How To Apply

How to Apply

The 2021 Student Academy Awards competition is planning to open for submissions in March. Please check back closer to March for updated rules and deadline dates. The deadline for submissions will be June 1, 2021

Please use the link below to access the online submission platform.




The Student Academy Awards (SAA) recognizes and honors student filmmakers who demonstrate excellence in the creation of motion pictures. By awarding these outstanding achievements, the Academy strives to support and inspire emerging filmmakers and to foster growth and education in the art and science of motion pictures.


Competition opens: March 16 2020
Competition closes: June 1 2020

Awards Ceremony: October 21 2020


US school categories: Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Alternative/Experimental
International (non-US) school categories: International Narrative, International Documentary, International Animation, Alternative/Experimental


Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals (which include cash grants of $5000, $3000 and $2000, respectively, and a trip to Los Angeles for SAA Week) may be awarded in each of the domestic categories as well as International Narrative. Additionally, only Gold medals may be given to winners in the International Animation and International Documentary categories.






The student director/s must have been enrolled as a student (full-time or part-time) in a degree-granting program at an accredited U.S. college or university as recognized by the SAA Executive Committee ( see School Eligibility).


CILECT member schools are allowed to submit ONE film per International category. The student director/s must have been enrolled as a student (full-time or part-time) at a college or university that is a current member of CILECT (The International Association of Film and Television Schools). 


The student director/s must have been enrolled as a student (full-time or part-time) in a degree-granting program at a college or university based outside the U.S. (see School Eligibility) AND their film has been selected for competition in three qualifying film festivals (see SAA Qualifying Festivals List) between June 2, 2018 and June 1, 2020.  Proof of “in competition” status must be provided.


1. Domestic (U.S. based) must be accredited by one of the following agencies:

a. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

b. New England Association of Schools and colleges

c. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

d. Northwest Accreditation Commission on Colleges and Universities

e. Western Association of Schools and Colleges

f. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

2.   International (non-U.S. based) must meet the following criteria

a. Schools must be either a member of CILECT ( or be accredited by the responsible governing body in their country.

b. International programs that are part of American based colleges and universities fall under international rules regardless of the nationality of the student. For example the NYU program in Dubai would be an “International School”.

c. Programs must offer an associates, bachelors or graduate degrees

d. Animation Training Programs do not have to provide college degrees but may offer a certificate to its students upon completion of the program.

e. Program must be either a non-profit educational organization or a government sponsored educational institution.


ALL student films (US and international schools) must satisfy the following criteria:

1. Films must have been made in a teacher-student relationship within the curricular structure of the teaching institution.

2. Films must have been completed and submitted for final credit/grading between June 2, 2019 and June 1, 2020 and within 1 year of the student’s graduation date.

3. Films must be the same version submitted to the student’s school for credit/final grading and may not be altered once submitted for Student Academy Award consideration. Do not submit work in progress.

4. Films cannot have been entered in any previous SAA competitions. Making changes to a film submitted in a previous year, even significant changes, does not the film eligible again.

5. Films submitted for the Academy Awards competition (regardless of the outcome) are not eligible for entry into any subsequent SAA competition.

6. Films (including any still images) must not display any festival laurels, or awards won.

7. Films must be no longer than 40 minutes including opening and closing credits.

8. All films submitted must be in English, subtitled in English, or dubbed in English.

9. Advertising films, promotional films, and films made as works for hire are not eligible.


1. The SAAs honor up to three credited directors. If your film has more than three directors, please submit the names of up to three who are the most responsible for creative content. If there are any credit discrepancies or controversies, the Academy will insist that credits be settled before the film may be considered for an award. The Academy will not be bound by any contract or agreement relating to the sharing or giving of credit, and reserves the right to make its own determination of credit for purposes of SAA consideration.

2. Entry forms and films must be submitted digitally via

3. Films must be viewable on FilmFreeway. Enable your privacy settings to allow your film to be embedded on FilmFreeway.

4. You must supply your faculty adviser name and email as they will be contacted to verify your film and student status.

5. Each film must be submitted to one category only. If a film is determined to be in an incorrect category, it will be reassigned to the correct category.

6. Films advancing to the semifinal round of judging may be asked for additional formats such as a DCP or HD quality digital file. Any hard media provided will be returned to the entrant after the competition ends.

7. Failure to satisfy all the entry requirements will result in disqualification.


1. Student Academy Award participants may only promote their status in the competition within the explicit guidelines provided by the Academy.

2. Promoting any film entered into the SAA competition to Academy members (either by the filmmaker or by a third party, sometimes referred to as campaigning) while the SAA competition is active is not allowed, and will be considered cause for disqualification.


