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10 FAQs about the Michigan Student Film Festival

April 29, 2017 at the DIA's Detroit Film Theatre

(updated January 2017)

Q. What is the festival?

Recognized by the American Film Institute as the longest-running K-12 student film festival in the nation, the Michigan Student Film Festival was founded by the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts, Film and Television) as a showcase for Michigan students to demonstrate their skills and to network with one another and industry professionals. Admission is free and will take place once again at the DIA’s Detroit Film Theater on April 29, 2017. You can learn more about the history of DAFT at this link.

Film Festival 2014 @ DFT 009

Q. How are the entries judged?

On a Saturday in March, 40-50 volunteer judges convene in 10-15 viewing rooms to watch and discuss each entry (5 minutes max, which is why we ask entrants to let us know where to cue it up). After each viewing, every judge completes a detailed review form which will be returned to the students—rarely done in film festivals!

Then the room leader facilitates a group recommendation for one of the following levels of recognition: Merit, Honor, Excellence and Best of Show. You can see a list of 2015 awards by clicking here.


Q. What does “Best of Show” mean?

Each judging room can strongly recommend to the next round of judges that an entry be considered “Best of Show”—to be shown at the DIA’s Detroit Film Theatre on the day of the festival. Adults may volunteer for judging and a free Buddy’s Pizza lunch by clicking here.

Here's a direct link to our Senior  2014 and 2015 Best of Show reels.


Q.  What about music or images that may be subject to copyright?

We strongly encourage all entrants to only use music/images with permission. On our website, we have a handy list of royalty free music. We also have our copyright policies listed on our website at this link—including our December 2015 discussion with a copyright attorney. No money is made or charged for online or theatre display of student videos for the festival.

Festival Junior Winners

Q. Are individual categories awarded?

While each video is judged on its own merit, the categories requested (link) upon entering a video is used on our judging day to distribute the hundreds of videos between rooms. New to 2017, we will be offering special prizes for the best of each of our main categories with a $250 gift card to Michigan's own ProCam.


Q. If we can’t make it to the DIA for the festival what happens?

All written feedback from our judges and prizes will be returned to the entrants at the DIA’s Detroit Film Theatre the day of the Festival. If you are not present, we will arrange to get you your results. But we would love to see you there!

Film Festival 2014 - Junior BOS 001

Q. What happens on the day of the actual Festival?

In the morning, following our keynote speaker’s brief address the Best of Show reel with K-8th grade winners will be shown in the beautiful Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts followed by awards given to those in attendance. The senior Best of Show reel (9-12 grades) follows with the same ceremony. In addition, all Best of Show winners and their families will be invited to a special reception with important local media professionals and Buddy’s Pizza upstairs in the theatre’s amazing Crystal Gallery.  All events will end by 3 pm.  New to 2017, we will also announce category winners ($250 gift cards) along with $500 cash prizes for Maple Theatre Award for Best Narrative and the John Prusak Visionary Award for Best Documentary.

Film Festival - Crystal Gallery

Q. What happens to the Best of Show winners reel after the festival?

All videos that are honored with Best of Show screenings elsewhere, including the Michigan Youth Arts Festival and, again this year, the Detroit-Ann Arbor film festival, Cinetopia.  Selections from the Best of Show selections have also been featured in other festivals and special screenings, such as the DIA's summer outdoor movies at Detroit area Metroparks.

Film Festival 2014 @ DFT 036

Q. What prizes are available?

We are once again honored to present full scholarships to Specs Howard School of Media Arts (Southfield and Farmington Hills) and the Motion Picture Institute (Troy) as  well as partial scholarships to the University of Detroit Mercy. Six scholarships to attend the Michigan Youth Arts Festival in May will be awarded. In addition, we will have prizes ranging from gift-cards, camera gear and movie passes. As we continue to get prizes, we will update our website.

Film Festival 2014 @ DFT 020

Q. Where does the $12 entry fee go?

DAFT’s Festival is supported in large part through a key grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (link) which requires matching funds. We must raise a certain level of funds targeted in our proposal to receive full grant funding.

Revenue generated goes toward scholarships (including sending students for three days to Kalamazoo for the Michigan Youth Arts Festival in May) as well as our extensive free-program at the DIA, prizes—including trophies for Best of Show. Other costs include supplies, web-server space, supplies and food for three statewide judging days, honorariums for staff who prepare everything from the Vimeo pages and certificates to the grant-writing.


Other questions? Feel free to contact us at

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