Greg’s Anchorage Report

The Anchorage International Film Festival (AIFF) is a sprawling affair. At least 6 movie theaters screen films which are located all around town. You definitely needed a car (or a ride from a volunteer) to get between screenings. Since three films were usually being projected at the same time, it took a fair amount of planning to be sure you were where you needed to be.

I attended the festival from the opening Gala on Friday, December 2 and stayed through Sunday, December 11. I was one of the few filmmakers to stay for the entire event. I was also the only filmmaker to have 4 films (all shorts) accepted in the festival:

  • Freedom of Expression
  • It’s a Wonderful Day If You Like Rain
  • Raspberry Bushes
  • Superciliary (Eyebrow) Exercise Program

The shorts I submitted were all initially screened in previous JUMP festivals but I did use audience feedback from the JUMP showings to rework most of them. The most extreme case was “Freedom of Expression” which I cut to about 2/3rds of its original length. Superciliary won an Honorable Mention in the Snow Dance category.

AIFF was a great experience. I would recommend it to anyone from Juneau – but don’t expect it to be a bigger version of JUMP. The festival is very much like Anchorage – big, sprawling and (in spite of the efforts of an army of volunteers) not always well planned. On the other hand, everyone who I met was exceptionally friendly. Many who attended from other states and countries said it was the best festival in terms of hospitality that they had attended.

There were a few negative experiences for me:

  • In the printed program my animation short “Raspberry Bushesâ€? was credited to a Canadian production company
  • 3 of my movies were screened at the same time so I had to choose which showing to attend
  • At my first screening, audio levels at the theater were so poor that some of the dialog was lost for several short films in the program
  • Many digital movies (including mine) were screened from DVD’s (even though I sent Mini-DV versions)
  • Several movies were projected from DVDs and they often had problems with pixilation, stuttering and occasional freeze ups.

On the positive side, many films were shown in full 35mm glory. I have to say that in a theater situation, a 35mm reel is still the best way to view a movie.

The real highlight of the festival were the four separate filmmaker forums:

Bill Butler – Cinematographer on many major motion pictures including Jaws, Grease, Rocky II-V, Stripes and Anaconda plus many more. Someone who really knows the industry.

“From Script to Screen� included a panel of filmmakers who had a variety of experiences and insights from working in Hollywood and Alaska.

Bill Plympton – Academy Award nominated animator presented an “interactive animation” that discussed who and what he is and does. (I think we could get him to come to Juneau, I talked to him briefly about it and he was very receptive.)

Bill Bacon – An extremely experienced nature documentary filmmaker. He has worked for Disney and other major studios. He had far too many stories to share in the two hours available.

A hidden highlight was the opportunity to share stories and strategies with other filmmakers between screenings. There is just no other venue where so many other people with similar interests are available.

The only thing missing from AIFF was industry representatives looking for new talent or films. I didn’t hear of anyone who had been approached with an offer for distribution or anything like it. When I talked to Tony Shepard (AIFF founder), he said that they were trying to provide a festival that was fun for filmmakers not a commercial festival. They did succeed in making it fun.

I am certain that films which were well received in JUMP showings would do well in Anchorage (or other festivals for that matter). But winning prizes is another issue entirely. AIFF is an international festival and there were many jaw dropping, clever, hilarious and beautiful movies that were shown from all over the world.

Just being able to wear the “Film Maker” badge and being able to hang out with Oscar nominees was worth it.

Cheers until next year,

Here’s the link to the Anchorage International Film Festival: