Rules and FAQ


Contest Rules

2023 Program and Contest Rules

To enter the contest you must agree to these official rules. Submission of an entry constitutes an agreement to these rules. Please also review our FAQ and Entry Process. View and share our promotional flyer here.

Eligibility – To participate, you must be a youth or young adult in the following categories:

To enter as a Middle School Student, you must meet all these requirements:

  • You may only submit to the Walk in Our Shoes or Hope & Justice categories
  • You must be in middle school (grades 6-8) and your middle school must be located in California
  • You must have an adult advisor, such as a principal, teacher, or counselor

Note: If you are an organization (not a school) that works with middle-school-aged youth, contact us to discuss how you can participate.

To enter as a High School Student or Youth and Young Adult ages 12-25 you must meet one of these two requirements:

  1. Be associated with a high school located in California and be in grades 9-12. Any high school in California is eligible, including but not limited to: public, private, charter, alternative, and home schools OR
  2. Be between the ages of 12 and 25 and associated with a college, university, club, community-based organization (e.g. a chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or NAMI), or other agency or program in California. If you are 12-14 and in middle school, you must submit as a middle school student.

Submission Deadline – Midnight PST on March 1, 2023 – For every submission category, EXCEPT non-60 second film submissions in the Hope & Justice category.

60-second films in the Hope & Justice category must also be submitted by midnight on March 1, 2023 to be eligible to compete with all other statewide submissions in that category.

However, any other non-60 second film submissions (poem, drawing, animation, TikTok, etc.) must be submitted by midnight on the last day of each month. There is a separate Entry Form for the Hope & Justice category.

Judging Process and Prizes
All films are first pre-screened by the Directing Change Team. Then, the strongest films move to a panel of regional or statewide judges, who will select 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each category (as well as 4th and 5th place for Animated Short). Films in the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health categories are first judged within one of five regions within the state of California. To see which region your school falls into, click here.

At the discretion of the contest organizers, some categories may be combined or split depending on the number of entries received. Prizes will then be based on these new categories and awarded accordingly.

Hope and Justice – Monthly winners will be selected by a special judging panel and announced the following month. 1st to 3rd place Statewide winners will also be selected by a special judging panel and announced at the same time of statewide winners in all other categories. All 60-second film entries entered in the monthly contest and received prior to March 1, 2023 will compete in the statewide Hope and Justice category for a chance for another prize.

**Note: Statewide winners will not receive additional cash prizes. Directing Change “Team Picks” (films selected by Directing Change team to move on to statewide judging) will not receive cash prizes unless also a 1st-3rd place regional winner.

Additional Prizes
All winning films will be featured on the Directing Change website. Additional prizes include:

  • Schools and organizations associated with the first-place regional film in each category will receive a trophy.
  • First-place regional winners will move on to statewide judging to compete with other winning films across the state.
  • Up to two participants from the first-place film team will be provided with travel stipends to attend the award ceremony (subject to availability of funding).
  • Films will be integrated into the statewide suicide prevention awareness social marketing campaign and possibly shown on TV, online, and in movie theaters.

Submission Formats
For submissions in the Suicide Prevention, Mental Health, Through the Lens of Culture, Animated, or Walk in Our Shoes category, entries must be either 30-seconds or 60-seconds in length, depending on the submission category.

  • For submissions in the Hope & Justice category, art can be submitted in any format suitable for sharing via social media including but not limited to original music, dance, spoken word, art, poetry, a speech, ANYTHING! For information on submission formats for this category visit the Entry Format Tips page.
  • For all 30 and 60-second film submissions, Vimeo is our video services partner, and all technical specifications need to be in line with their requirements. You will be asked to upload your film file as part of the entry form. By uploading your film, it will automatically be uploaded to Vimeo meaning you agree to their terms and conditions.

Submission Requirements
All films and art need to meet certain submission requirements. These vary by category – please review the requirements for each category. Requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Required logos and resources (available as an end slate that can be added at the end of the film)
  • Every film must begin with a beginning title slide (not counted in the 60-second or 30-second limit) that needs to include: The Film Title, Filmmakers Name(s), School/Organization Name, County in which School or Organization is located, Adult Advisor Name, Submission Category. A title slide template is available for download, but youth are welcome to create their own.
  • Required end slate (Updated as of January 2022):

Submission Language
Films in languages other than English are encouraged for the Through the Lens of Culture and Hope & Justice categories. These films must have English captioning.

