Free and open to the public, the film festival was established in 2001 by Laura Vazquez, professor of digital media production and theory. She serves as director of the festival, which was created to give film students the opportunity to competitively screen their work.  Randy Caspersen, filmmaker and professor at NIU (pictured above with Vazquez) works with her to organize festival events.

Short fiction films and short documentaries (under 30 minutes) are accepted for submission into the festival from high school, undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States and around the world.

The selected films vary in genre from comedy to drama to animation, and focus specifically on strong storytelling. Each film category will also include a “Best in Show” award. There will also be a “Best in Show” award for the high school film category. “Best in Show” awards are cash prizes.

During the three-night festival, the first two evenings feature a festival accepted films.  The third evening features guest speaker actor and producer, Kevin Mukherji (NIU, Communication, Media Studies) who will discuss his experiences on the big screen.  Mukherji will also announce the winning films in each category.

In addition, each night offers door prizes donated from local businesses.

Thanks to the online film submission system Withoutabox, employed to streamline the film submission and review process, the film festival has grown exponentially in recent years. 


$300 for Best Short Story Fiction Winning Entry

$300 for Best Documentary Winning Entry

$100 for High School Short Film Winning Entry

$100 for Animation Winning Entry