The Traverse City Film Festival’s annual bumper contest offers film enthusiasts and TCFF fans the chance to compete for cash prizes, including a Grand Prize of $1,000, and the opportunity to see their work on the big screen, playing before feature films at the festival.

A wonderful opportunity for aspiring and enthusiastic filmmakers looking to strut their stuff, bumpers are 20 to 60 second short films specifically designed to play before TCFF festival screenings that capture the spirit of both the festival and Traverse City — its beauty and movie savvy. Let your imagination run wild. The top bumpers submitted to the contest are shown on screen during the Traverse City Film Festival and the very best will be eligible for cash prizes, including the $1,000 Grand Prize.

Pro tips:

While submissions are not limited to specific themes, the festival is particularly interested in what is special about the Traverse City Film Festival and our amazing Grand Traverse region. 

We’re interested in:

  • The power of movies
  • The festival attendee experience
  • What’s unique about the TCFF and its role in the community

We’re NOT interested in:

  • Cherries
  • Your personal short film that you’ve already made. That’s a film you should submit to the festival, not enter as a bumper.

For filmmakers wanting to improve their odds, the festival offers these tips for standing out, based on past winners:

  • Tell a story. Narratives are usually more engaging than artistic shots or promotional ideas alone.
  • Humor, animation, and parodies of famous films have all been especially successful.
  • Production values count! Make sure your great idea can be seen and heard.

Watch 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013‘s winning trailers.

The film festival audience is diverse, so humor and references should be accessible. Keep the pacing fast and tight, and pay careful attention to lighting and sound clarity. And of course, have fun and entertain us!

Submissions should meet the following criteria:

  • Themed around a topic of your choice appropriate to pre-TCFF movie screening
  • Length of 20 to 60 seconds
  • Submitted via online link
  • Above-average production values

Ways to Submit:

  • Email film link to to
  • Include the bumper title, your name, and how best to reach you.
  • Entries are due by July 8, 2019


Check back for downloadable files of official high-res TCFF logos and assets that you can use in your bumpers.

Winners will be contacted after the jury makes their decisions, and will be announced in late July.

For more information, read the fine print.

2018 Award Winners

Game Night by Don Blubaugh

Photobomb by Maggie Buerkle

Lighthouse, Dogwalking, Popcorner by John Plough