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 SPEAKING WITH PEOPLE WHOSE IDEAS YOU HATE.

People often want to silence ideas that they find harmful or offensive, but in a democratic society, free speech includes listening to ideas we dislike. Democracy is built on accepting and engaging with a diversity of viewpoints. Although it may make us uncomfortable to hear ideas we disagree with, it is essential to defend and protect the freedom of expression. Young people are confronted daily with views they disagree with, from censorship in schools to online hate speech – That’s why we’re asking young people to make a video exploring speaking with people whose ideas you hate.

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?

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

  • When people in your life — family, friends, teachers — have ideas that make you angry, what do you do?
  • How do you respond to ideas that make you uncomfortable?
  • Have you ever changed someone’s opinions or ideas by speaking to them? or vice versa?
  • How do you defend the right for people to express ideas you don’t like?

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.

Learn About Last Year’s Winners

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.

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 8, 2023 ***


Please send us a note at [email protected]

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.