Small File Media Festival

2021 Small File Media Festival Call for Submissions!

Call for work: Second Annual Small File Media Festival

Submission Deadline: June 4, 2021

Movies don’t have to be big to be bingeworthy! All your favorite genres—cat videos, ASMR, reality TV, nü media formalism, sexual emancipation, animism and more!—look and sound great in a tiny file size that streams without damage to the planet.

Streaming media are calculated to cause over 1% of our global carbon footprint and rising fast. During the coronavirus pandemic, folks bingeing on streaming media consumed untold terawatts of electricity and produced choking megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. Large-file media are killing the planet!

Use your artistic voice to contribute to climate change action and cool down the planet. The SFMF makes HD, 4K, and 5G look unnecessary! Unsexy! So pre-pandemic! Immersion is so overrated! Small-file movies are exquisite, intensive, inexpensive, attractive, creative, and fun. We encourage you to experiment with low-energy technologies and deconstruct the fetishization of the pristine image. Small-file movies are not faithful, they’re promiscuous! ❤

The Small File Media Festival will be streamed in lovingly curated programs for 10 days in August 2021 from glorious Vancouver, Canada, on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Watuth nations, through data centers and networks traversing Indigenous lands worldwide. We will host exciting lo-fi forums on small-file aesthetics and politics. All works will receive a rental fee. Award winners will receive a tiny certificate and the coveted SFMF Micro Bear!

Come join us and celebrate the beauty of the small file!

Category 1: 5 Megs of Fun:
File size restricted to 5 megabytes!
Length: up to 5 minutes

Category 2: 22 Megs of Trouble:
Our bingeworthy category! A series of 3-8 parts, total file size 22 MB.
Length: up to 22 minutes

For both: Size to aim for: 1 megabyte per minute
Please record and submit processing/encoding time
Please note the work’s aspect ratio


Reality TV
Nü Media formalism
Compression aesthetics
Decolonial cosmotechnics
Small files love the planet
Youth makers (let’s stop asking young people to save the planet!)
Cooking shows
Cat videos
Sexual emancipation
Oceanic sound design and small-file beats
Supersmall files (how low can you go!)
Executable files
Obsolete’ technologies
New Media Idiocy
Cross-platform works (one version for live screening, another for streaming. Please include one minute excerpt of the live work)
Anything imaginable!

Online Submission:
Submit through or visit us at

Physical Submission:

You can also copy your movie onto a USB and mail it to us. Great for groups!

Small File Media Festival,
SFU School for the Contemporary Arts,
149 W. Hastings St.,
Vancouver, BC
V6B 1H4, Canada.

We will return your USB. Questions? Contact us at

Mini-course: Five Megs of Fun! Experiments in Small File Media Aesthetics and Politics
WIth Laura Marks and Radek Przedpełski
Six Fridays: 7 May – 11 June, 2021 | 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Taught remotely | Free, no credit | Limited to 16 participants
First come, first served! Contact to reserve your spot.

This fun and accessible course in sustainable small-file media production of explores technical and aesthetic solutions designed to activate imagination and raise awareness about the environmental impact of digital media.

Amidst the pandemic confinement and the feelings of depression and anxiety it provoked, people all around the world turned to streaming online video. But did we stop to think about the environmental cost of all this binge-watching, whose data stream uses energy of data centres, networks and user devices? Streaming media is calculated to account for over 1% of global greenhouse gases emissions, and this figure is rising exponentially. Digital media can no longer be perceived as virtual—it has a real, material impact on the Earth. 

So what can we do to replace the streaming media that is overheating the planet? Laura has proposed one solution: to forgo the desire for high-definition video and embrace the small- file format as an experimental and joyous medium. The First Small File Media Festival founded by Laura and held at SFU in August 2020 and online worldwide, featured seriously small files—no more than 5 megabytes in size and 5 minutes in duration—that can be streamed at little cost to the environment. (More info, and the call for work for this year’s festival, at

Our course facilitates the creation of seriously small and seriously fun small files, and a critical reflection on the carbon footprint of streaming media. We will start with an overview of the environmental problem, sharing insights from ICT engineering research in a accessible way. We will also talk about the Small File Media Festival as an enjoyable solution to the problem, showing a selection of artworks from last year’s fest as inspiring examples of sustainable experimentation and creativity. Across the subsequent weeks, the course will guide the participants in their own creative process. 