Brands and Logos
Please try to avoid use of brands when creating your film or art. This can include logos on shirts, brands on laptops, store signs in the background of outdoor shots, etc. You can avoid logos by dressing your actors in clothing without recognizable brands, covering laptop brands with a sticker or sticky note, or framing your shots so that recognizable stores are not highlighted. While using a brand will not disqualify your film, it may limit the use of your film in television or movie theaters, due to brand copyright laws. We recommend avoiding the hassle and making smart, brand-free choices during the creation of your film!

Music and Copyrights
Entries must meet all copyright standards by obtaining releases for all copyrighted music and materials before submission. Entries that include copyrighted materials (such as images, supers or audiovisual materials) or music (such as music purchased from iTunes, on a CD, or other downloadable services) without the proper permission and signed release forms will be disqualified. Please review the forms and copyrights page for more information and to download the appropriate forms.

It’s best to provide original music! When getting permission, you’re seeking permission for all places that the film could be used, such as online and on television.

Release Forms
As of this year, Directing Change requests that all release forms be completed electronically. Please review the forms and copyrights page for more information and other requirements.

Youth and young adult producers: please avoid potentially dangerous production situations that could put crew, actors, or the public at risk. Safety during the project is of the highest priority. Directing Change staff and sponsors take no responsibility and assume no liability for any acts or damages that may result from preparing the materials to submit to this contest. Further, all the submission categories are sensitive subjects that need to be addressed with respect and understanding for how they might impact those involved in the project. If at any time, you or someone working on the project experiences an emotional crisis let an adult know immediately or call the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. This is a free, 24-hour hotline.

Films can be disqualified for the following reasons:

  • Providing false information
  • Not meeting the submission deadline
  • Not obtaining the proper release forms or copyright permissions
  • Violation of the safe messaging policy (in each submission category)
  • Violation of the rights of any third party or US, state, or local law
  • Any other violation of the contest rules

The Directing Change Team reserves the right to disqualify any entry that they believe at their sole discretion to violate these rules. Further, the advisor can refuse to submit an entry that is not suitable for schools and a general audience. All categories have special content that must be included and specific content that must be avoided and can lead to disqualification.

If an entry contains disqualifying content or the entry promotes inaccurate information or statistics, the Directing Change team may reach out to suggest revisions. If the revised entry is not submitted within the deadline provided by Directing Change, the film will be disqualified.

Note: Entries should not be uploaded to Vimeo, YouTube, or any other video service sites accessible to the public (other than the official contest website as part of the entry form) until after winners have been announced on the website. See “Submission to Other Film Festivals” below as an exception.

Submission to Other Film Festivals – Entries submitted must be original work created by the individuals listed on the entry form. Entries can be submitted to other film festivals after the submission deadline. For a list of film festivals, visit the For Youth page. Special note to students in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare Counties: Directing Change partners with the SlickRock Film Festival. We strongly encourage you to also submit to this festival if your entry is in the Suicide Prevention category. The entry description and judging guidelines for both contests are aligned.

Contact us if you have any questions about the contest rules!

Entry Process

Entry Process

The following provides a step-by-step overview of the entry process. Adult advisors, we recommend that you download the Getting Started Guide with useful tips to help your participants submit winning entries!

1. Follow Directing Change on social media for notifications, tips, and announcements about the contest. You can also post questions to the Directing Change Team. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

2. Read the Contest Rules and FAQ!

3. Identify an adult advisor at your school or organization. All participants that are associated with either a middle school, high school, college, university, community-based organization, program, club, or other entity must select an adult advisor for their team. The adult advisor is someone who is not on the film submission team. This is required so we can connect your school, club, or organization with free prevention programs and resources, and they also qualify for cash prizes. The adult advisor does not need to have knowledge of or expertise in film making or the subject matter (suicide prevention and mental health).

