A Primer on Open Category Films | Beyond the Peaks Film Fest

The Open category is for films that don’t fall under the other submission categories of Thriller, Narrative, PSA, or Documentary. Open category films can range in genre and style—from music to how-to videos, animation to experimental—the sky’s the limit! With this truly imaginative category, you’ll find the freedom and flexibility to satisfy your creative spirit while making something distinct and new.

Making an Open category film of your own? Check out filmmaking tools, tips, and classroom-ready resources on the Beyond the Peaks festival homepage and in our Storytelling and Filmmaking collection on PBS LearningMedia.

Open category requirements:

  • Films must have a run time of 5 minutes or less.
  • Pre-production materials include a script and storyboard.
  • Additional materials include a poster, trailer, synopsis, and cast & crew lists.

Students can submit original films in a variety of additional categories including Thriller, Documentary, PSA, and Narrative.

Discover Films Full of Variety

Get inspired to create your own Open category film with this selection of independent and student filmmaker productions. Explore inventive techniques and diverse topics—from Super 8 music videos to famous poems performed for the silver screen—there’s no limit to what you’ll discover.

Shadow Beat | Film School Shorts

Sight and sound joyfully collide in this experimental short film featuring abstract shapes and a drum-driven jazz soundtrack. A minute-long film by Sarah Frei, “Shadow Beat,” was shot on Super 8 at SFSU. Film School Shorts, brought to you by KQED, is a weekly series that showcases short student films, giving emerging filmmakers around the country a platform to show off their top-notch storytelling.

Cartoon Academy: Welcome to the Ocean Floor | PBS Short Film Festival

In this how-to film, cartoonist Joe Wos takes viewers of all ages through the creative steps of drawing cartoon characters while sharing tips on developing skill, artistic terms, and educational facts about the characters. Dive deep with Joe as you learn how to draw an octopus, blobfish and anglerfish–while learning about the importance of depth and dimension. This selection is from the 2023 PBS Short Film Festival.

Human Family

Explore the depths of Maya Angelou’s famous poem, “Human Family,” in this moving 2018 film directed and edited by Khaleel Rahman and starring students from Windsor High School, including Ama Karikari, Amanda Duncan, Jake Lachniet, Zavon Martin, Akira Leiwis, Angelica Peters, Trinity Hill, and Jonathan Chambers.

Enter the “Beyond the Peaks Student Film Festival”!

To get started, create a student or teacher account on Launchpad. Explore tutorials, resources, and step-by-step instructions on how to successfully submit your completed film entries!

Documentary | PSA | Narrative | Thriller | Open entry

Submissions are due May 14th with winners announced at an end-of-school year Red Carpet Showcase. The top three winners will receive a cash prize and video supplies!

Sign up for Beyond the Peaks!

Register your account today to get started, and receive email updates about the festival.