2024 submissions are now closed. Check back in May for our 2025 call for entries.
BUFF seeks films that celebrate alternative visions and sounds, offering a platform that connects filmmakers with one another and our intelligent, engaged, and incredibly passionate audience, and encourages new ideas in celebration of work that pushes the envelope in style and content.
We are looking for challenging & exceptional independent features and shorts in the categories of: Dark comedy, genre, bleak sci-fi, cerebral and/or psychedelic horror, strange documentary, fantastic music video, mature animation, and/or films that defy description (preferably with a WTF) from all over the world.
Since 2012, BUFF’s primary screening venue has been the historic Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA. Occasionally, we screen at the Harvard Film Archive as a secondary venue.
In addition to film screenings, BUFF hosts receptions and parties all over Cambridge and Somerville for attending filmmakers, industry guests, audience members, and media.
We pride ourselves on the caliber of the content we exhibit, the hospitality of our dedicated and 100% volunteer staff, and the passionate community we’ve fostered here in New England; we hope you’ll check us out!
Rather than giving cash or trade value prizes for awards, BUFF doles out a trophy in the shape of a demonic black bunny, named Bacchus.
The annual award categories are:
Best First Feature
Best New England Film
Director’s Choice (awarded by the BUFF organizers)
Occasionally, special awards are selected as well (e.g. Lifetime Achievement, Best Animated Film).
SUBMISSION, EXHIBITION FORMATS
Films 60 minutes and above are considered feature length. Films under 60 minutes but above 20 minutes are considered medium length. Films under 20 minutes are considered short length.
Short, medium length, and feature length submissions must be online screeners; no physical copies accepted. All submissions in a foreign language must be subtitled or dubbed in English. If submitting more than one film, a separate completed entry is required for each title. Due to the volume of submissions we receive, submitted items cannot be returned.
Accepted Feature films must be available on DCP or 35mm (required for exhibition). All accepted short and medium length films must be available on DCP and authored by a professional post-house. “Homebrewed” DCPs will not be accepted under any circumstances. If a filmmaker cannot produce proof of professional DCP authorship, the filmmaker agrees to either allow BudgetDCP (BUFF’s official DCP partner) to author a DCP at a discounted rate or to get a DCP authored by a professional post-house (and provide proof thereof). BUFF will not accept digital files as exhibition copies for ANY films accepted into the festival. While other festivals are able to screen a variety of digital formats, BUFF’s venue can only screen professionally authored DCPs, no exceptions.
NOTIFICATION AND SCHEDULING
Selected films are scheduled at the discretion of BUFF. BUFF retains the right to make changes to the published schedule at any time and for any reason. BUFF will notify all filmmakers of acceptance/rejection status via email by no later than March 1, 2024.
All rejected films will be considered for our monthly programming series, Dispatches from the Underground. Throughout the year we screen shorts blocks and feature films that were not selected for the festival; our programming staff will reach out directly to filmmakers if we are interested in screening your work as part of our Dispatches series.
Boston Underground Film Festival (henceforth referred to as BUFF) is hereby granted the right to utilize an excerpt from any film submitted and accepted for exhibition at the Festival for promotional purposes.
The individual or corporation submitting the film hereby warrants that it is authorized to commit the film for screening and understands and accepts these requirements and regulations.
The undersigned shall indemnify and hold harmless BUFF from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos entered.
Will BUFF 2024 be a physical festival?
We have hosted physical festivals since 2022. We will have a contingency plan in the event of an unexpected cancellation which will be communicated should circumstances change. But our primary objective is to safely host filmmakers and our audience at the Brattle Theatre. Visit brattlefilm.org to learn more about the safety measures our venue has taken in response to COVID-19. Our volunteers and staff will be following the theater’s safety guidelines and protocols.
How do I submit my film? Are there any alternative ways you accept submissions?
Currently, FilmFreeway is our exclusive submissions platform. Unfortunately, this precludes us from accepting submissions via any other format. We don’t accept direct submissions; emailing us a link to your film is not an acceptable submission. Please do not send us anything in the mail.
What kinds of films does BUFF screen?
We love a variety of genres, particularly films that creatively blend genres or break the rules. We are often considered a horror festival but that’s not quite accurate. While we love our fair share of horror and genre film, we also love vanguard film, bizarre and dark comedies, experimental documentaries, docs about music/bands, animation, sci-fi, and dramas that push boundaries and expand minds.
