MovieMaker’s second Festival Spotlight is another east coast staple, FirstGlance Film Festival Philadelphia.
FirstGlance has two homes (soon to be three!) in Philadelphia and Los Angeles with Las Vegas in the works. The fest’s real hometown is Philly, though, where it was effectively born and raised in the basement of a small theater. After the inaugural event in 1996 the festival quickly grew, adding its bi-coastal sister, Los Angeles, in 2000. The indie film festival aims to share the work of hardworking filmmakers, while trying their very best to attain some form of distribution in return. Recently the festival has seen growth in their online shorts platform (though they were the first festival to add an online component), allowing people to vote on their favorite shorts that will be premiered at one of FirstGlance’s three fests. FirstGlance Philadelphia runs Friday, September 20-22 at the Franklin Institute.
MovieMaker (MM): Can you tell us a little about the history of FirstGlance Film Festival?
FirstGlance (FG): We started 17 years ago, in the basement of a little theater in Center City Philadelphia, with only word of mouth and 300 dollars. We begged, borrowed and stole to make the first one happen. We were the first and only independent film festival in Philadelphia at the time and never really planned on producing a second. But 17 years later, we are launching our 16th edition in Philly this weekend and calling for entries for our 14th annual in Los Angeles in Spring of 2014. We also have had inquiries from Las Vegas and Salt Lake City to create festivals for them.
MM: After 17 years, what new initiatives are you integrating to keep the festival fresh and new?
FG: We have been working hard creating a great online component that allows us to show an unlimited number of short films that will compete for a premiere at the next film festival. We have also been working hard with strategic partners to offer every filmmaker a distribution opportunity. Our track record is at about 90% for feature narratives and documentaries getting theatrical, Cable, VOD or some other platform release and with the addition of new strategic partnerships, we can offer short films some of the same opportunities.
MM: FirstGlance is in the unique position of having two annual separate events in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. How does this bi-coastal nature inform your programming and the character of the fest?
FG: Each festival has its own flavor, depending on the location. The Philly event tends to have a great local feel, bringing in local Philadelphia-area filmmakers, as well as indie film lovers from near and far to experience some of the best in true independent film making. Our Hollywood event tends to attract great films with lots of recognizable names from TV and film. Since that event puts us in the heart of the film industry, a lot of celebrities come out to enjoy the events. So you never know who you might bump into at FirstGlance Los Angeles.
MM: This weekend you are kicking off your annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia. What is it about Philadelphia that makes it the ideal place on the east coast for a film festival? How does it compare to your festival in Los Angeles?
FG: Being Philadelphia’s longest running and first independent film festival we have an amazing track record with the local filmmaking community, and that really supports our event. Being my home, before I relocated to Los Angeles, I feel like I’m coming home every time I go back to produce the Philadelphia event. It’s been called Philly’s Slamdance, and we plan one day for it to be as successful as that event!
MM: Besides your two physical locations, FirstGlance has a third “location” in a way–online. What can you tell us about the fest’s online platform and presence? How does this integrate with experiencing the fest in “real life?”
FG: Since we Support Indie Film in all forms and believe that short films are an amazing platform to show a filmmakers talent, we created the Short Online Contest about 10 years ago. We were the first film festival to offer an online component. It has only recently started to be taken seriously, now that some of the major festivals now program an online component. Its a great platform for filmmakers to have viewers from all over the world watch and vote on there shorts 24/7 for a chance to be premiered at a future FirstGlance Film Fest.
MM: How many submissions did FirstGlance receive this year? Considering your wide range of genres, what about the selection process do you find the biggest challenge?
FG: We receive about 1,000 entries per year between the two fests. Having judged over 15,000 films through the history of the FirstGlance, for me it’s fun to watch all genres of film and find the entertainment value in each category. It can be a hard hitting and controversial documentary, a beautifully shot music video, a meticulously created animation, or a well told short film. We look at the entertainment value of the individual submission, and we never judge them against one another, we look at each film individually and ask will a FirstGlance audience enjoy this film. The biggest challenge any “indie” film festival is not having the physical time to program all the films we want, as the costs of the events are exorbitant and it limits our physical event.
MM: What’s special about FirstGlance 2013, in your opinion? Are there any screenings that you personally are looking forward to, or participants you can’t wait to meet?
FG: We are screening two of the most controversial documentaries in our history, FrackNation and Small Small Thing, as well as a very topical documentary about cyberbullying, Submit-The Documentary. Our features, Eat Spirit Eat, produced by a returning FirstGlance alum, and Wet Behind the Ears are excellent examples of low budget indie film story telling! All of these along with some of the best indie 3D short films we’ve seen, Le Grand Combat and Foxed!, and some amazingly shot and beautiful told short films, Menschen, The Fay, Far, Lost Crossing, Zero Hour and many more round out the 38 indie films we’ll show this weekend with films from all across the globe and around the corner.
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