Submitting to Rooftop Films
At Rooftop we believe that the role of a festival is to help filmmakers bring their work to as large and diverse an audience as possible, not to profit off of their ambition. That is why we keep our submission fees low. If you submit a work to Rooftop you automatically get 2 free tickets ($30 value) to any one Rooftop Summer Series show, whether or not we are able to screen your film.
Struggling filmmaker need never despair: no film will ever be turned away due to lack of funds. To request a submission fee waiver, click here.
Rooftop Films is more than a film festival—we are a film community. When a filmmaker is selected to screen with Rooftop, they become part of that community forever. From then on, we’ll support that film and filmmaker in every way we can.
Here are a few of the perks of screening your film with Rooftop:
A memorable, customized screening
We don’t screen in theaters, so each event is different. A unique venue, live music, filmmaker Q&As, and free after-parties are just the start. For some films we’ve also included strongman stunts, bicycle tricks, thematic karaoke, an eco-carnival, social issue campaigns, and more. The audience will never forget your screening at Rooftop.
The Summer Series
The Summer Series runs annually from May through August and features daring new films, all screened outdoors, in front of big, loyal audiences in parks, on boats, and on rooftops overlooking the greatest city in the world. Tens of thousands of people attend Rooftop screenings every summer, making it one of the most popular festivals in New York City and one of the biggest festivals for independent films in the world.
Rooftop has carved out a niche for itself in the independent film world. We believe that a film festival has a responsibility to present films in exciting and innovative ways so that we can reach wide audiences and show interesting work in a manner that maximizes the impact of the films.
We show films outdoors in New York, among the tall buildings and towering trees, on tar roofs and green grass, and amid the subtle sounds of street traffic and whirring crickets. A film framed by the city skyline becomes more than just a film, it becomes part of the neighborhood. We try to choose films that will add to the environment in which they will be screened, just as we try to choose venues that will enhance the films that we show. We strive to find the perfect location for each film or program, seeking out idyllic spots along a canal for a romantic program or film, or mounting a screening of a documentary about industry atop the roof of a 100-year-old factory. The result is that the films take on new meanings in these unique environments and nuances come to the fore, making a lasting impression.
Read more about the Summer Series venues on the venues page.
We work harder than most festivals to program films together in such a way that the films complement one another. That is why most of our programs are organized around themes, moods, regions, and/or genres. While some festivals tend to toss unrelated shorts and features into disorganized bundles, Rooftop believes that strategically programming complementary films together can add to the impact of all the works included and that a carefully curated show can bring out subtle resonances in even the most textured and accomplished films.
Browse last season’s programming.
Rooftop Filmmakers Fund
Unlike festivals which give awards for filmmakers’ past works, the Rooftop Filmmakers Fund is an opportunity to help our community of filmmakers make their next movie. Rooftop Films set aside $1 from every ticket sold and $1 from every submission fee received and grants those funds to alumni filmmakers for their film productions. We’ve been screening films since 1997, and every filmmaker who has ever shown a film with Rooftop is eligible for our grants. Only filmmakers who have screened a movie at Rooftop Films’ festival are eligible.
Rooftop Films has ten grants available —six for feature length films and four for short films. Each year, Rooftop Films will give away over $35,000 in cash grants, $25,000 of which is courtesy of our sponsor GarboNYC and funds feature films. Our equipment and service grants are valued at more than $200,000 and come courtesy of our sponsors at Eastern Effects , Edgeworx Studios, Brigade Marketing, Technological Cinevideo Services, Downtown Community Television, and Nice Shoes.
Past grantees have included Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, Jonas Carpignano’s Mediterranea, Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Shaka King’s Newlyweeds, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Johannes Nyholm’s Las Palmas, Lucy Walker’s The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, and dozens more.
Read more about past grantees.
Services for Alumni
Follow-up promotion for your film
Many films that screen at Rooftop go on to theatrical runs, TV exhibition, DVD distribution, and more. We have a promotional network that reaches hundreds of thousands of people. Through our blog, email list and social media, we’ll keep promoting whatever happens with you and your film, keeping the buzz going long after your Rooftop screening. Contact us for more information.
Placement for Films and Screenplays at IFP
Rooftop has partnered since 2007 with the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), America’s oldest non-profit support center for independent filmmakers. We can recommend your film for IFP’s Labs and Market, and directly place screenplays in IFP’s annual Emerging Narrative Project Forum, one of the premiere places in the US to make connections and find funding for your film. (Applications available to Rooftop Films alumni only.) Contact us for more information.
If you’re looking to raise money for a project through Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or any other social media platform, let us know. We have a curated page on Kickstarter, and will promote your campaign. Contact us for more information.
Discounted Equipment Rentals
Setting up your own screening? Rooftop has the gear to tech a living room screening for 10 friends or a huge outdoor event for 4,000 people. If you want to show your film again and need a projector, sound system, screen, and more, we offer discounted rates to alumni filmmakers.
Click here for more info on Rentals.
A Network of Support
Beyond all that, our staff is here to help you in any way we can. We’ve given advice on rough cuts, recommended films to other programmers and distributors, written letters of recommendation for grants—whatever it takes to support our community.