2022 Program and Contest Rules
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
- 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.
HIGH SCHOOL or YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULT
To enter as a High School Student or Youth and Young Adult ages 12-25 you must meet one of these two requirements:
- 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
- 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 Tuesday, March 1, 2022 – 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, 2022 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. Films in the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Matters categories are first judged within one of five regions within the state of California. To see which region your school falls into, click here.
If less than 15 entries are received from any given region it might be combined with another region at the discretion of the contest organizers.
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, 2022 will compete in the statewide Hope and Justice category for a chance for another prize.
Note: 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Please note that a different end slate is required for all Hope & Justice category submissions.
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.
The release form is now available as one-page document, and includes release of intellectual rights, and image and voice rights. 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 is partnering 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!
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. “Like” Directing Change on Facebook. This way you will receive notifications, tips, and announcements about the contest, and you can post questions to the Directing Change Team.
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 Matters (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.
- Suicide Prevention Toolbox
- Mental Health Matters Toolbox
- Through the Lens of Culture Toolbox
- Animated Short Toolbox
- Walk In Our Shoes Toolbox
- Hope & Justice Tips & Resources and Hope & Justice end slate
7. Sign Release Forms and provide them to the adult advisor. The advisor must keep a release form on file 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.
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, therefore it is important to keep all forms on file. If release forms cannot be provided upon request, the entry may be disqualified. If signing PDF release forms, please send copies to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, 2022 – 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, 2022 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. There is a separate Entry Form for the Hope & Justice category. 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. The entry can be saved for up to 30 days at a time.
- 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.
- 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 emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Immediately: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free 24-hour hotline. You can also visit their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.com.
2. Is my school or organization eligible?
Any middle school or high school in California is eligible, including but not limited to: public, private, charter, alternative, and home schools. Youth and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 and associated with a college, university, club, community-based organization or other agency or program can also participate. You don’t need to have a prior relationship with this organization. Please feel free to contact us if you need help finding one to partner with.
If you are under 12 years of age and would like to participate, you will need permission from your parent/guardian. Please contact us as it is possible that an exception can be made.
Visit the Contest Rules page to learn more.
3. How many entries may a participant submit?
There is no limit on participation, and you are encouraged to participate with as many teams as you would like. The same film can only be entered into the contest once.
For the Hope & Justice category, you can submit one entry each month.
4. How many entries may a school or organization submit?
There is no limit on school, club, university, or community-based organization submissions to the contest.
5. How many participants can work on a film or art submission?
Up to 10 students or youth may be listed on the entry form, however there is no limit on the number of students who can be on a team. Only one trophy will be given per winning team. There is no limit on the number of submissions one person can be part of.
6. My school or organization doesn’t even have a film, art or media class. Can I still enter?
Yes. The only requirement for a young person to enter is that the film must be submitted under a school, club, university, or community-based organization’s authority. Each participant must find an adult advisor (such as the principal, a teacher, or a counselor) to review the entry and deem it appropriate.
7. Is it possible to make a submission made by students and youth from multiple schools?
Yes, youth can submit as a team from different schools, but the team needs to identify an adult advisor from one of the schools. That school will be contacted regarding the entry and included on our website if the film wins. If desired, the team could submit in multiple categories and submit one film through one school, and the other film through another school.
8. How do I enter the statewide contest?
The step is to submit your Entry Form by the deadline – midnight PST on Monday, March 1, 2022 – 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 also be submitted by midnight on March 1, 2022 to compete with all other statewide submissions in that category. There is a separate Entry Form for the Hope & Justice category.
9. What is the difference between the Hope & Justice category and the other submission categories of the contest?
The Hope & Justice category embraces the “promoting social justice” portion of the Directing Change mission statement, going a step beyond the other submission categories (suicide prevention and mental health) to make the connection between social justice and health. Unlike the other submission categories of this contest, submissions are accepted and awarded monthly and encouraged to be submitted in any art form suitable for sharing via social media. This includes original music, dance, spoken word, paintings, poetry, film, a speech, ANYTHING! Learn more about the category here.
10. What is the difference between the regional and the statewide contest?
For the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Matters categories, there are two judging rounds: regional and statewide. During regional judging, films will be judged against others from their region. The state has been divided into five regions. Regional judges will score the films to determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd place regional winners.
The 1st place winning film from each region will move on to statewide judging. A new judging panel will score the films and determine the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place statewide winners. In addition, the Directing Change team will select up to 5 films in each category to move onto statewide judging.
The other categories only have one round of judging – entries will be judged against others from across the state, rather than divided by region.
