The ZFF Academy is a five-day talent programme for screenwriters, directors and producers. Each year, the ZFF Academy brings together emerging filmmakers with international film experts and provides a platform with international appeal. The programme is designed specifically for participants each year, and the intensive workshops in an intimate setting allow creative talents to network with each other, discuss ideas and working methods with renowned film industry figures, and explore the Zurich Film Festival.

Applications for the ZFF Academy 2023 will be accepted starting in June.



The Masterclasses are the heart of the ZFF Academy. They are put together exclusively for the ZFF Academy and are based on the classic masterclass format. Participants are given the opportunity to question the guest speakers (experts) during each of the 1.5 hour long moderated sessions. The general public are not allowed access to these intimate, participant-only sessions.     

The key themes raised in the masterclasses are different each year and depend very much on the speaker. Previous years, for example, have seen James D. Stern discuss the different emotional skills needed for directing, producing or writing, and a masterclass by director Lone Scherfig that was entitled "Innovative Approaches: Different Dramatic and Stylistic Concepts". 


Bits & Pieces

The ZFF Academy’s Bits & Pieces strand offers participants the opportunity to project excerpts of their own work onto the cinema screen and receive direct feedback from their co-participants. Previous editions of the ZFF Academy have shown that the highly valuable and inspiring discussions that sprung out of this programme item have made it particularly popular with participants. 

"It was a rich and inspiring experience. I learned a lot and made some wonderful new friends. Thank you all very much" - Valerie Heine, Alumna 2014

How to & Elevator Pitch

The How to... series is all about getting a grasp! In 2019 we concentrated on the Elevator Pitch, and the year before was focused on the topic How to Festival.

Wendy Mitchell prepared participants for the festival in How to Festival, and 15 floors, 27 seconds, 1 idea was the Elevator Pitch tagline. And who knows – maybe 2021 will see another Master of the Pitch.   

Story Lab meets ZFF Academy

In 2021, the ZFF Academy and the Story Lab of the Migros Culture Percentage held for the first time together as programme partners the new special event "Story Lab meets ZFF Academy".

This special event aims to connect the talents of the ZFF Academy and the project partners of the Migros Culture Percentage Story Lab. For an entire afternoon, everything will revolve around a specific theme, different each year.

A special masterclass kicks-off the event, followed by the legendary ZFF Elevator Pitch, and concluded by a Flying Dinner and a crowning of the Master of Pitch. 

Last year, everything revolved around the theme of WORLD BUILDING. In a special masterclass with Roland Emmerich the talents learned how to create mind-stunning cinematographic worlds. Where to find inspiration? How to get their filmic universes on the screen? And finally, how to make others believe in their created world. The talents then proved the latter at the following Elevator Pitch, by convincing either producer David Luisi that their idea belongs on to the screen or journalist Marta Balaga, that their created film deserves to be written out to the world.


Social & Networking Events

The Zurich Film Festival not only offers participants visibility, but also provides them with the perfect platform to network with invited industry representatives.

From receptions to Filmmaker Dinners, Talent Nights to the legendary Award Night After Party… the list of events is long – and we do our best, if planning allows, to throw the ZFF Academy talent headlong into the shimmering world of the ZFF.

ZFF Masters

The ZFF Masters are chaired discussions with celebrated personalities from the international film industry. They offer the public a fascinating insight into the creative process and attitude to film of directors, screenwriters, producers and actors. These renowned experts are also available for public question-and-answer sessions. For ZFF Academy participants seats at front row are reserved.

Learn more about the ZFF Masters.

Screenings & Photocalls

The ZFF Academy programme is packed with even more content: films by the speakers are, where possible, viewed together at the festival; we even book whole theatres just for our participants.

In order to get our talent noticed, it has also become tradition for participants to gather at the Green Carpet for their very own photocall – a joy for some and a pain for others – either way, standing in front of the professional lens is an unforgettable experience for all. 

And, of course, we allow our participants some free time to enjoy the festival, discover the city and relax in their first-class hotel accommodation.


The aim of the ZFF Academy is to promote exchange between notable filmmaking experts and aspiring directors, authors and producers.

