The dates of the festival are Friday, August 18 – Thursday, August 24, 2023. The festival will be held at the Dipson Theaters Eastern Hills Cinema, located in the Eastern Hills Mall in Williamsville, New York, outside Buffalo.

Buffalo Dreams is a filmmaker friendly event which celebrates the best independent films from around the world in the following categories: Action, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Family, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction and Thriller. The festival separates content into three divisions: North American (U.S. and Canada), International, and Western New York. The Young Student Filmmaker Award is limited to Western New Yorkers and aims to introduce students under age 17 to the film festival experience. In addition, the Original Screenplay competition is always judged by a professional writer, and the five finalists receive notes from the judge. This year, the competition will be judged by acclaimed horror and humor author Jeff Strand.

The festival also launched the Lois Weber Award, named in honor of the first American female filmmaker, who directed 135 films, wrote 114, and acted in 100. Weber is credited with pioneering the split screen technique, and was the first woman to own her own film studio. According to film historian Anthony Slide, “Along with D.W. Griffith, Lois Weber was the American cinema’s first genuine auteur, a filmmaker involved in all aspects of production and one who utilized the motion picture to put across her own ideas and philosophies.” The Lois Weber Award is designed to recognize the achievements of contemporary female filmmakers (screenwriters, directors, producers) for films of any length.

Dipson TheatreLamberson and Scioli intend to showcase the best movies submitted: features (40+ minutes); short films (8 – 40 mins); and micro-short films (0-7 minutes). Music videos may be submitted as short films, and web series may be submitted in the category with the corresponding running time.

Buffalo Dreams does not screen films in hotel banquet rooms or bars. The festival directors believe every selected film deserves to be seen on a big screen in a real theater. Their philosophy is to screen only one film at a time, with no counter-programming. Patrons who wish to experience the entire festival should never have to choose between films.

The festival’s programmers like bold, original and edgy films that are well made. There is even a “WTF” category for the most outrageous films selected – films that surprise with their originality and unpredictability as much as they entertain. The programmers accept film submissions that would receive an NC-17 rating, but will not show pornography. The festival no longer accepts “fan films” featuring copyrighted characters, and every film must contain only original or licensed music.

Buffalo Dreams only accepts online submissions. Our venue is equipped to exhibit DCP files. If you wish your feature to screen from a DCP, you must provide the DCP on an external hard drive, at your own expense. We will not download DCP files, and neither will our venue. We accept .MOV or MP4 h264 files only. For all films other than features, we will only accept .MOV and MP4 h264 files. Any film not received by that date may be withdrawn by the festival.

Upon acceptance, we require filmmakers to sign and return a screening agreement within one week’s time, or their film will not be scheduled. We require all files to be submitted in the proper format within two weeks of acceptance, or films may be removed from the schedule.

By submitting your film to Buffalo Dreams, you grant to the festival the right to share your completed film with local film reviewers – for this purpose you may provide an additional watermarked version; to provide (for features) a trailer and poster image; and the right to feature your trailer and poster in advertisements and social media promotions. The festival directors cannot properly promote your feature without a trailer.


We do not offer waivers. Because we rent a state of the art theater for the festival to screen all of our Official Selections on a big screen, we need to charge submission fees to cover those costs. Any request for a waiver will be ignored – with one exception: we sympathize with filmmakers who live in oppressed countries such as Iran, who are prohibited from submitting their work to U.S. film festivals. We believe artists who live in such countries deserve to have their work seen, and it is our responsibility as the directors of an international film festival to help make that happen, so we will grant waivers from filmmakers who live under these extremely difficult political circumstances. This is the only exception.

We do not require submitted films to have been completed within any specific time frame, as long as they are finished by the festival deadline.

We will only screen films which have not already been distributed. We do not mind if a film has a distribution deal in place, as long as it has not been released to the public at the time of the festival. We will not screen films that are available online. We will consider films that are in the rough cut stage, but encourage filmmakers to contact us first to discuss their film’s status. In the event that a film is not completed in time to deliver a completed exhibition copy by the deadline, we reserve the right to screen the film the following year.