View our most recent program, check out our Vimeo channel BUFF.TV or do some research about us online to get an idea of our programming style.
Does BUFF consider works-in-progress submissions?
Totally. Just be sure you’ll definitely complete the film by the end of January 2024 as that coincides with the throes of print traffic for our team. And don’t pull a bait and switch on us; if the completed film is wildly different from what you initially submit, that needs to be communicated as early on in the finalization process as possible.
Does BUFF grant submission waivers?
Typically, no. Out of fairness to all the filmmakers who pay full submission fees and in consideration of our incredibly scare resources (we are an underground festival) and small, 100% volunteer staff, we honestly can’t afford the time or loss of much-needed funds to consider waived submissions. Every dime we receive goes straight towards supporting the festival and we literally need every penny.
In very extreme cases we may be able to make an exception, particularly if you are applying from an underserved or underrepresented community or from a region embroiled in political turmoil. But before you ask, make sure you look at our programming first. We don’t appreciate receiving requests from films that are clearly outside the scope of our programming.
What if I’m a BUFF alum: Are submission waivers available?
Yes, with caveats. If your film (that you directed) won an award at BUFF, you are entitled to a lifetime submission waiver. If your film (that you directed) screened at BUFF within the last five years, you are also entitled to a submission waiver (it just needs to have screened at the festival within the last five years – anything older than that, unfortunately, will require a fee again). Just reach out to us and ask and we’ll hook you up.
Do you require a premiere status for films?
For Feature films we require a bare minimum of a Boston premiere. This means that the film must not publicly screen in Boston (this includes Cambridge, Somerville and/or the Greater Boston region) before BUFF. We of course love the honor of hosting World/North American/US/East Coast, New England, and Massachusetts Premieres.
For short and medium length films, no premiere status is required. If your short/medium length film is available online, we will ask you to take it down temporarily upon receipt of acceptance notification through the end of the festival (in other words, for the month of March).
Are music videos considered?
Yes! We have a dedicated shorts block specifically for music videos. We love them. Please send them. We especially love music videos that utilize the language of genre film (horror, sci-fi, noir, Western, fantasy, etc.).
What about videos originally made as part of a web TV series?
We consider these too but are unlikely to screen the whole series unless it edits nicely into a feature length film or if an episode works well as a standalone short film.
You accept Medium Length films but I’ve had a hard time getting mine accepted at festivals. What’s up?
Truth be told, a film that runs in length between 21 and 59 minutes is often the most challenging type of film to place when you consider that most program blocks are about 90 minutes long. Medium-length films can be trickier than short films to incorporate when looking for complementary films to play with them. Many of our favorite films over the years have been medium-length, and when there is a natural fit, we absolutely screen them.
Will you actually watch my film? How will I know?
Well, yes…you are paying for us to consider your film, so why…wouldn’t we watch it? We are trying to discover incredible films – it’s like the ultimate show and tell. How can we do that if we don’t watch your film?
We are so dedicated to screening as many wonderful films as we can that we even created a year-round monthly screening series (called Dispatches from the Underground) to exhibit films that we couldn’t find a place for in our annual lineup. All films submitted to BUFF are also considered for Dispatches programming.
Who is watching the films?
The Director of Programming & the Artistic Director are watching screeners along with everyone else on our programming and submissions teams. All films are watched all the way through. No exceptions.
What if I look at my Vimeo stats and see that you didn’t watch my film?
First of all, that’s an egregious claim and one that we take very seriously. Vimeo is very clear about inaccuracies when third-party apps are involved.
Most of us watching submissions are looking at films on customized home cinema setups (because we are film nerds). We don’t really like watching submitted films on small laptop screens within the Vimeo player. Apple TV, Roku, etc. are what we use and it’s a known fact that Vimeo has difficulty giving reliable stats for anything that’s played outside of the Vimeo player.
Also. Some of us travel, a lot, which requires us to download files so we can watch on long flights or train rides. You’re not getting Vimeo stats for these views either.
Sidenote: A few of us live elsewhere during the year and aren’t permanent Boston residents. If you’re looking for “proof” that a “view” took place in Massachusetts, keep in mind that we live scattered around the world.
What if I have other questions?
Drop us a line at info [at] bostonunderground [dot] org.
July 7, 2023
September 29, 2023
December 1, 2023
January 5, 2024
Submission fees vary per deadline and format (short, medium, feature), ranging from $30-$75. Please view our listing in FilmFreeway for specific pricing.