FOCUSED ON LOCAL ARTS, CULTURE, COMMUNITY: All filmmakers should submit films that align with the StoryBoard Memphis mission in supporting* and spotlighting local arts, community, history and culture through the power of storytelling.

*While StoryBoard advocates support of local community and culture, by shining spotlights on important topics, StoryBoard encourages filmmakers to submit films they are passionate about, including those with challenging or difficult topics; filmmakers are welcome, where appropriate, to submit content that exposes audiences to issues that raises awareness to aspects, characteristics or conditions of cultural and/or social importance in any of the local, regional, or national and international categories. All such content is nonetheless subject to review by our screeners and StoryBoard’s board of directors.

MEMPHIS and MID-SOUTH CONNECTIONS. Memphis has national and world-wide connections and influences beyond the most obvious examples of Elvis and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Filmmakers submitting films from the national and international arenas are encouraged, but not required, to submit content that spotlights Memphis connections. (Examples: New York City has strong historical ties to Memphis through the cotton industry and fashion; the Jewish immigrant community has strong, ongoing roots in Memphis and its environs due in part to the city’s history of tolerance; the Memphis photographer Ernest Withers played a significant role in exposing to the world the story of the brutally murdered Emmett Till in 1955  – Withers captured the only photo taken during the formal trial proceedings in Sumner, Mississippi, and while he himself did not capture the images of Till’s body, it was Mr. Withers who developed and helped distribute the horrifying photos of the boy from Chicago, lying in an open casket.)

FILMS COMPLETED-BY GUIDELINES. Being a new festival and unique in its mission, and considering pandemic disruptions for filmmakers’ opportunities in 2020 and 2021, we understand that many filmmakers have films on the shelf that have never seen the light of day. Therefore we will accept films that were in production and/or completed as of January 1, 2020 provided they have not been otherwise released or shown, and that meet the RULES & TERMS below.


SHORT-SHORT NONFICTION FILMS: must be 10 minutes or less in running time, including opening and ending credits. Short nonfiction films may fall under multiple categories and documentary types. Read on below for further details.

FEES are non-refundable

Festival is open to U.S. and International entries

Films not in English must be subtitled with English subtitles

FILM ELIGIBILITY: In consideration of pandemic disruptions in festival opportunities, short-short documentary films completed after January 1, 2020 are eligible for Doc Fest Memphis 2023 under the terms below.

Films that have been released publicly, theatrically, on broadcast television, or are available on Video-on-Demand or a streaming platform are not eligible for competition. 

ROUGH-CUTS and WORKS-IN-PROGRESS: Rough-cuts or short segments of works-in-progress ARE eligible for festival competition. However, these films must be able to stand on their own merits and will be judged on their own merits. For example, a finished segment or ‘chapter’ of an unfinished or not-fully-funded feature-length documentary could be audience- and competition-ready; as representative of the unfinished feature-length work, these segments may be submitted and will be judged on their own merit.

Sizzle-reels, trailers or previews will not be accepted as submissions.

SUBMISSION FORMAT: Entries MUST BE submitted for pre-screening with a private, password-protected VIMEO or private YOUTUBE link. Filmmakers are required to keep the festival contacts updated with passwords.

Filmmakers may submit multiple entries. However, entrants must complete a separate entry form and pay the entry fee for each separate submission.

UPDATED CUTS: Doc Fest screeners will screen films as they were originally submitted; we cannot guarantee to screen updated cuts of films. However if filmmakers have updated cuts ready before the final deadline, they should email festival organizers immediately, and every effort will be made to have the updated cut screened for the festival. 





NEW EARLY Deadline: JANUARY 5, 2024

NEW REGULAR Deadline: FEBRUARY 2, 2024

NEW LATE Deadline: MARCH 1, 2024

NEW EXTENDED Deadline: MARCH 29, 2024


FEESEntry fees are as follows:

For EARLY Deadline: $15 for 901Teens; $25 for area college and university students; $30 for all others.

For REGULAR Deadline: $15 for 901Teens; $25 for area college and university students; $35 for all others. 

For LATE Deadline: $25 for 901Teens; $35 for area college and university students; $45 for all others. 

For EXTENDED Deadline: $35 for 901Teens; $45 for area college and university students; $60 for all others. 

