary festival with an incredible vibe and unforgettable experience.

Read Testimonials


FEATURE FILM COMPETITION: We are looking for exceptional quality films with higher production quality and story driven narrative.


Vulgar, porn, or demeaning and offensive films will be disqualified.

Respect other artists by not using media of any kind without proper licenses, permissions and clearance. Proof of licensing may be required to qualify.

We have extended deadlines and beyond those deadlines we offer no exceptions. It takes a lot of work to process and prepare films for screening in an event. We reserve the right to refuse all films beyond the deadlines set by our festival.

All films must be submitted through FilmFreeway. After the deadline has passed, and your film is selected, you will receive official selection laurels and a letter welcoming you to the 2023 edition. We urge you to keep checking for emails from us so you don’t miss requests from us.

All Films must be shot with smartphone cameras only. Horizontal films only with high resolution. Must be formatted to play on large wide screens and look good.

Subtitles must be embedded in your film if it is in any language other than English, or if spoken language is hard to hear.

Not more than 10% aerial footage from drones is acceptable. See RULES page on our website for more specifics on requirements.

Short Films must be exceptional quality films.

If you are not experienced, you can enter films that fall within the categories listed below into "The Rookie Award" category for new, or non-experienced, filmmakers. We still require a level of quality with video and audio to be selected. Please find details about this special category on our website and in the category on FilmFreeway before you submit. We are available if you have questions and will do our best to respond promptly.

Short Film competition: all films must be between 3 & 10 minutes and Not One Second Shorter or Longer, including intro and end credits and/or video black at beginning or end.

Feature Film Competition: all films must be high quality production narrative story based films between 40 and 120 minutes (2 hours) total length. Only three films will be selected to screen in San Diego at the in-person festival. Filmmakers may be required to attend and present their film, depending on the state of travel restrictions.

All Competitions: We require filmmakers to communicate with us directly during the approval process. We do not pay or offer screening fees.

We will contact all filmmakers whose films are selected prior to the official selection to ensure all qualifications have been met and verified. Our correspondence includes signing a form that gives us permission to include your film in our festival with a statement from the festival they have the right to distribute the film in our film festival and that all information and licenses required are genuine. Without returning the signed form we cannot screen your film in our festival. The form protects filmmakers and our festival.

You will only be required to sign the separate form if your film is selected, in order to complete the selection process. You may also be required to submit licenses, proofs and other items such as talent release forms; upon request.

IMFF has always selected a number of judges for the awards in each festival since the inaugural event. Nor the founder/director, or any member of our team interferes with the judging process or the results. All judges are instructed to make their decisions privately without intimidation or suggestion by us or any other judges, friends or filmmakers. We respect the integrity and professionalism of our judges.

If you have any questions, please contact us. We may have more specifics, which may answer some of your questions on this page.

We suggest you read testimonials from past filmmakers for our festival. We work hard to keep communication open and promote filmmakers whose films have been officially selected. At times, some filmmakers are selected to guest in the SBP Podcast Mobile Filmmaking hosted by festival founder Susy Botello. The SBP Podcast is a stand-alone podcast.

Happy filming! Do you know the golden rule of mobile filmmaking? If you are not having fun, you're not doing it right. "The red carpet is in your pocket!™



IMFF 2023 Submissions ARE OPEN


CATEGORIES are listed in FilmFreeway

The categories have become "official" and the short film competition has been transformed. The quality of films expected has been increased. The short film competition is now transformed for more experienced filmmakers. IMFF will remain exclusive to films shot with smartphones (10% aerial drone footage acceptable).

We have introduced a new category for less experienced filmmakers: The Rookie Award.

This new category/competition allows novice filmmakers to participate in a special screening during our film festival under a different session of our program. The selected films in this category will not compete in our new short film competition. A handful of good films from the new category will be in the running for The Rookie Award. The award will be presented during the Awards Ceremony during our festival with other film awards. Filmmakers in this category will still participate in our unique Red Carpet Extravaganza! and be escorted with sponsors Star Wars Steampunk Universe and receive recognition online as well.

The Short Film Contestants who win awards in each category (excluding The Rookie Award category) will be in the running for First, Second and Third Place and will receive a trophy and certificate.

The Feature Film Contestants is one category: Narrative fiction story based films which qualify under the criteria specified in this page and in the FilmFreeway platform for IMFF.