11. How do I know what region I’m in?
To see which region your school or organization falls into, click here.
12. If I’m not a middle school student, can I still submit a film to the Walk in Our Shoes category?
No. The Walk in Our Shoes category is only open to middle school students, and films submitted by high school students or youth/young adult participants to this category will not be eligible for awards. Please feel free to contact us if you have an idea that seems to only fit in the Walk in Our Shoes category, and we will work with you to see if it can fit in one of the other categories open to you.
13. What is the role of the adult advisor?
The adult advisor must review participants’ films and art to ensure it is appropriate for a general audience. They are not on the submission team, but they may give suggestions and feedback to the team on their work, especially related to the Content Scoring Measures and Safe Messaging Scoring Measures in each Submission Category. The adult advisor does not need to have knowledge of or expertise in filmmaking or the subject matter (suicide prevention and mental health).
We also suggest visiting our For Schools page for tips to help students with their films, lesson plans, and other resources.
14. As a participant, how much help can I get from parents, teachers, and other adults?
Teachers, parents, and other supportive adults are encouraged to be resources, and may participate as actors, but the project must only be the work of youth or young adults. This includes script writing, camera work, and editing. Outside help must be limited to showing participants how to do a task while never actually performing the task for them and offering suggestions while allowing the participants to make the final decision.
15. When and how do I know if I win?
We will contact the adult advisor listed on the entry form. We anticipate announcing regional winners in the Suicide Prevention, Mental Health, Through the Lens of Culture, and Animation categories at the beginning of April 2022. Winners in the Hope & Justice category are announced monthly. Statewide winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony, which will take place during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.
16. What are the prizes?
Please see Judging Process and Prizes in the Contest Rules.
17. Is there an award ceremony?
Yes, an award ceremony to honor the winners in each category and to reveal the winners of the statewide competition will take place in May 2022. The award ceremony promises to be an amazing evening and the program will include a screening of the winning entries. View the most recent virtual event!
18. Will my film be shown on TV?
The winning films will be included on our website and made available to schools and mental health agencies throughout California. In addition, the winning films will be integrated into the statewide mental illness stigma reduction and suicide prevention social marketing campaigns. The films will be also available for use by organizations throughout the state on our film library, featured on social media channels, and may end up being shown on TV or played before movies at your local movie theatre – you never know! To learn more about these efforts click here.
19. I don’t know that much about suicide prevention and mental illness. Where can I learn more?
Here are a few resources to help you get familiar with these topics:
For more resources and assistance, visit the For Youth page.
20. What if I don’t have access to filmmaking equipment?
As a first step, we encourage you to explore resources that might be available through your school or local library. Quality films can be developed utilizing basic digital cameras and video editing software available on most computers. We understand due to virtual learning and not being in a traditional classroom, many of you may not have access to everything you need to create your film or art, but we hope you will use this opportunity to get creative! However, if you are not able to access the technology you need, please contact us.
21. I don’t know anything about filmmaking or art, can I still enter?
Yes! This contest is about developing a film or art related to suicide prevention, reducing stigma about mental illness, or expressing yourself and using your voice to encourage purposeful action and to start conversations that matter. We feel that everyone with a good dose of enthusiasm and creativity can come up with something amazing. Review these tips to get started.
22. What happens if my entry is longer than the specified time limit?
Only the first 60 (30 seconds for Animated Short) seconds of a film will be judged. Although the film won’t lose points, any films which run longer than the maximum time (30 or 60 seconds) will not be judged for their full content and will be at a disadvantage. (Note: The title slide required at the beginning of each film does not count toward the 60-second limit, but the end slate does count towards the time limit).
Why this matters: Many of the films (even if they are not winning films) are used to support local awareness efforts and shown in local movie theaters and even on TV. We are only able to use films that meet the 30 or 60 second time requirement.
23. What if I didn’t submit the Intent to Direct form?
No problem. Submitting the Intent to Direct Form does not obligate you or disqualify you from submitting an entry. It just helps us with our planning process. You may still submit a film and Entry Form without submitting an Intent to Direct Form.
24. Do I really need to get all these forms signed?
Yes. If your film is chosen as a winner, and you are unable to provide the required forms, your film may be disqualified and ineligible for prizes. We suggest signing all forms as soon as possible and saving them in a safe place. The Directing Change Team will reach out to winning teams for these forms.
25. How much violence can my film or art have? Can I use profanity?
This is a school-related contest and, as such, content, violence, profanity, sex and drug activity must be appropriate for school use and adhere to your school’s policies, rules, and guidelines.
