Background, Judging Criteria, Winners, Badges

Elfenworks, in partnership with Campus MovieFest (CMF), invites students to become social justice filmmakers (or game developers) by participating in the annual Campus MovieFest competition. It’s an opportunity to win up to $10,000,  make a difference with your art, and have fun, all at once.

How It Works (Film Competition)


Filmmakers at participating CMF schools can sign up for free online and get all the gear needed to tell your story in a week. Or, students who attend any US college or university may submit their short movies online. Winners are selected by the Elfenworks Foundation, based on the following criteria: story, message, cinematography, audio/music/narration, and overall impact. Winners are announced each June at the CMF International Grand Finale, often by celebrity stars.  We’ve been honored to have many wonderful celebs present our Elfenworks/Campus Moviefest Social Justice awards over the years, including Gabouray Sidibe (2011), Nate Parker  (2012), Larry Wilmore (2013), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (2014),  and Elijah Kelley (2015). You won’t want to miss the excitement at this year’s event!

A NOTE TO STUDENTS:  Every year, the number of entries into our category grows. We want to THANK YOU for being a social justice filmmaker, lending your artistic eye and your voice to issues you care deeply about.  We want you to have the best chance of winning, so please invest a few minutes watching our ‘filmmaker tips’ video, above. And then you might want to peruse some of the previous years’ entries.


There are $15,000 in prizes, including a first prize of $10,000 and $3,500 for a runner-up. Judges may award an additional cash prize for artistic excellence or best message. Some who don’t win cash prizes may also receive an honorable mention, with associated bragging rights. Cash prizes will be distributed by Campus MovieFest. There are also bragging rights: you’ll be an award-winning social justice filmmaker.  And finally, your winning film will air on Virgin America airlines!

How It Works (Game Competition)

Winning games are SALIENT * EXCELLENT * COMPELLING.  Although CMF used to offer a music component, they have now switched to gaming.  This is the first year that CMF is venturing into gaming, and we’re on board. Yes, let’s have social justice themed games. Bring CMF your best, and you’ll be considered for a possible cash prize. See CMF’s website for details. 


  • Why do you keep asking for more? Don’t you have enough submissions?
  • There can never be too many. Imagine the power of an onslaught of student social justice films – lots of ripples, bringing on a great wave of change.
  • What topic is best for a submission?
  • Great question… but you’ll never win by picking a topic you think we want from you. Winning films have one thing in common: winners have chosen a topic that’s close to their hearts. They care, and they make us care. A better question to ask is, what topic touches YOU? That’s a question only you can answer.

Categories of Winners

Check out our previous winners in each of these important thematic areas:

In this category, students convey hope in the American landscape, often through individual hero stories, tales of personal triumph, or of supporting someone else in the face of adversity. They triumph over poverty, inequality, or some other social injustice. Previous winners include:

These films bring home the story of someone or some group who, unwilling to be overcome by the problem, tackles it.  They tell tales of visionaries who are doing something to create positive change.  As Lauren Speeth, CEO of Elfenworks, explains, “We’ll always consider films that tell the story about how NOBODY should underestimate their ability to make a ripple of positive change.”  This has been our most popular topic, and we invite you to tell us about the heroes in your community.Previous winners include:

Let your imagination soar and think of artistic and creative ways to portray your message.   Your film may rise to the top and sweep the award, or it may earn a special mention for your creativity, your artistry, your plot twist, or some other special winning attribute. Although horror is NO LONGER an official category, you can still submit your film and we will consider it under “artistic and other.”Previous winners include:

We are constantly amazed at the dedication and imagination of these students!

Winning films are not only excellent and compelling, they are also salient to our current domestic social justice landscape. By social justice issues, we mean societal issues –  that is, issues centering around fairness, hope, and so on. The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality’s website, breaks social justice issues into numerous distinct categories. Over the years, students have shown keen interest in some of the categories and very little interest in others. For example, we’ve had a lot of submissions on homelessness. We’re not saying “stay away from straight documentaries on homelessness.” But, to win, you might want to try to find a way to move hearts and minds, rather than simply to inform. Hollywood professionals, when telling social justice tales, often embed a whispered “social justice” message inside hero stories. The classics not only inspire, they also teach us about life’s true meaning. For reference, consider The Pursuit of Happyness, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol (or Scrooged), and Stand and Deliver. We’ve found that the most compelling films are where the filmmaker has a personal interest – it’s an area that touches their heart, personally.

Social Justice Alt Category:

For years, we enjoyed music submissions. Now, we look forward to receiving another sort of “alternative” entry: games. Musicians, we hope you’ll still be inspired to join us with our peace project (click for more), and continue to use the power of music to open ears, hearts and minds. Congratulations to our winning musicians, some of whom have gone on to work in partnership with us. Many winners have been showcased at our events, such as our In Harmony with Hope award, and two have worked as our ambassadors of hope. These are the band Eyeshine (partner for a number of years) and A Moment’s Worth (one of the band’s original members, Alex Bondarev and his new band Conversing with Oceans continue that effort). Their work empowers audiences with the message that your efforts matter, that each of us can indeed make a positive difference. We encourage all our winners to keep in touch with us so we can amplify your successes through our social media outlets.

Social Justice Filmmaker Badges

Have you produced content for our category, tackling a compelling fairness, justice, civic, or related issue? If so, congratulations! We thank you and we salute you. As filmmakers ourselves, we can really imagine the heartfelt work that went into your effort. So, we want to help you share this important milestone with your friends and colleagues. You can announce “I’m a social justice filmmaker” with one of these specially designed badges, created just for creative filmmakers like you. Simply copy and paste the code next to the badge of your liking, and you’ll be able to display your accomplishment, loud and proud!  Thank you again for your social justice film…together, our storytelling matters. You’re making a ripple!

Copy and paste the following code:

<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”” border=”0″ alt=”CMF Social Justice Filmmaker”></a>



Copy and paste the following code:

<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”” border=”0″ alt=”CMF Social Justice Filmmaker”></a>



Copy and paste the following code:

<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”” border=”0″ alt=”CMF Social Justice Filmmaker”></a>


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