1. Student Academy Awards winning films are eligible for entry into the following year's Academy Awards competition, provided the films satisfy all criteria for the Academy Award category for which they are entered.

2. If the eligibility and/or category of any entry is questioned, the Academy reserves the right to make a determination as the SAA Executive Committee may deem appropriate at its discretion.

3. The Academy reserves the right to amend or modify any procedure, process, or rule, as may be considered necessary by the SAA Executive Committee for the proper conduct of the Student Academy Awards or to adhere to any standards set forth by the Academy.

4. The Academy is not responsible for late, missing, or damaged entries.

5. The decisions of the Academy regarding any matter relating to the SAA will be final and binding in all respects.

US school categories: Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Alternative/Experimental

International (non-US.) school categories: Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Alternative/Experimental

ANIMATION - Animated films may present an original narrative story, an existing story or fable, or an exploration of a mood or thought.  Either comical or serious, they usually fall into one of two general fields -- character animation or abstract animation.  Various techniques include cel animation, computer animation, clay animation, stop-motion, pixilation, cut-out pins, camera multiple-pass imagery, kaleidoscope effects, and drawing on the film frame itself.  Winning Animation films are chosen by judging the product as a whole, as well as the artistic and technical skill of the filmmaker in whatever motif or animation technique the student has chosen.

DOCUMENTARY - Documentary films are nonfiction visual essays that seek to present historical subjects, current social or political issues, or specific human experiences in such a way as to have a dramatic impact upon the viewing audience.  Documentaries may be filmed in the cinéma vérité style where camera and microphone merely record the event without injecting the comments or subjective conclusions of the filmmaker, or may be a reenactment.  In the latter case, the distinction between dramatic and documentary film lies in the fact that while dramatic film is fictional, documentary film deals with factual situations and circumstances.  Winning films in this category are chosen on the basis of artistic technique, as well as the ability of the documentarian to fashion reality into a film essay which leaves the audience better informed and/or moved.

NARRATIVE - Narrative films strive to portray life, a character or a narrative story much the same way a novel does, but within the context of an audiovisual medium.  Past narrative films by students have included, but were not limited to, dramas, comedies, musicals, and many other story oriented genres.  Winning entries in this and all other categories reflect the merit of the film when viewed as a whole, as well as the professional execution of its component parts, such as script, dialogue, direction, cinematography, lighting, acting, editing and scoring.  Narrative category films may be adaptations of existing pieces of literature or original stories written by the student filmmaker.

ALTERNATIVE/EXPERIMENTAL – Sometimes referred to as “experimental,” films submitted in this category risk disqualification if they could also be submitted in any other category (i.e. the narrative, documentary, or animation categories, as defined by these rules).  This category is not meant to be a “catch all” category for films that have unusual narratives or simply lack structure and/or craftsmanship. Alternative films challenge traditional cinematic boundaries and conventions of expression. Alternative films employ progressive aesthetic and/or technical elements. Alternative films convey a reinterpretation of traditional structural components such as story, imagery, words, time, space, motion, sound, light and color. Alternative films often expand the language of cinema and generally are non-narrative and may not necessarily have a story arc. The Academy strictly evaluates if films submitted in this category are appropriately Alternative.

1. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shall judge entries on the basis of resourcefulness, originality, entertainment, and production quality without regard to cost of production or subject matter. Entries shall be judged only within their respective category.

2. All stages of judging, including Preliminary, Semifinal, and Final rounds, shall be overseen by the members of the Academy.

3. Upon submission, entries shall be verified for eligibility and category.

4. Preliminary entries will be judged via their online digital submission.  At this stage, the Academy has the option to re-categorize the entry into a more suitable category. Filmmakers will be notified of advancement to the semifinals on or around July 15, 2020.

5. Semifinalist entries shall be judged online only. Filmmakers will be notified of advancement to the finals by August 14, 2020.

6. Finalist entries shall be judged theatrically and online.  Final ballots will be tabulated by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and filmmakers in each category will be notified of their final status by September 15, 2020.

7. Presentation of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal award winners in each category will be made at the Student Academy Awards Ceremony in October 2020.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal awards (which include cash grants of $5000, $3000 and $2000, respectively, and a trip to Los Angeles for SAA Week) may be given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of outstanding achievements in student filmmaking in each of five domestic and international film school categories: Narrative, Animation, Alternative/Experimental, Documentary, and Narrative (International Film Schools). Gold medals may be given in two international film school categories: Animation (International Film Schools) and Documentary (International Film Schools).

Coming soon.