Explore! Discover the festival world, gain new experiences and share your passion for film with other filmmakers. The 5-day ZFF Academy programme aims to inspire, motivate and promote the exchange of practical know-how. Renowned experts join participants to discuss a variety of work processes and give intimate and exclusive masterclasses that offer personal insight into their creative oeuvre.  

Connect! We encourage encounters. The ZFF Academy is a platform that enables aspiring filmmakers to network with leading international film industry experts. As an integral part of the Zurich Film Festival, the ZFF Academy offers participants access to various networking events, parties and dinners.      

Collaborate! Filmmaking requires team work. The ZFF Academy is not just a leading networking platform for upcoming filmmakers, it also acts as a place of exchange and artistic development, and as a springboard for future collaborations.

Previous ZFF Academy Speakers


What is the ZFF Academy?
The ZFF Academy is a 5-day intensive programme, designed for directors, scriptwriters or producers, being at the beginning of their career, organised within the framework of the Zurich Film Festival in Switzerland. In the context of the programme the selected participants get the chance to meet and learn from the film industry's most notable experts.

Who is behind the ZFF Academy?
As mentioned above, the ZFF Academy is organised within the framework of the Zurich Film Festival. The programme is organised by its Industry Team.

When and where does the ZFF Academy take place?
The ZFF Academy takes place from October 4 to October 8, 2023 in Zurich, Switzerland during the Zurich Film Festival (September 28 to October 8, 2022).

What is included in the ZFF Academy?

  • Participation in the programme of the ZFF Academy (Master Classes, Networking Events,...)
  • Industry accreditation for the 18th Zurich Film Festival.
  • First-class accommodation during the ZFF Academy
  • Breakfast, selected lunches and dinners.
  • Invitations to numerous events including the glamorous Award Night Afterparty.

What does the specific content of the programme look like?
The programme is refined and adapted each year to the selected participants. Check out the content section above for more information.

Who can apply?
In general, everybody is welcome to submit an application irrespective of age, gender, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, as long as following requirements are met: The applicant is an aspiring director, scriptwriter or producer, who has worked on either one feature length film, a number of short fims, or a TV/web series that has been internationally recognized and is fluent in English. You'll find the precise eligibility requirements under this link. 

Is there an age limitation?
No, we kindly invite every filmmaker in the beginning of a film career irrespective of age to submit us an application.

Can I apply as a DoP, Editor, Sound Designer?
No, the ZFF Academy is only open to directors, producers or scriptwriters

If you have been unsuccessful in a previous application, can you apply again?
Yes, you can.

How to apply?
Application is done in two mandatory steps: Prepare the necessary documents and complete the online application form. Send your CV (incl. filmography) and your headshot to industry@zff.com

What are the important points regarding your motivation letter?
You will need to state your motivation in the online application form. It is a good idea to plan ahead and type out some of your answers in a separate document. You can then cut and paste them directly into the application form. Please remember not to exceed the 2000 characters incl. signs or the 500 characters respectively. We will strictly not read the signs exceeding the maximum amount of characters. A good tip is: remain personal. We don't expect you to write a novel.

Which Work Sample should I submit?
Paricipants should choose one complete film of their oeuvre. We expect participants to submit the one that represents them best. This need not necessarily be your most recent work.

Can I submit more than one Work Sample?
No, we only accept one Work Sample.

Which excerpt from my chosen work sample should I submit?
It is up to you to choose which excerpt you would like to submit. Think about which scene best represents the film you have submitted. It is important that the excerpt is no longer than five minutes, but it may be shorter. If you submit a short film that is shorter than the five minutes, you may enter the entire short as your excerpt.

Can I enter a five-minute excerpt from a film other than the one I submitted?
No. The five-minute excerpt must be from the submitted film.

How many participants are selected for ZFF Academy?
20 applicants are selected to participate in the ZFF Academy.

How long will it take to hear back from us after you submit your application?
We acknowledge receipt of all applications by email pretty much straight away. All applicants will get a positive or negative answer of participation by end of August.