Explore! Connect! Collaborate!

In an effort to bring together as much talent from the field of filmmaking as possible, the Zurich Film Festival has been running the ZFF Academy (formerly ZFF Master Class) since 2006. Each year, aspiring producers, directors and/or screenwriters from around the world are chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in this 5-day talent promotion programme. This year's ZFF Academy takes place from October 4 to October 8, 2023 in Zurich, Switzerland during the Zurich Film Festival (September 28 to October 8, 2023).


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.

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


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. 


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.   


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.

There is no participation nor application fee for the ZFF Academy. But please note that the programme does not cover the travel expenses. 

The ZFF Academy package includes:

  • Participation in the programme of the ZFF Academy (Master Classes, Networking Events,...)
  • Industry accreditation for the 20th 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

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". 

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

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 2023 will see another Master of the Pitch.

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. 

In the year 2023, our special event is dedicated to the art of self-presentation through body language. Networking and pitching are crucial skills in the film industry, encompassing the establishment of relationships and connections, as well as the art of self-presentation and pitching. As part of the interactive workshop "Mastering Networking and Pitching: Unleash your impactful presentation," talents will learn how to present their ideas and projects in a convincing manner, inspire their counterparts, and exude self-confidence. They will receive practical tips and tricks for successful pitching, with exercises focusing on body presence through expression, posture, gestures, and voice. They will then apply what they've learned in our popular ZFF Elevator Pitch. Of course, feedback, networking opportunities, and moments of exchange will not be missing during a Flying Dinner.

Experts: Anouk Scherer (b unique presentation, Founder & Owner), Susann Henggeler (Condor Films, Producer)

Lat 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.

In 2021, participants in the ZFF Elevator Pitch received valuable tips and tricks from marketing specialist John Durie on how to successfully develop marketing strategies in the early stages of a film's development. This event was followed by the ZFF Elevator Pitch itself and a speed meeting, all accompanied by a flying dinner.

Experts: John Durie (Marketing Specialist), Marta Balaga (Film Journalist), Wendy Mitchell (Film Festival Advisor).

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.

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.

More ZFF Masters

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.


Applications for the ZFF Academy 2024 will be accepted from mid-May until Wednesday, July 31, 2024, 23:59 CEST. The ZFF welcomes applications from all age categories and all sections of society and grants them equal access.

Please read the application information below carefully. Your application will only be processed if the application form is complete and correct. Applicants will be informed about the selection by end of August the latest!

Application criteria

Your application for the ZFF Academy can only be considered if you fulfill the following criteria:

  1. You are active in one of the following professional fields: directing, screenwriting, producing.
  2. You have either worked on at least one feature or documentary film, or have directed, produced or written several short films or series that have been shown at international film festivals. (The ZFF Academy has no age limit).
  3. You are fluent in English.
  4. You have submitted the online application form completely and correctly by Wednesday, July 31, 2024 at 23:59 CEST at the latest.

Work Sample

Please send us the work from your filmography that best represents you in your eyes. This does not necessarily have to be your latest work. In the application form is necessary:

  • Link (Vimeo/YouTube/WeTransfer) to your work sample (complete film).
  • Timecode to a max. five-minute excerpt of your work sample. If your sample is a short that is no longer than five minutes, your entire short will be considered an excerpt.

What is accepted as a work sample? A feature-length film, short film (short) or series (incl. web series) in the field of fiction, non-fiction (documentaries, hybrid films or other forms), animation, video art incl. music video can be submitted as a film,

For directors and producers: A complete film that you have directed, produced or co-produced.

For screenwriters and authors: A complete movie for which you wrote the screenplay. The screenplay as such cannot be submitted as a work sample; a cinematic work of your screenplay must already exist.

Additional criteria:

  1. If the original version of the film is not in English or German, the film must have English subtitles.
  2. Only one work sample can be submitted.
  3. Please note: Trailers, movie reels, teasers, clips from several films and screenplays do NOT count as work samples.

The Zurich Film Festival guarantees that the submitted work sample will only be used for application purposes. Answers to frequently asked questions can be found in the FAQ below. If you have any questions about the application process or the ZFF Academy, please feel free to send an e-mail to [email protected].

Please complete the application form in full. Only complete applications will be considered.


Find out more about all our ZFF Academy Participants and Alumni of the past few years!

All ZFF Academy Alumni of past years

ZFF Academy Participants 2023

Carlo Beer

Writer & Director

Charlotte Hamblin

Writer, Director & Actor

David Franciscus

Writer & Creative Producer

Elham Ehsas

Director & Actor

Carlo Beer, Writer & Director, Swiss, b. 1985: Living in Zurich. Writer and director of the SRF/RTR TV mini-series METTA DA FEIN. Graduate of Zurich University of the Arts and DrehbuchWerkstatt Munich. [email protected]

Charlotte Hamblin, Screenwriter Director & Actor, British, b.1990: Charlotte currently has six television shows and two features in development. Amongst them, is an adaptation of The Family Upstairs, the best selling novel for Paramount Plus UK and original series THE COMMANDMENT for Olivia Colman’s company. She has also written on Amazon series Hanna. Her debut short film EVERYBODY DIES SOMETIMES was part of the official selection at Tribeca Film Festival and Charlotte recently won Silver Award At Cannes Lions at the Young Directors Awards.

