Every year, the Youth Free Expression Program (YFEP) invites young filmmakers to create a short film on a contemporary First Amendment issue. This year, the topic for the Youth Free Expression Film Contest is WHAT DOES FREE SPEECH MEAN TO ME?

Although it’s a founding principle of the United States, the term “Free Speech” has been used in many different ways by many different people. From limits on what can be taught in schools to arguments over who should be allowed to decide what is allowed on social media, from “cancel culture” and laws infringing on the right to protest, free speech has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. But what does it mean to you–as a student, as a citizen, as a human being?

Create a video (up to 3 minutes) using film, animation, photographs, music, or anything else to explore what free speech means to you–a student, a citizen and a human.

Be thoughtful. Be creative. Be original. Be uncensored.

Need advice or inspiration?

View Our 2021 Winning Films

Learn more about our 2021 winning films.

Here are some questions to inspire your film (although these are by no means exhaustive!):

  • How does your right to express yourself–or feeling that you cannot–affect your life?
  • Is there more to free speech than the First Amendment? 
  • Does free speech mean speech without consequence?

You can also check out our workshop on filmmaking at home, the most recent winners, Resources for First-Time Filmmakers, and a Filmmaker’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use.

How To Submit

Upload your film to the YFEP Film Contest page on Film Freeway and include an artist’s statement articulating your film’s message. Any genre of film is accepted, including but not limited to, documentary, music video, narrative, and animation. The contest is free to enter

Contestants must be either living in the U.S. or its territories (but need not be citizens) and must be age 19 or younger on the day the film is submitted. Films will be judged on content, artistic and technical merit, and creativity. Judges will be drawn from a panel of renowned filmmakers, writers, artists, and activists.

Submission Deadline: September 19, 2022

Awards & Prizes

The first-place winner receives a scholarship to the New York Film Academy (terms and conditions apply). The top three filmmakers (individual or team) will receive cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250.


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The National Coalition Against Censorship’s annual Youth Free Expression Film Contest invites young filmmakers to create a short film on a contemporary First Amendment issue. Over the past 15 years, the contest has showcased the talents and ideas of dozens of student filmmakers. NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program Film Contest is made possible by generous support from the New York Film Academy.