4. Select a submission category and review the content guidelines carefully. There are seven submission categories.

  • Suicide Prevention (60-second PSA): This category asks for a 60-second film that educates young people about the warning signs for suicide and how to offer support to a friend.
  • Animated Short (30-second PSA): This category asks for a 30-second animated film about suicide prevention.
  • Mental Health (60-second PSA): This category asks for a 60-second film that encourages young people to get help and support friends with mental health challenges.
  • Through the Lens of Culture (60-second PSA): This category still requires participants to choose mental health or suicide prevention as a focus, with additional requirements including adding captioning and exploring these topics through the lens of different cultures.
  • Walk In Our Shoes (60-second PSA): This category asks for a 60-second film that encourages the viewer to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and learn more about mental health or suicide prevention. This category is only open to middle school students.
  • Hope & Justice (accepts submissions in all art forms): This category is an opportunity for youth living through history to express their feelings and to inspire others through art. Hope & Justice will be accepting submissions monthly, in any art form. 

5. Submit an Intent to Direct Form to let us know that you are planning to submit a film. Submitting the form does not obligate you to submit an entry, just as not submitting the form does not disqualify entries, but it helps us with the planning process. Only one per film team, please!

6. Create your film or art! We have developed several resources to assist with content such as educational films and fact sheets. See our tips below and visit the For Youth or For Schools pages for assistance.

Here are a few other resources:

Also, be sure to check out the Submission Toolbox for each category which includes tools (such as the logo end slate and the title slide template) that are required with your film submission, and resources to help you with the content of your film or art.

7. Sign Release Forms and provide them to the adult advisor. The advisor must secure a signed release form for every person that worked on the film crew or art piece, acted in the film, or whose voice appears in the film. The release form includes release of intellectual, image, and voice rights. All cast and crew must agree to the terms and conditions listed in the entry form and must sign a release form. Youth under age 18 also must have the form signed by their parent or legal guardian. Youth filmmakers and participants are honor-bound to acquire all necessary permissions and signatures.

As of this year, Directing Change requests that all release forms be completed electronically:

If you or your team members are unable to sign an electronic version of the release form, please contact us and we will provide an alternative method of submitting release forms.

The Directing Change team will request release forms from the winning film teams and any other films that we anticipate may be used to support local awareness efforts. If release forms cannot be provided upon request, the entry may be disqualified. Review the Forms and Copyrights page for more information and other requirements.

8. Upload your Entry Form by the deadline – midnight PST on Tuesday, March 1, 2023 – for every submission category EXCEPT non-60 second film submissions in the Hope & Justice category.

For the Hope & Justice category: 60-second films in the Hope & Justice category must be submitted by midnight on March 1, 2023 in order to be eligible to compete with all other statewide submissions in that category. However, any other non-60 second film submissions (poem, drawing, animation, TikTok, etc.) can be submitted by midnight on the last day of each month to be eligible for a prize.

You will be asked to upload your film file as part of the entry form. Films are automatically uploaded to the Directing Change Vimeo channel. Vimeo is our video services partner and all technical specifications need to be in line with their requirements. Remember – you can save this form for 30 days but please be sure to click “Submit” once you are ready or we will not receive your completed Entry Form! Your lead participant and advisor should receive a confirmation email upon submission of your entry form.

Troubleshooting tips:

  • Try a different browser (e.g. if you are using Google Chrome, try Internet Explorer).
  • Try uploading the film from a different computer (e.g. instead of your school’s computer, try your home computer).
  • If you are on a school’s Wi-Fi and are having trouble accessing Vimeo, it is likely that your school has blocked access to the site. Try another source of internet (mobile Wi-Fi, personal hotspot, internet from the library or home) to upload the films.
  • Films must be under 512 MB to upload successfully to the entry form; please make sure your film is smaller than 512 MB in size if you are having trouble uploading.
  • For more information on exporting your video to meet upload requirements, please view a tutorial on your particular editing software.
  • If submitting to Hope & Justice, visit the Entry Format page for tips to format your file.
  • Check out these Vimeo guides: Video and Audio Compression Guidelines and Troubleshooting Upload Problems
  • Contact us – we have never disqualified a film because of technical problems! Please include your internet browser and a description of the problem you are experiencing.

8. Sit back, relax, and think about what you will wear when you walk down the red carpet! Check out the last virtual Award Ceremony to get inspired!


1. Where can I turn for help if I am in a crisis or concerned about a friend?

If you are experiencing an emotion