No one can say that the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival (SFFFF) is short on spirit. The festival aims to broaden its community’s film scene by screening great films, showcasing new art, playing music, and more, but the organizers also exude a contagious love of cinema and a genuine desire to help moviemakers share their art.
While self-aggrandizing celebrities of the Kanye West variety conduct themselves with eye-rolling puffery and bluster, many artists are reticent about blowing their own horns – to which Isaac Schild, festival founder, says, “Be loud and proud of your work!” SFFFF wants to help with that. This year’s lineup is set for dozens of narratives, animated films, shorts of all varieties, environmental documentaries, local films, and more. SFFFF runs from Thursday, July 11 to Sunday, July 14 2013. We caught up with Schild before it all took off.
MovieMaker (MM): Tell us about your name. The “San Francisco Frozen Film Festival” is certainly a memorable moniker.
SCHILD: Our name derives from a quote that many attribute to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in San Francisco.” We chose to pay homage to Twain’s cold summer by calling the festival ‘frozen,’ because we’re cool like that. Winter jokes aside, we offer an exceptional and truly independent collection of cutting edge film during the San Francisco summer when the city is most chill.
MM: Can you tell us a little about the history of SFFFF?
SCHILD: SFFFF was founded in 2006 by myself and Gabriel Bellman as a nonprofit, public charity. We were both surprised to see the San Francisco film scene falling behind the Bay Area’s otherwise stellar reputation for supporting the arts, so it was our initial intention to fix that problem. There is so much work based out of the Bay Area, particularly in animation (with Pixar, Dreamworks, LucasFilms and video gaming) – but not a particularly cohesive film scene. With our experiences in the film scenes of Los Angeles and New York, we wanted to build that same kind of avenue for independent filmmakers and artists from under-served communities to come together and exhibit their work to the widest possible audience. There is something uniquely special about viewing a film in a theater, versus just online or on YouTube.
MM: What do you predict will be the biggest draw at this weekend’s festival?
SCHILD: Our animation and shorts programs always draw a great crowd and fill up pretty quickly. We’re also really excited about The Institution, a documentary that has S.F. roots, as well as the opening film From Nothing, Something, which is all about the creative process – the whole point of our festival.
MM: What are some of the other highlights at SFFFF this year?
SCHILD: The environmental documentaries are excellent, along with our lineup of dramatic short films. We have a totally insane short documentary from Spain about an extra on Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, paired with another short horror film also from Spain. Also, our experimental shorts have some films that nearly made our heads explode when we first watched them.
MM: The SFFFF website also talks about a music aspect. Can you tell us a little about that?
SCHILD: We have been rocking a music portion since day one. SFFFF was one of the first film festivals to offer a unique category for music documentary films and a separate music video category and award. With our background of working at MTV, it was a natural fit; in fact, we play more music than they do now. We booked an entire music festival at the beginning before we realized that for an entirely volunteer-based organization we needed to keep the major focus on film. However, as both of us are musicians, we like to have local live music events as often as we can.
MM: How many submissions did you receive this year and how does SFFFF go about the selection process?
SCHILD: We received about 600 films this year. We have a panel of judges from the film world and local community watch, rate, and judge the submissions. Then we take on the very, very difficult task of making cuts. We hate to leave anything good out, but we always have to. We try to look and see if a film has played elsewhere because we’d rather give a screening to somebody who hasn’t had the chance yet. As out-of-the-box thinkers, we are always looking for new work on the cutting edge of storytelling.
MM: What can festival attendees expect this week?
SCHILD: During the festival we have everything from art openings to music, to networking with filmmakers and artists of all kinds. We’re proud to say that we have had many filmmakers collaborate after meeting at our festival. For example, we had a filmmaker from Turkey whose connections she made here landed her a film job in Chile. That’s what we aim for.
MM: What do you do better than any other festival?
SCHILD: Short films. Nobody throws together as many diverse short programs as us. We see it as its own art form—a sort of video collage. With our background as filmmakers and musicians, we understand the importance of the pacing of films when shown together. We also provide a ton of support to our filmmakers in terms of learning how to put the work out in order to gain publicity. Not many artists like to trumpet their work and that’s why they need a community to egg them on. Be loud and proud of what you do. This is world is short on artists and long on businessmen. However, the reality is that in order for artists to be seen, they need the businessmen. So we’re here to enlighten businessmen, while providing an avenue for artists to share their work. San Francisco is a great place for this. To our filmmakers and film lovers: keep showing us love, and we’ll hit you back times six.
For more information on San Francisco Frozen Film Festival, click here.