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The California Student Media Festival encourages regions without their own Student Media Festival to STEAL the resources found below to create their own! Yep, we're serious - we'd love to see regions across the globe adopt our model and celebrate student creativity near them...

To make it simple, we’ve gathered the archive below, which includes editable  versions of all our rubrics, guidelines, forms and judging instructions.

Steal This Festival: Image

How to Create Your Own Student Media Festival

We created this page to help folks or institutions who want to create a media festival for students and teachers.  There are many ways to do it, and links to other approaches will be posted at the end of this document.  The “Steal This Festival” site shares information, organization, and lessons learned from the California Student Media Festival, the nation’s oldest festival for student media work.  

Mission Statement of the California Student Media Festival
The Festival strongly encourages project-based learning and meaningful student work in media and multimedia and exists to acknowledge and reward successful classroom work. The Festival believes that:

  1. Students are capable of extremely high level work, beginning at very early grades

  2. Media and multimedia are excellent tools for students

  3. Video and multimedia should be integrated into the regular subject-area curriculum

  4. Rewarding exemplary work and good school programs encourages more of both.

Brief Background
The California Student Media Festival (CSMF) is a curriculum-based Festival, celebrating classroom work.  There are occasional special categories, but the submission and judging process is based on the limitations–and celebrations–of real work in real classrooms, which begins with the curriculum.  It has categories for each curriculum area, some non-curriculum school based work, such as School Information, and is broken into categories for Elementary and Secondary Education.  Middle school falls into Secondary Education. There are no separate curriculum categories for middle school or high school, and they compete against each other.

Non-curriculum Awards
There are Special Awards, such as Best Performance and Best Use of Music, but these are selected by the judges from the curriculum categories.  There is no way for students to submit directly to those special categories.  The curriculum judges select projects for special awards, then these are grouped and judged again against each other in the special categories (Best Performance, Best Writing, Best Camerawork, etc.)

Special Categories
When groups with education initiatives such as corporations, state parks, world language institutions, or individual foundations, want to highlight their programs, special awards are created and reward with prizes supplied by the program providers.  These awards and the work they encourage must be well within the normal school study framework.  They generally touch on one or more curricula.

Teacher Projects Rewarded
Because it was recognized early that teachers are also capable of creative, inspiring work, there is a Teacher-Created category for both elementary and secondary levels. There is no fee of any kind for submissions. There are monetary awards to schools.  These are provided by donors.  Submissions of student projects are done by teachers, with a sign-off by the site administrator. This is done primarily so that the site administrator knows about the excellent work done by teachers and students at the school.

Teacher Involvement/Support of Student Work
How much teacher participation should be involved in a submission to the CSMF? Remembering that the festival is a celebration of work done in the classroom, the question is reframed as ‘how much teacher participation should there be in student learning?’.  The answer is ever:  Just enough.  Good teachers decide how much students need to be guided to learning. Technology tools are no different.  It is a teacher’s decision.  You will see on the VIC Awards form below, as well as forms from CSMF analog era, that teachers are asked to mark which is their work and which is the students.  This question evolved mainly out of the problem that many judges had believed some of the work was really done by students.  It was!

Copyright Policy
Because this is a festival celebrating classroom work, and is not a contest, fair use applies in the area of copyright.   There are restrictions that must be adhered to (e.g.,, but fair use is the general guideline.  Of course, individual schools and districts may have their own guidelines.  When winners are posted online, a new element is added and whether or not that impacts the material used in creating classroom work is an ongoing discussion and may change.

Prominent local politicians, business folks, leaders from educational institutions, etc., can present awards. Done right, this can help support the festival.  It does add a layer of organization. The CSMF does this rarely, but other local festivals have used it to good effect.

Live Festival Event: In-person
One of the highlights of the Festival is when all winners come together to view excerpts of each other’s work, make acceptance speeches, and share the great work in a great setting. It is open to the public and free.  It is hard to overstate the importance of students being recognized for their work and knowing they will have a chance to accept the awards in front of their peers. The clips shown are carefully chosen and run around one minute (max 90 seconds). The speech follows the clip.  There is no limit on speech time.  Although teachers generally attend with students, it is most often the students who make the acceptance remarks.  Some speeches are deeply thought out and written, and delivered by individuals and some are simple thanks by a whole elementary class in a line.  Students have been lifted in wheelchairs up to the stage, and aphasic students have spoken through iPads.  The in-person event is an essential part of the benefits of a Festival.