A few tips: Do not glorify illegal, dangerous, or potentially harmful behavior. Instead, make your video about the decisions made, the relationships gained or lost, the life opportunities won or lost. Make the video about the people, not about the act. The formula for most movies focuses on why the characters are going to do what they do, the internal struggle of the decision and a resolution. Focusing on the causes and effects allows you to work with serious topics in a realistic, mature way while adhering to school standards.
In particular, the Suicide Prevention category has special content that must be included and specific content that must be avoided. Check out the submission category page for more information.
26. Can I show brands or logos in my film or art?
Technically yes, but we do not recommend it. While it may not be possible to keep all brands out of view, there are easy ways to avoid them from being a focal point in your film. For example, dress your actors in clothing without recognizable brands, cover up laptop brands with a sticker or sticky note, or frame 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 so it will not affect its accessibility at a later time!
27. Can I use popular music in my video?
Original music or music that is in the public domain (royalty free) may be used in your film if the source is cited in the credits. You will need written permission from the copyright holder to use all copyrighted materials such as popular songs, so you will not be able to just download or purchase your favorite song on iTunes and include it in your video. For more information visit the Forms and Copyright page and for a list of websites that offer “free” music or tips to create your own visit the Links page.
28. There are required logos and resources – where do I find these?
Required logos, resources, and other tips for creating and submitting your film can be found in the Submission Toolbox for each category.
29. I have limited internet access. Is there another way to download release forms and submit my entry?
Yes, we can mail you copies of all release forms and you can sign, scan and email to us or mail us a hard copy of your entry postmarked by the submission deadline. You can also download and print the release form at your local library. Questions? Please contact us.
30. What if my school or organization does not allow access to Vimeo?
In this case, you must upload your film at another location, such as a public library or your home. If you need to upload at school or outside your home, we also suggest using either a mobile hotspot or an alternate Wi-Fi network (if available). If these options aren’t possible, please contact us to discuss alternative submission options.
31. Why does my Through the Lens of Culture film need to include captioning?
Films are encouraged to be submitted in languages other than English, but all films in this category are required to include captioning, even if the film is in English. If the film is in English, captioning is required to allow communities such as the Deaf, Hard of Hearing or English Language Learners to be able to view the film.
These films will be used in a variety of settings, and evaluated by a panel of judges. To assist the judging process, knowing that it will be difficult to have a panel of judges for each language, films must have English subtitles to assist in fair scoring of films. We encourage films in all languages and are especially hopeful to receive submissions in sign language that are appropriate for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Visit the submission toolbox for tips and support if you are interested in this!
32. What is the difference between captioning and subtitles?
- Captioning (also called closed captioning) is commonly used as a service to aid deaf and hearing-impaired audiences. It usually appears as white text within a black box, appearing a second or two after being spoken.
- Subtitling is most frequently used as a way of translating a medium into another language so that speakers of other languages can enjoy it.
- You do not need to use closed captioning or subtitling software to include captioning in your film – you can use your editing software to add text in English, as long as it is readable. The main goal of captions and subtitles is expanding audiences so everyone can enjoy your film!
For more information about captioning click here. If you are looking for resources on how to add captions to your film, we recommend checking out the following pages:
- 5 Easiest Ways to Add Captions to Video Free and Fast
- How to Add Subtitles and Translations to Your Videos
33. What constitutes as “animation” for the Animated Short category?
Animated Shorts for the Directing Change contest need to create an “illusion of movement.” For example, stop-motion films count as an animated piece because of the use of many pictures pieced together to create this illusion of movement. Drawing on a whiteboard, in contrast, would be an example of live action, not animation. This is because it is recording actual movement, rather than having the illusion of it moving on its own.
Films must be an original animation. Please avoid using programs such as PowToon or any other software that comes with premade characters or animation.
34. Who do I contact if I am interested in becoming a contest judge?
To learn more about becoming a judge, visit the Judge page for more information.
35. Who is the Directing Change Program and Contest funded by?
The contest is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. The program is implemented by Your Social Marketer, Inc. For more information on CalMHSA visit: www.calmhsa.org.
In addition, we appreciate our many sponsors and supporters.
36. Can I participate if I do not live in California?
In the US, at this time only middle and high school students and youth and young adults associated with a school, college, university, club, community-based organization (e.g. a local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or the National Alliance on Mental Illness), or other agency or program in California are eligible to participate. In the future, we hope to open up the program to more young people who live outside of the states of California. In 2020, the contest opened up to Canadian youth, presented by Youth Mental Health Canada.
37. What if I have other questions not in this FAQ list?
Contact us via email or phone. We promise to get back to you promptly.