NEW IN 2023:  SCREENPLAY COMPETITION - 3-10 page screenplay.

NEW IN 2023: Frame A Story (One story in one frame) - A smartphone photo challenge. All brands, any phone camera.


THE RULES - The following rules apply to FILM submissions for IMFF 2023


It's very important that you read the rules because once you submit your film there are no refunds. Also, there is a process after submission. Please read your emails. If we consider selecting your film, we will send you a link to a release form you will need to sign online. We only send the link to filmmakers who are being considered for an official selection. We need this signed form in order to distribute your film in our film festival during our live and online venue.

If you don't receive our emails, you may miss deadlines and timely requests that need prompt resolutions and requests. You risk being disqualified from the process, and please understand that if are interested in including your film the dissapointment is mutual. Do not risk your film being disqualified for ignoring communication from us. We will do all we can on our end but we cannot chase filmmakers trying.

Most films selected will screen in San Diego at the live festival event. We must consider our audience and program schedule in our decisions. If your film does not get selected it does not always mean your film is not good. However, we are looking for high quality mobile films in both feature and short film competitions to screen in our film festival. If your experience level is low, consider the new "Rookie" competition instead.

Be aware that some or all selected films will also be available online during our post event festival to take place at a date to be determined.

The only mobile device eligible for our film festival is a smartphone aka mobile phone. No other mobile device is eligible...we decided when we launched in 2009 to give everyone an equal arena to compete using the same device. Any brand or make qualifies.

Stay tuned to emails from us once you submit your films. You must respond to emails and inquiries from us.



We accept more than one film. Only one film per filmmaker or entity will be selected. | All films must be available to download full quality 19 HD and formatted for the wide screen.

REQUIRED FOR ALL COMPETITIONS: English embedded captions/subtitles for all foreign, non-English spoken, or hard to understand or hard to hear dialogue and narration/voiceovers in all films is required.

PARTICIPANTS – You must be human beings. That is all we ask for. We don't limit artists/entrants/participants because of their age, income level, disabilities, race or ethnicity, sex or anything! If you are a human being you qualify as a filmmaker if you enter a qualifying film. We encourage anyone who believes they may not qualify even though they are human to give it a shot. Submitting is easy! We only accept submissions through FilmFreeway and we must download the films, once selected, from FilmFreeway. We have a new category/competition for less experienced filmmakers in The Rookie Award Category. The Short Film Competition is now for more experienced filmmakers.

EQUIPMENT – In case we weren’t clear: FILMS MUST BE SHOT BY MOBILE PHONE CAMERAS ONLY. All other production equipment, lights, cranes, dollies, etc. are allowed. Since mobile filmmaking has become an industry, you can find customized equipment online and stores if you need it. No apps or filmmaking accessories are required to qualify. We do recommend filmmakers do some research to produce the highest quality films and base their films around great stories. Put effort into your film no matter what category you choose to enter your film to, for the best chance at being selected.

ENTRIES You can submit many times but only one will be selected regardless of the number of entries submitted. One prize per film regardless of the number of people credited. If you are an organization, please contact us. We can promote your entity or an individual within your organization per your specific request.

LENGTH – Short Film Competition -3 minutes to 10:00 minutes including credits.

Feature Mobile Film Competition - 40 minutes to 120 minutes (2 hours) total including intro and end credits.

Rookie Award Competition- 00:60 seconds (1 minute) to 05:00 minutes including credits.

FORMAT – We prefer (.mp4) (.mov) files. FULL QUALITY 1920x1080 HD video in widescreen format (Horizontal). No square or vertical formatted films. Questions? Contact us! Be sure to embed subtitles to your films if they are not in spoken English or hard to understand.

APPS – Automatic editing apps which make editing decisions for you are not allowed. Using some apps may degrade the end quality of your footage or include undesirable app branding watermarks. We will not accept films with watermarks.

COPYRIGHTS - We cannot accept any THIRD-PARTY music, images & photos or graphics in your video without the correct licensing specific to your film. Licensing for music is tricky and can be confusing depending on how the music is used in your film. One license may not work for all the ways you use music in your film, such as background, transitions, etc. Music is not the only proprietary license you may need, such as visual branded items. It's best to be informed before you begin production.

DRONES - The only acceptable device camera other than a mobile phone camera is that of a drone for capturing aerial footage. The total length must not be more than 10% Aerial footage/video captured with a drone camera.