The First Documents
These are the guidelines from the years of the festival when submissions were primarily hardcopy (tapes, DVDs).  The judging criteria may still apply today.  The instructions to the judges and the organization of judging groups may also still apply.  There is much to be gained when teachers (and others) view student work together.  The convenience of online judging, however, is very compelling.  The documents below come from a variety of years, but are fundamentally the same.  There were changes when the festival went online, which will be noted in documents further down.

Standard Photo Releases for individuals appearing on-camera:

Judges Packet - Complete instruction to Judges:

Scoring Sheet – A judge would use this to keep track of multiple entries:

Scoring Rubric for Curriculum Categories:

Scoring Sheet for Non-Curriculum Categories:

Festival Script with winners:  

  • Winners must be put in order, and clips introduced with a few explanatory words (hopefully engaging). Because people at the Festival will not have seen the entire project, it might not be clear what the connection to the curriculum is, or the deeper meaning and value of the project, the introductory works are important. The order of the winners is carefully done. There are winners that provoke tears and some that encourage laughter.

CSMF2011 with Script (spreadsheet):

Video Entry Form:

Multimedia Entry Form:

Online Submission:


CSMF: The Digital Years:

On going online and digital:  Notes from a conversation with current festival director Mike Lawrence with Hall Davidson, MC and director emeritus.

Submissions - How Schools Do It:

  • Part I - Download the Guidelines: Teachers or school representatives download the guidelines. This pdf form is NOT the entry form.  It is a just a how-to guide for entering the Festival.

  • Part II – Upload: Per the guidelines, schools submit media projects online from any online video host with a public URL, e.g.,,,, etc.  If copyrighted material is used by the students or teachers or if there are privacy concerns (see photo releases)  and the project for either of those reasons shouldn’t be publicly published, then uploads to sites with a ‘privacy’ option are desirable–like YouTube or Vimeo. The link can be shared with judges but the video is not viewable by the general public.

  • Part III – Posting the link: For organizing and notifying uploaded project, a Google form is created by the Festival and posted.  After uploading their video to the site of their choices (YouTube, SchoolTuber, etc.) teachers log onto the Google Doc and post their link(s) in the appropriate category.  Note: Because the Festival Google Doc is editable by the teachers.  Important:  The first statement on the submission form should be where the teachers note the link to the upload.  In other words, schools should upload before doing anything else.   The Guidelines will let schools know what to do before they go online. Beware: some people will try to fill out the pdf form instead of using it, as intended, for prep.

  • Part IV – The Festival Takes Over: The entry form is closed. After submissions finished, the entries were put into categories (in Excel) and that form was sent to the judges.  Every judging site completes one overall form for scoring (based on the rubric).  If everyone is in one room (recommended!  A great experience!).  Or send out form virtually, and the judging site coordinator compiles the scores and submits them to the Festival.

  • NOTE: For Special Categories submissions, there is a section on the form. Procedure: Watch the projects to judge the category, then collect Special Categories submissions.  Beware:  Judging sites don’t award special categories, they collect nominations and pass them to the Festival,  A second and final judging then takes place with the Finals Judges. When submissions are too long to upload, there is an address to which hardcopy can be mailed (e.g., Video Yearbooks).

  • Part V – Winners Chosen: Judges pick curriculum winners and submit nominations for Special Awards.  These are judges by the Final Judges.

  • Part VI – High Resolution Copies Submitted or Posted: Once the winners are selected, they are asked to send a high quality copy either by upload or by hard copy to the Festival.  These copies are used to create clips for the live Festival and for th DVD compilation archives.

  • Part VII -Final Edited DVD Created: The final winners are reviewed and a clips made from each winning entry and special award. These clips are burned into a DVD so that Festival audience will watch with the offline certainty of a DVD. They are put in order, a script is written, winners are notified, and the venue selected.

Sidenote: can be set up for non-profits (501.c3) and 10,000 free emails may be sent to previous winners, etc., to remind schools and promote the Festival.

There is a webinar for judges, and especially judging site coordinators, walking them through the process.  Setting up a Twitter tool (like HootSuite, Roost, et al) to announce winners in real time from the live Festival itself, with links to the videos, is a cool 21st Century touch.

Another useful resource we’re sharing is Hall Davidson’s Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines Chart, originally published in Technology & Learning magazine. Copyright_Chart (PDF) so you can make sure that your student entries DON’T STEAL…

Steal This Festival: Text
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