David Franciscus, Writer & Creative Producer, South African, b.1991: Living in Cape Town. Producer on Street Trash. Graduate of Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Film & Media. protagonist.co.za | [email protected] 

Elham Ehsas, Director & Actor: Elham is a filmmaker and actor based between Afghanistan and UK. His work in Film and TV is characterized by its stylish, cinematic approach and thought-provoking storytelling. His debut short film, OUR KIND OF LOVE was BAFTA long-listed in 2019 and has garnered over 3.1 million views on YouTube to date. His new film YELLOW is about Taliban injustices towards women in Afghanistan and is currently doing the festival circuit. Elham is also part of BAFTA Connect, a prestigious three-year scheme by BAFTA. 

Émile V. Schlesser

Writer, Director & Visual Artist

Jennifer Lane

Writer, Producer & Actor

Kristina Wagenbauer

Writer & Director

Laura Klippel

Producer & Co-Founder of Bandenfilm

Émile V. Schlesser Writer, Director & Visual Artist, Luxembourgish, b. 1986: Living in Luxembourg and Düsseldorf. Graduate of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. His short film SUPERHERO won the Shocking Short Award in 2020, given by NBC Universal. In 2022, he co-founded the production company 35M Films. His body of work stretches from narrative films to installations and immersive live shows. emileschlesser.com | [email protected] 

Jennifer Lane Producer, Actor & Writer, British: BA History Graduate from University of Exeter and Uppsala Universitet, Sweden. Trained as an actor at The Oxford School of Drama (2017-2018) co-produced Swiss/British feature THE ART OF LOVE (2020-2022) which is currently on Netflix UK and BlueTV Switzerland. Founder of production company Winding Lane Pictures. @windinglanepictures | jennifer-lane.co.uk

Kristina Wagenbauer, Writer & Director, Swiss-Canadian, b. 1986: Writer and director of award-winning short films, a feature film (SASHINKA, 2017 prod. Art et Essai) and two episodes of a miniseries for the RTS (LA VIE DEVANT, 2022 prod. Point prod). Her work was shown at the Locarno film Festival, Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Seattle Film Festival, Canadian Screen Awards, Quebec Awards and many more. claudegirard.com/en/artists/kristina-wagenbauer/

Laura Klippel, Producer & Co-Founder of Bandenfilm, German, b. 1989: Berlin based. Worked several years as a Production Coordinator. Graduate of Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF. Her first feature produced with Bandenfilm THE ORDINARIES (2022), was awarded with the Förderpreis Neues Deutsches Kino in Munich for best upcoming producers and director and the VGF Nachwuchsproduzent:innen – Preis. bandenfilm.de | [email protected]

Laurens Pérol

Writer, Director & Producer

Loïc Hobi

Writer & Director

Lukas Nathrath

Writer, Director & Actor

Lydia Rui

Writer & Director

Laurens Pérol, Director, Writer, Producer, b. 1995: Based in Norway, holding a BA in ‘Moving Images’ from Nordland School of Art and Film. With a focus on exploring the relationship between the individual and society in his films, Pérol’s works have been screened internationally, receiving an honorable mention at ‘Minimalen 2021’ and winning ‘Skårungen 2022’ (Newcomer of the year). He recently finished his feature debut Å ØVE (PRACTICE), which will have its world premiere at ‘The Norwegian International Film Festival 2023’. From autumn 2023, Pérol will study for a MA in film-directing at renowned Vienna Film Academy (AT).

Loïc Hobi, Director & Writer, Swiss-French, b. 1997: He graduated from Luc Besson’s film school in 2019. Nominated for the Swiss Film Prize with his short THE LIFE UNDERGROUND (2021). His new short ALEXX196 & THE PINK SAND BEACH (2023) premiered at Locarno. He is currently developing his feature film projects internationally with the aim of telling intimate stories in thrilling contexts to take on the screens he grew up watching.

Lukas Nathrath, Director, Writer & Actor, German, b.1990: Studied directing at the Hamburg Media School until 2019. His short film MIT IM BUND was invited to German Films’ Next Generation Program at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. His short KIPPA won more than 20 awards, e.g. the European Civis Media Award. His debut feature LETZTER ABEND premiered in the Tiger competition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam and received Locarno Film Festival’s First Look Award and the Max Ophüls Best Director Award 2023.