In order to qualify, the entire rest of your film must be shot with only mobile phone cameras. Not One Second More than 10% of the film may include aerial video or aerial footage recorded with a drone. This is the only exception to another camera or device allowed. You must do your own math! Example for a *Short film of five minutes: 10% of (5 minutes) = 30 seconds.

All films must adhere to the time limits. Not one second shorter or longer including intro and end credits and/or video black at beginning or end. The same applies to The Rookie Award competition/category.

Drone Specs: You must enter the name, brand and the model of the drone and smartphone you used to film/capture your footage and certify the information with your signature in a separate registration form which all filmmakers must submit and sign *even if they did not use drones in their film.

You must include the time code where drone footage begins and drone footage ends and you must also include several time codes if 10% of your drone footage is spread throughout your film in different areas. It's a bit of a pain so unless you really feel your film needs aerial footage, it's simpler without it.

*By submitting media to our film festival competitions, you acknowledge that you have read and understand the terms and conditions.

**Affiliates, employees, interns, contractors, & subsidiaries are ineligible to participate.


Short Films must be exceptional quality films. If you are not experienced as a filmmaker, you can enter films that fall within the categories listed below into "The Rookie Award" category for new or non experienced filmmakers. We still require a level of quality with video and audio to be selected. Please find details about this special category on our website and in the category before you submit.

All Short Films must be between 3 & 10 minutes including intro and end credits and/or video black at beginning or end. This is the first time since 2013 in which have increased time limits for our original longest running short film competition.



We are looking for high quality narrative story driven feature films shot with smartphones. Drone aerial footage not to exceed 10 percent of total length of film.

We do not offer or pay screening fees.

Agents must be verified by filmmaker to our satisfaction. We may require direct communication with filmmakers in the case of agents.

*May need to mail us a USB drive with your film, per request, at your own cost.

Non-English spoken word or hard to understand spoken language or scenes in films must include embedded subtitles in the English language.

Qualifying for submission does not guarantee selection to the competition. Not more than (3) films will be selected to compete in the Feature Film Competition. One film will be awarded Best Mobile Feature Film Award by International Mobile Film Festival in San Diego. IMFF is an official festival listed on IMDb.

Otherwise, rules are the same for the short film competition on our film festival.

Please read all the rules. Submission fees are non-refundable. We watch every film!

During the selection process, the filmmaker must read and sign an authorization form before their film can be officially selected to participate in our film festival's live envent or online. Please be sure to respond to all our emails and make sure they do not get lost in a folder within your email program.



The award will be presented to the best film by a less experienced mobile filmmaker. All genres from our short film categories qualify. The entries in this new category will not be included in the short film competition and the short film competition films will not be included in the Rookie Award competition.

We urge youth of all ages to submit to this new competition. The films selected in the Rookie Award competition will screen in another session of the festival. The Rookie Award will be presented during the awards ceremony for all competitions and all attending filmmakers will take part in the Red Carpet Extravaganza. More in the rules, below and our website.

You need to know the rules before you submit your film. The rules for the Short Film Competition apply for Rookie films. The only difference is the time limit for Rookie films is a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 5 minutes.

No limit on submissions! We lifted the limit of one film per filmmaker to no limit.

Note that only one film from each filmmaker or entity will be selected to compete. We only accept film submissions through FilmFreeway. ALL AGES QUALIFY.

A handful of films will be selected to compete for The Rookie Award as its own competition and will not be screened with the short films session of our festival programming, but will still be screened in a separate program session during the festival.

SCREENPLAY RULES: New Screenplay Competition for IMFF 2023

Screenplays submitted, selected and/or awarded, will not be published in any way.

Winners will be listed in our official film festival awards section with the screenwriter’s name, contact, and log line: A brief one or two sentence summary providing both a synopsis and a “hook” to inspire interest. The International Mobile Film Festival is listed on IMDb. If you win the Best Screenplay Award, you may share it officially on IMDb.

All screenplays must be written in English.

One screenplay per submission.

All ages qualify with proper permission
The screenplays are for narrative films.

Screenplays must be not more than 10 pages and no minimum than 3 pages.

Adaptations of books, plays, or any other source material do not qualify.

At the time of submission, your screenplay must be original and the sole property of the person submitting.