The first part of these classes will consist of practical tutorials on transcoding applications and image manipulation techniques, including HandBrake, FFworks, Avidemux and Processing; compression aesthetics, retaining image quality, datamoshing, pixel-sorting, and frame rate manipulation. We will also share compression-independent tips for making small-file media, including animation and sound-driven works. The second part will be devoted to feedback on students’ projects and discussing the practice of small-file media production, in a collaborative forum for sharing insights, tips and friendly peer review. We will conclude by jointly curating the created small-media artworks into a festival program.

Thank you to the artists, attendees and Small File Team for making this festival come alive. Here are the awards for the 2020 Small File Media Festival!

Audience choice  

First Place:
Hân Phạm, Once Upon a Time
Second Place tie
Trevor Byrne, Sticky Note Studies #1 & #2 (Orange and Pink
François Quevillon, Exhaust

Youth choice – Phoebe Todd-Parrish, Searching: 

Smallest file – Daniel Carter, Star Trek: Voyager Intro in 283kb

Aesthetic invention tie 
Azadeh Emadi, Entangled Orb
Andy Catsirelis, Noise of the Stream

Best Cat Video – Pierre Leicher, Catfessions #1

Best Narrative – Colin Williscroft, O’Hara Lane

Best Documentary – Mike Hazard, Something from nothing (Dr. Evermor)

Best Porn – Dooley Murphy, Shameless Plug

Best Animation – Ben Mosher, Cloud Loaves

Best Obsolete technology – Ashley Blewer, Throttled

Best Post-apocalyptic – John Tinneny, The End

Best Cross-platform work—Nathan Wyatt Kiesman,  New Beginnings

Curators’ Choice – Leanne Dunic, Melt

Best Actor – Weihan Zhou, Moththth

Most Sensuous – Paul Clay & Sarah Kantrowitz, I Missed You

Best new media idiocy – Hany Rashed, My Instagram

Best underdog – Daupo, And Success Will Be Your Name

“The Small File Media Festival works in defense of the tiny image, to riff with Hito Steyerl’s earlier phrase. Size matters, and small is better, tiny is best, which is not merely to argue for a different aesthetics or narrative structures (that too) but also for an understanding that all media is media ecology – and as such, directly related to infrastructures with environmental costs.”
– Professor Jussi Parikka, media scholar, University of Southampton and Academy of Performing Arts, Prague”

The Small File Media Festival Opening Ceremonies were Monday, August 10 at 2:00 PM PST!

Festival organizers and programmers welcome makers and audiences to the festival and explain what it’s about and how it works .

Small File Media Festival 2020

The First Annual Small File Media Festival celebrates low-bandwidth movies that stream with no damage to the planet! Streaming video has an alarmingly high carbon footprint: it’s the cause of about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.* But these movies at under 5 megabytes each—about the size of a small PDF file—show that great cinema doesn’t have to mean great big files.

We received over 100 submissions from around the world. Artists found many ways to work with the small-file constraint. Animation! GIFs! Low frame rates! Datamoshing! Still images with sound! Movies made with “obsolete” technologies! Websites! Executable files! Very short movies! And movies creatively compressed into small files. We’ve got narrative, documentary, and experimental movies. We’ve got cat videos! We’ve got porn—because streaming porn is responsible for 0.3% of greenhouse gas emissions!

Festival co-organizer Sophia Biedka says, “As an independent filmmaker, I really respect the inventiveness and ingenuity of these makers.” “Small-file movies can be a little hard to see,” admits festival founder Laura Marks, “but you can feel them!” Media activist and festival co-organizer Joey Malbon says, “It’s five megabytes of fun!”

Our programming committee, which also includes artist Faune Ybarra, media scholar Radek Przedpełski, and IT engineer Alejandro Rodriguez-Silva, is curating all these tiny movies into aesthetically satisfying thematic programs.

Programs will be hosted on our Vimeo platform August 10-20, by paying a $1 membership and optional donation. Donations will support the Second Annual Small File Media Festival. All artists receive a rental fee.


The Small File Media Festival grows out of the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, on the unceded territory of the –Sḵwxw̱ ú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səlío lwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations. We are grateful for funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.