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GI Film Festival San Diego Hosts Virtual Panel for Filmmakers to Learn More about Submission Process

Discussion features filmmakers who will share insights, lessons learned, and outcomes; Attendees will also learn about the festival submission process for 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA – Dec. 22, 2020 – If 2020 taught us anything, we’ve all learned how to adapt to change. One industry that’s had to practice the “pandemic pivot” is the film industry. From new production protocols to cancelling major premieres, filmmakers everywhere have adapted to our new normal.

To kick off 2021 the right way, GI Film Festival San Diego will host “Get to Know the GI Film Festival San Diego: Film Screenings, Filmmakers, and How-To’s” on Jan. 14, 2021 at 1 p.m. PST to introduce the festival to potential filmmakers. The virtual panel will feature filmmakers whose works have been featured in previous GI Film Festival San Diego screenings. Attendees will hear about their experiences during and following participation in the festival. The panel will also feature key festival partners with insight in the local filmmaking industry. The discussion aims to encourage aspiring and veteran filmmakers to connect and discuss industry insights, but also submit their work to festival organizers before Jan. 20, 2021 to be considered for the GI Film Festival San Diego slated for May 18-23, 2021.

About the panel

The panel features Manny Marquez for “Operation Allie” (2016 GI Film Festival San Diego) and “XVII Carvings” (2019 GI FIlm Festival San Diego); Sara Vladic and Melanie Capacia Johnson for “USS Indianapolis: The Legacy” (2016 GI Film Festival San Diego), and Jodi Cilley, founder and president, Film Consortium San Diego. “The film industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying and even cancelling film productions, premieres, and festival screening dates,” says Cilley. “But what we have seen are filmmakers coming up with new and exciting ways to film. We’re seeing creative stories that may not have come to light if it weren’t for the challenges the pandemic provided.”

For six years, the festival has helped bring independent films to the big screen that film fans wouldn’t otherwise see come out of Hollywood. The event will also include a screening of selections and excerpts from the filmmakers on the panel.

Filmmakers and presenters will also share best practices on how to submit films to the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego. To be selected for the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego, films must have been completed after January 1, 2018 and meet at least one of the following criteria: 

  • A storyline or narrative arc that is about the military experience, past or current day, USA or international, during service or back home after service.
  • A film of any genre, military-themed or not, featuring above the line talent who is currently serving or has served in the U.S. military. Above the line talent includes: director, writer, producer and/or principal actor/actress.

“Submitting to film festivals is still important and needs to be a priority for filmmakers,” says Cilley. “We not only need to see, but also celebrate untold stories. The GI Film Festival San Diego accepts submissions from across the U.S. and abroad. From active duty military to veterans to student filmmakers, we’re calling on submissions from anyone with the passion to create.” The final submission deadline is Jan. 20, 2021.

The GI Film Festival San Diego returns from May 18-23, 2021

Festival organizers are excited to bring together again our active duty military, veterans, families and allies to all that the GI Film Festival San Diego has to offer. Over multiple days, the GI Film Festival San Diego features films that reveal the struggles, triumphs, and experiences of service members and veterans through compelling and authentic storytelling. All major film genres, including documentaries, shorts, and personal narratives, will be featured. Festival organizers are encouraging film submissions that reflect and amplify the diverse experiences of U.S. military and veterans, including stories by or about people of different ethnicities, races, genders, economic backgrounds, and those who identify LGBTQIA+. These perspectives play an important role in U.S. military history and culture, and are too often untold.

The films are reviewed and selected by a dedicated advisory committee made up of several local military-related organizations, individuals who come from various military backgrounds, including veterans of the US Marine Corps, US Air Force, US Navy, US Army, US Coast Guard, and the Air Force Reserves, and several military spouses. The committee helps to ensure the festival provides an authentic view of the military experience and engages its audience through post-screening discussions.

Since 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego has presented more than 170 films and attracted thousands of attendees from around the world. As a community effort to help bridge the military-civilian divide, each film selected tells a compelling and unique story to challenge notions about what it means to serve and goes beyond the one-dimensional depictions of veterans, service members, their caregivers, and families that we typically see on the big screen.

GI Film Festival San Diego has also gained the attention of several celebrities that took part in films selected for the festival, including documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Ric Burns; actor and activist George Takei; actor Matthew Marsden; actor/producer/director Jeffrey Wright; and actor/director Brenda Strong.

Films selected and events for the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego will be announced in March 2021. For more information on the festival, its submission process, and the virtual panel discussion planned for Jan. 14, visit

About GI Film Festival San Diego

The festival presents films and events for, by, and about military and veterans. The event is organized by KPBS and partners with the Film Consortium San Diego to present the Local Film Showcase. The festival is funded in part by a grant from the California Arts Council. Additional support is provided by Scatena Daniels Communications. The GI Film Festival San Diego is a member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.

About Film Consortium San Diego

The Film Consortium San Diego is a social venture that stimulates film and television production in the region and increases networking, employment, education, funding and distribution opportunities in film, television and new media. The Film Consortium hosts and organizes the San Diego Film Awards, San Diego Film Week, and various screening and networking events.

About KPBS

KPBS serves San Diego and Imperial counties with trusted news and programs that tell the stories of our time. KPBS delivers this content to more than one million audience members weekly via multiple outlets, including television, radio, and digital media. As a public service of San Diego State University, education is a core value – from our children’s programming to our local news coverage. KPBS provides stories that make us think, help us dream, and keep us connected. For more information, visit