If your screenplay is officially selected, we will accept one revised final script, no later than the submission deadline.

Screenplays are written for low budget films.

There’s no limit to the number of submissions per person, but only one will be selected.

All screenwriters may attend the festival in-person and participate in the “Story Pitch” session.

All entries must be in digital PDF format. Please do not send printed screenplays.

If a screenplay becomes optioned, produced or purchased between the time submitted and the deadline, the script will not be eligible.

All screenplays must not have been or be in the process of being produced/filmed/in production.

No agents.

*We recommend you register your script before sending it to us with the U.S. Copyright Office and/or with WGA. 

Criteria we are looking for:
Writing skills.


A realistic potential of being shot with a low budget and smartphone production. Just keep this in mind. We realize scripts are never written for the camera.


PHOTO CONTEST: New Frame A Story (One story in one frame) for IMFF 2023

Storytelling with a photo: Your photo should inspire the imagination of the viewer and it tells a story. Photos will be incorporated into a video montage sharing your photo and name on the large screen during the festival.


All photographs must be taken/shot/captured with a smartphone camera.

All smartphone brands and models are acceptable. May submit up to the maximum allowes by FilmFreeway. Maximum six photos. Only one photo will be selected.

Photos must be taken between January 1, 2022 and the deadline set by the contest.

All photo submissions must have their own unique title and a description in English.

All photos must include photographer's name.

All submitted photos must include the original EXIF metadata.

No borders, logos, copyrights marks, ID marks, or any other visible references on the image.

Basic editing, including cropping is acceptable.

Limit advanced editing, collages, and other effects that give an illusion other than your original photo.

Photos will be rejected if they portray or include inappropriate and/or offensive content, provocative nudity, violence, human rights and/or environmental violation, or any other content that may appears to infringe intellectual property rights.

Format: JPEG format. High resolution with a file size less than 4MB.

Submissions: You may submit as many photos as is allowed by FilmFreeway, or a maximum of six photos. Only one will be selected. Submit photos only on our requested platform: FilmFreeway.

If your photo is selected, you’ll be required to sign a form to officially release your photo for IMFF 2023.

All photographers, can attend the in-person film festival in San Diego.

Winners who attend in-person will receive a certificate or award during the IMFF Awards Ceremony.

Categories for Short Film Competitions including new competition: The Rookie Award (these categories do not apply to the feature film competition)

All rules apply (See rules above): Remember vulgar, offensive, porn, nudity, does not qualify. Don't forget that all films must be shot horizontally and we won't accept non widescreen formatted films and videos.

There are rules to adhere to. Don't forget to read the forms you fill out and submit as well. We sincerely wish you the best of luck!



Read about our change to the short film competition.



Competition for less experienced filmmakers.

Being a “rookie” is not to be underrated, it’s to be celebrated. Especially in the mobile filmmaking community of filmmakers. The new “rookie” category contestants will not compete with the films in the short film category. A handful of films will be selected to compete for The Rookie Award. The selected films will not be screened with the short films session of our festival programming, but will still be screened in a separate program session during the festival. We urge youth of all ages to also submit to the new Rookie Award competition/category.



There are other typical categories on FilmFreeway. You can submit your film(s) to more than one category. You can submit more than one film to the same category.

Music got you down? Don't fret. Here is some info to research using music in your films to ensure the proper licensing. This is not the only resource, but it's a good start., New 2018 Copyright Law and ASCAP

*If you have questions or need help contact us. We will allow a couple shots from another mobile device or traditional cameras only by individual basis after a conversation which determines you need it to tell your story and cannot recreate it on your phone in time for the festival. This is usually historical footage that cannot be recreated, and again, limited to one or two shots not lasting more 3 or 4 seconds.

Please respond to email requests in order to qualify even after films are selected.

We require a download of your film in the full HD format mentioned in the rules. We don't "stream" them from Vimeo or YouTube (or any online platform) during the live film festival due to issues which may arise in the quality of the video stream, internet connection, etc.

*Please make an effort to be in attendance to receive free engraved trophy with your name if you win in feature or short film competitions. Festival will not cover the cost of shipping and handling of trophies. 

NOTICE: You will only be required to sign the separate authorization form if your entry is officially selected, in order to complete the selection process. You may also be required to submit licenses, proofs and other items such as talent release forms; upon request. This is for all competitions, not just films.

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