Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Film Festival Magic

In an effort to support a couple of local screenwriters I know, I attended the Sandpoint Film Festival, held at the Panida Little Theater in Sandpoint early in November. I found the film festival, my first, captivating from the minute the lights dimmed.

I was treated to four hours of entertaining short films on every conceivable subject. A few were funny, a couple were charming, several were informative documentaries, one asked us to believe in the existence of faeries, and one (think sitting down at Olive Garden with a room full of Zombies) was downright scary.

Sandpoint Film Festival First Place Winner

Il Remore Della Neve (The Noise of Snow), a beautifully filmed and touching tale about a man who cannot bear the noise of today's society, by Andrea Marini of Italy, took first place. This 9-minute short captured other awards this year, including Best Foreign Film at the California International Shorts Festival in Los Angeles.

First the facts
Short films, often called "shorts" are productions that screen in 40 minutes and under. Films over 40 minutes are considered to be feature films. Contest entries for the Sandpoint festival were required to be 20 minutes and under, and the majority of entries fell in the under 10-minute category.

Filmmakers make shorts to showcase their skills, to inform, to entertain, or to introduce a longer production. Called "trailers" these introduction shorts are the previews of "coming attractions" that you see at movie theaters or on television.

Then the entertainment
The Sandpoint Film Festival premiered 32 films during their day-long event. I attended the afternoon and evening "blocks" of movies, consisting of 18 short films made by many local filmmakers and others from places as far away as Minnesota and Italy. Budding filmmakers of every age entered the contest: teenagers, church groups, music groups, computer animators, retired folks, and many others who just wanted to share their "story."

Before each showing, festival organizer Janice Jarzabek spent a few minutes interviewing representatives of the film, including producers, actors, cameramen, and/or writers. She often asked what the "inspiration" was for the film, or questions about the production. Hearing the motivation behind the films both fascinated and inspired me.

I found the varied subjects the filmmakers had chosen to write about fascinating: suicide prevention; a spoof on serving the waiter's hands to a diner in a turn-of-the-century melodrama; an alcoholic finding redemption; kids who get sucked into a television to join a violent video game; a free spirit dancing in a park; a music video dedicated to those who've lost a loved one; a lambast on women's lib (women playing baseball is sacrilegious); and short documentaries about a women tugboat captain, a chief of police with a cleft palate, and a 50-year old woman who took up ice-climbing.

Juliette Johnson, Sandpoint, created a 2-minute computer-generated animation that offered a humorous look at Idaho stereotypes. "Idaho" won the audience choice award for lines like: "Would you like a free gun with that latte?"

A second entry that tickled everyone's funny bone was "Caffeinated" by Dan Walden, a comedy about a guy who can't get his morning coffee-fix due to a series of unfortunate mishaps. Shot around Sandpoint, this 8-minute film won both an audience choice award and the third-place festival prize.

Sandpoint Film Festival 2nd Place Winner
Ana's Playground

An electrifying tale about children living in a war zone, "Ana's Playground," written and directed by Eric Howell, took second. During the past year, this powerfully written film has won film festivals and awards across the nation and rumor has it that the film is on the short list for an Academy Award in 2012.
The film is an allegory about the moment when a child is forced to choose between ideology and humanity while living and playing in a dangerous war environment. - Eric Howell
Info from Ana's Playground website: Production of this 20-minute film was made possible entirely through charitable donations, and the producers are offering the film as a fundraising and publicity tool free of charge to non-governmental organizations working to improve the lives of war-affected children. The film’s promotional materials and screening events are intended to provide exposure opportunities for these groups. Click here to learn more about Ana's Playground.

Now for the magic
Entertainment magically became inspiration. I attended the film festival in support of others, but, in some mysterious way, I received a gift while watching their cinematic creations. The inspiring, funny, serious, irreverent and touching films shown at the Sandpoint Film Festival revitalized my writing spirit. On the way home I thought of several story ideas that could be made into short films. Probably pie in the sky, but what the heck, watching those amazing and imaginative films got my creative juices flowing again. And, as Martha would say, "That's a good thing."

Check out all the 2011 Sandpoint Film Festival entries.

IWL Book Sale
The Coeur d'Alene Chapter of the Idaho Writer's League annual Christmas Book Fair is coming up on December 15th from 10:00 am - 3:30 pm. It's a great place to look for unique Christmas gifts and support local writers and authors at the same time. I want to add Anna Goodwin's first psychological thriller, "Justice Forbidden," to my collection of books by local authors, so I'll be going. See you there.


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Mary Jane, this film festival sounds wonderful, and what a great thing that you left it fully inspired for your own projects! I attended the festival about three years ago and I was also impressed with the quality and variety of entries. I am definitely going to attend next year, and I hope one of the entries will be your Idaho-themed film, Root Bound.

elizabethbrinton said...

We could make it another blogette field trip and stay over. I really want to be there next year.