We do not require world premiere status, but we do require Western New York premiere status for features; local filmmakers should schedule their cast and crew screening after their festival premiere if they want to participate. We do not screen films already available to the public, whether on YouTube, Vimeo or through a distributor. We will show Micro Shorts that have previously screened as part of the 48 Hour Film Project, as long as they are not available online.

We encourage out of town filmmakers to attend the festival, but there is absolutely no requirement or pressure to do so. We will arrange a discounted hotel on your behalf, but are unable to pay for visiting filmmakers’ travel or lodging expenses.

We expect local filmmakers whose work we select to attend their screening, and we strongly recommend they participate in the festival, which provides excellent networking and learning opportunities. Filmmakers have traveled to Buffalo Dreams from Australia, the UK, Mexico and from all over the United States to screen their work. Local filmmakers need to step up their game and support other filmmakers whose work screens at the festival. We also expect local filmmakers to promote their screening to family and friends through social networking, which is the best way to ensure a successful screening.

We provide two free passes good for the entire festival to every official selection, in the submitter’s name. The same courtesy is extended to Unproduced Screenplay Competition submitters. We offer four free passes good for the entire festival to filmmakers whose features are selected. Filmmaker passes are not mailed out, and must be picked up at the venue once the festival has started.

While we consider the categories of Comedy and Fantasy self explanatory, we offer the following additional comments for our other categories:

Action: For our purposes, this category also includes crime dramas, noir, westerns and war films. We love westerns! Audiences expect action films to be extremely well executed, with a level of professionalism not necessarily demanded of indie films in other genres.

Animation: We are actively seeking to increase our animation programming – cell animation, stop motion, and CG.

Horror: Prior to launching Buffalo Dreams, Lamberson and Scioli collaborated on Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival. Horror still comprises a large portion of our programming (although this depends on the submissions we receive and could change any given year). We want the best horror films being made today, films which are original and daring, suggestive or in your face.

Science Fiction: We’ve screened excellent science fiction films the last few years, and see that as an area for growth.

Thriller: Suspense films of all types.

Unproduced Screenplay Competition: We accept unproduced, feature length screenplays in all genres. Our selection committee will narrow the list of submitted screenplays down to 10 semi-finalists, then five finalists, which will then be sent to a guest screenplay judge. The First Place winner will receive a plaque, and the Second and Third Place finishers will receive certificates.

Dreamer Awards: We usually run for seven days and present our Dreamer Awards in person during the festival, usually on a Sunday. We issue awards to celebrate excellence, but our primary focus is showing filmmakers’ work on a large screen. Our awards presentation is casual and fun, just like our whole event: we don’t pretend to be Sundance.

We look forward to experiencing your work!


We offer the following awards as plaques or trophies:

Best of the Fest

Outstanding Feature

Outstanding International Feature

Off Beat Cinema Award

Michael O’Hear Award for Outstanding WNY Film

Outstanding Director

Outstanding Screenwriter

Outstanding Performance

Outstanding Animated Film (short or feature)

Outstanding Medium Length Film

Outstanding Short (US & Canada)

Outstanding International Short

Outstanding Western New York Short

Outstanding Micro-Short

Outstanding Unproduced Screenplay

Additional awards may be issued as certificates. We no longer cover shipping fees for awards.

We reserve the right to combine award categories based on the number of films we select in a given category.
We also reserve the right not to issue an award in any category at our discretion.



1. Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival accepts Feature, Short Feature and Short Films in the following genres: Action, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Family, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction and Thriller. “Action” includes martial arts, war, police, crime drama, western, etc., and “Thriller” includes mystery, suspense and crime drama.