Lydia Rui, Writer & Director, Australian-Chinese: Living in London. Graduate of BA New York University and MA National Film & Television School, UK. Developing a feature at the TorinoScriptLab 2023 with Screen Australia and a psychological horror feature with Pulse Films. Short films have screened at Tribeca Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Hollyshorts, Rhode Island, L’Etrange, and more. lydiarui.com | [email protected]

Rebecca Martin


Ryushi Lindsay


Sara Bonakdar


Sasha Xiaoyan Li

Writer & Director

Rebecca Martin, Writer, British-Australian: Based in Berlin. She’s an alumna of the DFFB, the NFTS and the Eureka Series programme. She most recently co-wrote season 4 of CHARITÉ and an episode of SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOWS and has two projects in development for the Danish market. In Switzerland, she’s currently working on a feature film with Jela Hasler and Langfilm and a 6-part series with Petra Volpe and Zodiac.

Ryushi Lindsay, Director: Filmmaker based between the UK and Japan, working across artist’s moving image, documentary and fiction. His work has screened at festivals including Aesthetica and Short Shorts, as well as on MUBI. In 2022, he was awarded early development funding by BFI Network for CREST. His Japanese Culture-Ministry funded short film, SILK AND RUSHES, is currently on the festival circuit. He will be participating in the 2023 Pustnik screenwriting residency to develop a feature version of this short. He is also developing a feature documentary about pedigree Japanese dogs and the people who breed, keep and show them. He is a B3 Hessenlab alum. As a filmmaker, he is particularly interested in form and aesthetics, and how to confront difficult pasts and presents.

Sara Bonakdar, Producer: Sara is a London-based producer working on a slate of feature films in development with partners including Film4, the Doha Film Institute and Red Sea Fund. She is a producer on Shalini Adnani’s Film4 backed short film White Ant which premiered at Sundance 2023, was longlisted at BIFA and acquired by Canal+. Sara is also a producer on Harry Lagoussis‘ debut feature Novak, starring Zlatko Buric and Ella Rumpf, a co-production with Heretic, currently in post-production and she produced Victoria Bata’s recent short film Best Dressed starring Eliot Salt and Hannah van der Westhuysen. Sara is a BAFTA connect member.

Sasha Xiaoyan Li, Writer & Director, Chinese, b. 1990: Born in China, Sasha has been living and working in the Netherlands since 2008. Her work includes award-winning short film BRIDE TOKEN, BEING DEAF, creative video portraits INSIGHT. BRIDE TOKEN is also the prequel of her first feature film AUTUMN WILLOW she has been developing, which has been selected into Sino-European Project Lab as well as Torino Film Lab. She is currently based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles. acumenfilm.com | [email protected]

Simon David


Stefan Staub


Thomas Mataheru

Producer & Founder of DotInk Cinema

Simon David, Director: Simon David is a Swiss-American filmmaker (1994). In 2017, he graduated in visual arts in Brussels at the school of graphic research (erg). After various art projects and short documentaries, he auto produced and directed his first feature documentary TIME AND PLACE that has been screened in over three continents and selected to more than fifteen festivals. Funded by Suissimage and Cinéforom, his second feature film ZADVENGERS produced by Nous Prod had its world premiere at the fifdh in 2023. Simon David’s work navigates between cinema, photography and video installation. As a documentary director he is interested in a human intimacy that can transcend emotionally and poetically reality. In July 2023, he receives a grant for his next project called OLD SKIN, documentary about his crazy ass great aunt. At the same time, he is writing his first fiction film. Apart from his film career, he develops an art duo based in Belgium with visual artist Patxi Endara named Marnie and practising video installation. 

Stefan Staub Writer, Swiss, b. 1980: Lives in Zurich and works as a freelance screenwriter for feature films and series. Graduate of the Drehbuchwerkstatt Munich. His screenplay for the film DER LÄUFER (2018) premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival and was nominated for the Swiss Film Award in two categories. [email protected]

Thomas Mataheru Producer & Founder of DotInk Cinema, b.1995: Independent film producer from The Netherlands. His latest short LUCID DREAMING by Emma Evelein has been selected for the "Gouden Kalf" and debut competition at the 43th Netherlands Film Festival. Thomas also works as a post-production supervisor for, among other, FOREVER FOREVER by Anna Buryachkova that was selected for the Venice Orizzonti Extra at The 80th Venice Film Festival.

ZFF Academy Speaker

Our Academy participants benefit from intimate masterclasses from high-profile speakers. Christine Vachon, Todd Haynes, Michel Merkt and Alexander Nanau, among others, have already passed on their knowledge to our participants.

Our Speaker 2023

Babak Jalali


Crystal Moselle


Finola Dwyer


Juko Kuosmanen Writer & Director

Buy Ticket

Michel Merkt


Todd Haynes


Previous ZFF Academy Speaker



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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

The programme is refined and adapted each year to the selected participants. Check out the content section above for more information.

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. 

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

No, the ZFF Academy is only open to directors, producers or scriptwriters.

Yes, you can.

Prepare the necessary documents and complete the online application form. 

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 1500 characters incl. signs. 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.

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.

No, we only accept one Work Sample.

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.

No. The five-minute excerpt must be from the submitted film.

20 applicants are selected to participate in the ZFF Academy.

All applicants will get a positive or negative answer of participation by end of August.


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