SPECIAL FEES for Memphis Downtowners:

For Downtowners within the Downtown Commission map footprint (or refer to map at the bottom of this page), the following fees apply:

EARLY, January 5, 2024 deadline: FREE

REGULAR, February 2, 2024 deadline: $10

LATE, March 1, 2024 deadline: $25

EXTENDED, March 29, 2024 deadline: $45


Submitting is a 2-Step process. Please click on the link to our SUBMITTING page below to submit your short documentary.


LOCAL FILMS: These films must be filmed within Memphis & Shelby County* with local subjects of local, national or international connections, interest, or influences. 

(*Within this category is a special DOWNTOWNER sub-category for films filmed in Memphis’s downtown according to the Memphis Downtown Commission’s (DMC) Central Business District Map, which borders the Mississippi River, north at the Wolf River, south around the Metal Museum and Fort Pickering and along Crump Blvd, and east along Thomas St and Danny Thomas Blvd. An additional DMC boundary includes the Edge/Medical District, from Danny Thomas Blvd at the west, north along Poplar Ave, east along N. Watkins St., and south along Linden Ave. Please review this DMC Map for specific details.)

REGIONAL:  These films must be filmed outside of Shelby County in the Mid-South/Delta Region of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana with regional subjects of local, national or international connections, interest, or influences. 

NATIONAL and INTERNATIONAL: These films must be filmed outside of the Local and Regional areas, with a broad range of connections and interests in arts, community and culture that may or may not have connections to Memphis, the Delta or the Mid-South.

901TEEN FILMS: These films must be created and filmed by local teens within the Local and Regional boundary areas and requirements. 

COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY STUDENT FILMS: These films must be created and filmed by local college and university students within the Local and Regional boundary areas and requirements.


We found these excellent resources and documentary descriptions from Premium Beat. For further reading, visit Premium Beat

POETIC DOCUMENTARIES: Docs that focus on experiences, images, and showing the audience the world through different eyes, can be unconventional and experimental

EXPOSITORY DOCUMENTARIES: The most straightforward and well-known type of documentary, aims to inform in narrative style, includes Ken Burns-style filmmaking

OBSERVATIONAL DOCUMENTARIES: Sometimes in a Cinema Verite-style, these films observe their subjects and important, sometimes private moments, are less pointed than the expository approach, and attempt to give voice to all sides of an issue

PARTICIPATORY DOCUMENTARIES: These include the filmmaker(s) within the narrative, using their voice to prod their subjects, in the Michael Moore style

REFLEXIVE DOCUMENTARIES: These often include the filmmaker as the subject of and within the film. Most reflexive documentaries make no attempt to explore an outside subject. Rather, they focus solely on the creators and their interactions with the world.

PERFORMATIVE DOCUMENTARIES: These are an experimental combination of styles used to stress subject experience and share an emotional response with the world. They often connect and juxtapose personal accounts with larger political or historical issues, also in the Michael Moore style.

Check out this helpful and informative Complete Guide to Documentary Filmmaking, also from Premium Beat.

ANIMATED DOCUMENTARIES. In addition to the above, StoryBoard Doc Fest will also accept documentary shorts in various and experimental formats, such as Animated, Graphic-Novel-style documentary shorts that adhere to the StoryBoard mission. 


FINAL FILMS: Between 12 and 18* films will be selected for competition for StoryBoard Shorts, Doc Fest Memphis. (*12 to 18 films depending on length of total final films as they will fit within a roughly 2-hour festival screening block). 

ENVELOPE-TEAR: Final film selections will be announced at a party and envelope-tear in Memphis, Tennessee April 17, 2024. The envelope-tear will also be live-streamed for entrants, stakeholders and audiences.  

FINALISTS & FORMATS: Finalists will be required to deliver their film files to the festival organizers in full 4k UHD (or upscaled or “upres’d“) 16×9 aspect ratio, in NTSC 1920x1080p or higher using AVC encoding standards. 

LIABILITIES & COPYRIGHTS: StoryBoard Doc Fest cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage incurred en route, or due to normal wear and tear. StoryBoard Doc Fest is held harmless from any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses that may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity or screening of any films. 


Want to qualify for the Downtowner category?
Films must be at least partially filmed within this footprint