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10 FAQs about the Michigan Student Film Festival

Saturday, April 25, 2020 at the

DIA's Detroit Film Theatre

(updated January 2020)

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 the last Saturday in April. 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.

Q. What does “Best of Show” mean?

This signifies the best of the best work done by students who enter the Festival. Only entries judged as Best of Show will be shown on the big screen at the DIA’s Detroit Film Theatre on the day of the festival.


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

We require 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 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 indicated on the entry form upon entering a video is used on our judging day to distribute the hundreds of videos between rooms.

Categories include:

  • Animation
  • Documentary ($500 cash prize)
  • Music Video
  • Narrative Film ($500 cash prize)
  • News/Sports Magazine Program
  • Public Service Announcement

The Festival awards special prizes for the best of each of our main categories with a 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 will be returned via email to students and/or their teachers. If you're unable to be there to collect a prize, Festival staff will send it to you. 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 produced by K-8th grade awardees will be shown in the beautiful Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The award ceremony follows with certificates and trophies given to those in students in attendance.

The senior Best of Show reel (grades 9-12) 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. During each award ceremony,  cash awards will be given to category winners including the Audience Favorite award, the 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. Selections from the Best of Show program have also been featured in other festivals and special screenings, such as Cinetopia and the DIA's summer outdoor movies at Detroit area Metroparks.

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, Lawrence Technological University. Scholarships to attend the Michigan Youth Arts Festival in May will also be awarded.

In addition, the festival awards prizes ranging from gift cards, camera gear and much more.  Deadline for applying for the scholarship from all DAFT member seniors is January 15th at this link.

Q. Where does the $12 entry fee go?

The Festival is a year round activity that requires hours of volunteer and paid staff work. Entry fees go toward the festival afterglow, prizes—including trophies for Best of Show. Other costs including supplies, printing, web-server space, and food for three statewide judging days.

Other questions? Feel free to contact us at

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