2. We have North American, International and Regional (“Western New York”) divisions.

3. We accept only online screeners.

4. Non-English language films must be dubbed or subtitled in English.

5. Exhibition copies should be Region A Blu-rays or NTSC R1 DVDs. We also accept DCPs. Downloads are acceptable, even preferable. NOTE to short filmmakers: please do not send uncompressed files that are larger than most features! MP4s are desirable.

6. The packages for all foreign exhibition copies should have “No Commercial Value – For Cultural Purposes Only” clearly marked on them.

7. Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival is not liable for any damage or loss suffered during shipping, previewing, or screening.

8. Your digital signature on the entry form authorizes us to use excerpts from your film for marketing purposes on television, in advertising, promotional items and/or news and other programs.

9. If your film is selected for screening at the festival, you will be asked to immediately forward: stills, a poster image, and an online trailer. We do not require one sheets, posters or press kits, but postcards for features are really helpful in our marketing.

10. If your film is selected for screening, you grant Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival the right to show the film one more time outside the festival, in a “Best of Buffalo Dreams” program at a Buffalo area venue.

11. Any requests for submission fee waivers will be ignored.

12. Entrants are responsible for obtaining any necessary licenses, royalties, release forms, clearances, permits necessary to present their work. Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival is not responsible for any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, or royalty infringement related to the work.

13. Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival reserves the right to make any necessary changes in festival scheduling. All submitting filmmakers will be notified of any regulation or date changes that affect them. Any changes to regulations after a submitter has already submitted will not apply to them.

14. The filmmakers responsible for each selected film will receive two free passes good for the entire festival for shorts and four free passes for the entire festival. If you’re traveling from out of town and have more than two/four people, we will do our best to accommodate you.


Legal: I, an authorized representative of the project being submitted (the “Film”), acknowledge and agree as follows in connection with the Film’s submittal for consideration for the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival (the “Festival”): I am duly authorized, on my own behalf and on behalf of all other persons or entities who have any ownership rights or interests to exhibit this Film at the Festival, (b) exhibition of the Film at the Festival will not violate any law or any right or consent of any person or entity; and (c) the Film is not subject to any litigation, arbitration, or other adversarial claim or proceeding, nor is the Film the subject of any threat of litigation, arbitration, or other adverse claim or proceeding. I further represent and warrant, on behalf of myself and the Film’s Owners, that the exhibition of the Film at the Festival will not violate or infringe any copyright, patent, privacy right, publicity right, trademark, service mark or any other personal or property right of any person or entity, and that the Film does not constitute or include a defamation of any person or entity. I have paid and will pay in full all license fees, clearance fees, and other obligations, of any kind, arising from or associated with the exhibition of the Film at or in connection with the Festival. I warrant and agree, on behalf of myself and each of the Film’s Owners, that the Film is being submitted to the Festival voluntarily and without promise or inducement, and that the submission of the Film neither imposes nor creates any obligation or responsibility on the part of the Festival to accept the Film for the Festival, to exhibit the Film at the Festival, or to return the Film to me or others. I further agree, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Film’s Owners, that I and the Film’s Owners, in submitting the Film for consideration, are waiving and relinquishing any right to assert any claim or commence any proceeding against the Festival, based upon, arising out of or otherwise relating to the submission, exhibition, or failure to exhibit the Film. In the event that the Film is accepted by the Festival, I hereby grant, on behalf of myself and each of the Film’s Owners, each of the following rights to the Festival without reservations, conditions or qualifications: (a) the right to use footage, stills and/or titles, and information from or relating to the Film for promotional purposes; and (b) the right to issue and authorize publicity concerning the filmmakers and the Film and to use all associated names, likenesses and biographical information. I also agree to provide contact information for the director and producer(s) of the Film and to grant the Festival the right to provide this information to film industry organizations sponsoring Festival events at its discretion. I represent that I am 18 years of age or older, or that, if I am younger than the legal age to enter into contracts in my state, I have provided the Festival with a written consent from my parent or legal guardian.

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