Filmmaker Competition

Join the Focus Forward $200,000 Filmmaker Competition!

If you have an idea for a three-minute nonfiction film around the theme of invention and innovation, then it's time to get to work! We're giving away $200,000 in cash prizes to the top five entries in our Focus Forward Filmmaker Competition, with $100,000 going to the Grand Prize Winner. (Yes, you read that right.) Submissions open April 23rd and will be reviewed by an esteemed jury. Winners will be announced at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Details below.

Creative Brief

Focus Forward films highlight exceptional people and world-changing ideas that are impacting the course of human development, changing our lives for the better. We are looking for professional quality 3-minute stories about visionaries and thinkers and in some cases everyday folks who have brought a quantum leap to human progress by their efforts and inventions. Your film may encompass anything from jaw-dropping medical advancements to renewable energy breakthroughs; open-source architecture to the development of wireless technologies in Third World countries; computer programming wizardry to sci-fi-worthy robotics; or any other sphere of art and knowledge that inspires you. We're especially interested in the accomplishments of inventors, engineers, educators, surgeons, scientists, techies, artists, programmers, backyard tinkerers - i.e. anyone making a difference, utilizing their skills and vision to innovate, share their work, and help sow the seeds of a brighter future. 

Submitted films must be three minutes in length, suitable for all screens and all audiences. Be sure it is clear in your film what the innovation/invention is (and/or the person responsible for it), as well as what its significant human impact has been. These films can be narrated or purely observational, interview-based or expressionistic; HD, film, animation, and mixed formats are all welcome. Be creative—think cinematically. A selection of Focus Forward films will be distributed and shown all over the world and up to 100 finalists will be featured online at in the fall of 2012. The Jury Prize finalists will be announced in December.
Be sure to check out our films before submitting.


1st Place (the Grand Prize): $100,000

2nd Place: $50,000

3rd Place: $30,000

4th Place: $10,000

5th Place: $10,000

In addition to the cash prizes the Top 100 Focus Forward Filmmaker Competition Films will be presented for audience viewing and voting on and in Fall 2012. The Top 10 films according to the number of audience votes will be recognized on the websites as audience choice films.

Why Enter?

THIS IS THE BIGGEST COMPETITION OF ITS KIND. You can win up to $100,000 if your film is judged by us to be the best of the best films submitted. Other prizes include one $50,000 cash prize, one $30,000 cash prize, and two $10,000 cash prizes. And, winning films (and possibly other submissions) will be distributed globally alongside Focus Forward films made by Steve James, Jessica Yu, Morgan Spurlock, Lucy Walker, and other award-winning filmmakers. And if that’s not enough, winners will be invited to attend the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January 2013, where they will be awarded their prize!

Do I Have to be a Professional Filmmaker to Enter?

Many of the best and brightest filmmakers in the world will be submitting films for this challenge. We expect entries to be submitted by everyone from major international film festival winners to students from the Berlinale Talent Campus and Sundance Film Institute, and quite frankly, this is your chance to beat them all!

Who Can Enter?

Anyone. Regardless of age or geography, pending legal rules of eligibility where you live. Persons in the U.S. under the age or 13 must have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter online and receive any cash or travel related prize.

What is the Submissions Window? 

The submission window has been extended. All submissions must be uploaded between April 23rd, 2012 and October 7, 2012 at 11:59PM EST

Who Will Judge My Video Submission?

A panel of professional filmmakers, film industry experts, program partners, and key representatives of CINELAN will review and evaluate submissions. Meet the jury here.

What Criteria Will the Jury Members Use?

Once accepted technically for length, production quality, etc., the jury will evaluate each three-minute submission on Concept, Story, Craftsmanship, and Impact.

Do I Need to Shoot My Three-Minute Film With a Particular Camera?

You can shoot your film with any camera. But films must be delivered in HD.

Can I Have An Opening Title or Closing Credits?

Because video submissions must begin and end with brief CINELAN and Focus Forward idents (a total of 18 seconds that we will provide), we recommend putting full credits in the text description of the video itself to allow yourself the maximum story time. The film must be three minutes (give or take a few seconds) including your credits.

Can My Film Be An Animation, Stop-Motion Animation or Have Motion Graphics?


Does My Three-Minute Film Have to Speak to the Focus Forward Concept of Invention and Innovation?


Where and when do I upload my video?

Here, beginning April 23rd, 2012.

What languages may be spoken in my film?

All films must be English-language or subtitled in English.

Can a film have multiple directors or producers?

Yes, but only the person or entity whose name/email appears on the authentication form submitted with the film will be considered the winner.

Does the film have to be non-fiction?


How many videos can I submit?

As many as you like.

Do I have to provide written releases for talent and music?

Yes, you must guarantee in writing that you have secured all rights and releases, providing unrestricted use of the material in all media worldwide.

Who owns my film once it is submitted?

You own your film, but you are licensing it to us.

See Official Rules