Film Contest: Disqualifying Content

Disqualifying Content:

  1. Disqualifying Content:
    Films cannot use terms like “crazy” and “psycho” without explicitly communicating to the audience that these terms are unacceptable. If the film does not verbally communicate that using derogatory terms are unwelcomed, the film will be disqualified. Our recommendation is to avoid labels of any kind in order to keep the message positive. Some labels to avoid are:

    Mentally ill Cuckoo
    Emotionally disturbed Maniac
    Insane Lunatic
    Crazy Looney Odd

    Why this matters: It is important that films do not reinforce stereotypes and labels that could keep people from seeking help.

    Although there are many ways to show disapproval when using derogatory terms (i.e. body language), it is important to verbally communicate that using such terms is hurtful and inappropriate. For more information on stigmatizing words and how to avoid using them, visit

  2. Films cannot include developmental disabilities (such as Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, etc.).

    Though the difference between development disabilities and mental illness is not cut and dry, it is best to avoid making a film about developmental disabilities. Mental health challenges common to young people include: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Eating Disorders, self-harm, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as issues that may not have a diagnosis, but have challenging symptoms that deserve attention and care.

  3. Films should be sensitive to racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, with all individuals realistically and respectfully depicted.

  4. Suicide Prevention Content

  5. Films should be careful not to accidentally reinforce stereotypes of people living with a mental health challenge such as: being dangerous or violent, disabled or homeless, helpless, or being personally to blame for their condition. Although popular culture and the media often associate mental illness with crime or acting violently, people living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime. It is important to steer clear of perpetuating myths and stereotypes in order to produce an accurate, respectful and mindful film.

  6. The film SHOULD NOT include portrayals of suicide deaths or attempts (such as a person jumping off a building or bridge, or holding a gun to their head). Portraying actions related to suicide attempts and showing items someone might use for a suicide attempt even in dramatization, can increase chances of an attempt by someone who might be thinking about suicide and exposed to the film.

    Be creative and cautious: There are other ways to demonstrate that someone is thinking about suicide without showing a weapon or other items used in an attempt. Can you convey the sentiment you are seeking without showing this? In general, it is best to avoid showing images of ways people might attempt suicide, especially weapons. If you are considering showing items someone might use for a suicide attempt in your film, we strongly encourage you to think about the purpose and benefit of including this in your film. While we have always asked youth to not show suicide attempts or deaths, we are also asking youth to avoid showing items, even in consideration, that may be used in a suicide attempt. Remember, it is at the discretion of the Directing Change Team to disqualify films that are deemed to have a potentially harmful message.

    ALL FILMS WITH DEPICTIONS OF WEAPONS WILL BE DISQUALIFIED! In addition, it is at the discretion of the Directing Change Team to disqualify films that are deemed to have a potentially harmful message or image.

    Important to remember: In general, it is best to avoid showing images of ways people might attempt suicide, especially weapons. Also consider that showing images of items/ways people might harm themselves might also be disturbing to those who have lost someone to suicide. Remember, we are focused on prevention, and the most important part is educating others about how to help. If you have any questions about this, please contact us!

Brands and Logos

Please try to avoid use of brands when creating your film or art. This can include logos on shirts, brands on laptops, store signs in the background of outdoor shots, etc. You can avoid logos by dressing your actors in clothing without recognizable brands, covering laptop brands with a sticker or sticky note, or framing your shots so that recognizable stores are not highlighted. While using a brand will not disqualify your film, it may limit the use of your film in television or movie theaters, due to brand copyright laws. We recommend avoiding the hassle and making smart, brand-free choices during the creation of your film!

Music and Copyrights

Entries must meet all copyright standards by obtaining releases for all copyrighted music and materials before submission. Entries that include copyrighted materials (such as images, supers, or audiovisual materials) or music (such as music purchased from iTunes, on a CD, or other downloadable services) without the proper permission and signed release forms will be disqualified. Please review the forms and copyrights page for more information and to download the appropriate forms.

It’s best to provide original music! When getting permission, you’re seeking permission for all places that the film could be used, such as online and on television.


Youth and young adult producers: please avoid potentially dangerous production situations that could put crew, actors, or the public at risk. Safety during the project is of the highest priority. Direct Your Hearts staff and sponsors take no responsibility and assume no liability for any acts or damages that may result from preparing the materials to submit to this contest. Further, all submission categories are sensitive subjects that need to be addressed with respect and understanding for how they might impact those involved in the project. If at any time, you or someone working on the project experiences an emotional crisis, let an adult know immediately or call the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. This is a free, 24-hour hotline.

The Direct Your Hearts Team reserves the right to disqualify any entry that they believe, at their sole discretion, violates these rules. Furthermore, the advisor can refuse to submit an entry that is not suitable for schools and a general audience. All categories have special content that must be included and specific content that must be avoided and can lead to disqualification.

If an entry contains disqualifying content or the entry promotes inaccurate information or statistics, the Direct Your Hearts team may reach out to suggest revisions. If the revised entry is not submitted within the deadline provided by Direct Your Hearts, the film will be disqualified.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact us:


Phone: 123-456-7890