Watch out, Midwest: A new festival is coming. It may sound a bit familiar though, for this new fest, the Kansas City FilmFest, is actually a joint effort of two former Missouri-based ones: KC Jubilee Film Festival and FilmFestKC. The former Jubilee was primarily a competition of short local films, whereas FilmFestKC was projected as a curated forum that screened features from around the world. The two fests are now combining their strengths to create a festival that will screen short and feature films from all over and will also include juried competitions. The fest is looking for films that were completed after January 1, 2007 and that fit into one of the following categories: Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Animation or Experimental Work. There’s even a separate division for jazz-inspired works.
MM had the chance to ask festival president Fred Andrews a few questions about the new event, discussing both the issues and advantages that come along with re-creating a festival.
Beth Levin (MM): With the joint effort of FilmFestKC and Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee, what do you most hope to achieve with the new Kansas City FilmFest?
Fred Andrews (FA): By unifying the two festivals on the Missouri side we hope to simplify and raise the level of awareness of the festival. Previously there was confusion within the general public as to which festival was which. There was no confusion on the part of filmmakers as the Jubilee was a juried festival and FilmFestKC was not.
While the Jubilee has been primarily a shorts fest, Kansas City is a feature film town. Building up the feature side of our programming should increase the audience for the shorts.
MM: How have past winners from the former two fests varied? What types of movies is the festival jury looking for in this new fest?
FA: The Jubilee has been a juried festival with entries from around the world; at least 10 of them were targeted by Shorts International for acquisition. The Jubilee also had a strong local/regional emphasis. FilmFestKC was a curated feature festival with strong international selections. It was a non-competitive festival. The new fest will accept feature films from around the world as well as shorts. There will be a competitive component for the features. We will also be curating some features, keeping a strong inclusion of international films, but on a more indie angle.
We also hope to do some retrospectives of classic indie features based on themes or filmmakers.
MM: Do you see any potential difficulty in merging the two fests?
FA: Our organizational cultures are different as much as our festivals were different. We are working to integrate the boards on the operational committees and get folks working together from the start so all feel a sense of ownership of our new festival. Right now we have too large of a board, but we need to make each group feel welcome and as we move forward some folks will drop off the governing board and move to straight committee work.
Our biggest challenge will be securing a venue with enough screens to keep the festival compact geographically. The economy and cost of airfare is also unpredictable and makes budgeting for it difficult. These are not specifically related to the merger, but become more of an issue with expanded programming. If we had not merged, we would have been expanding our feature film component anyway.
We are still all volunteer run. We are reaching a size and complexity that needs some full-time staff. A combined festival will hopefully make it easier to get sponsorships and enable development of cash resources that will allow us to hire staff.
MM: On the KC Jubilee Website, the mission of the fest is described as “a celebration of local independent filmmaking.” Are you trying to reach out to more audiences and moviemakers from around the globe with the new fest? If so, will this take away from local opportunities?
FA: We are trying to be more of a regional draw and resource for filmmakers in the Midwest to network and get access to educational programs and film professionals from around the world. But it should expand opportunities for our area filmmakers. Just like everything else is globalizing, film is no different and being exposed to storytelling by other cultures is fascinating and instructive that what we are used to is not the only way. This will be good for our local filmmakers. It will increase their film literacy.
We expanded the shorts area several years ago to include shorts from everywhere with the idea that it would allow our local and regional filmmakers see what was being done out there. This was before the Internet became a exhibition medium for any kind of moving image. We see going into features the same way. More of our local and regional filmmakers are making features. It is now important that they get to network with other feature film filmmakers. It is a natural progression from our old Indy Film Showcase program, for which we brought in new feature films with the filmmaker to share their work and experiences.
MM: What advice do you have for festival entrants? What’s the easiest way to impress the judges and get a spot in this year’s event?
FA: Having a unique voice in your storytelling stands out. We have a very eclectic mix to provide our audiences a broad spectrum of work. We do not reference other festival screenings or awards in the programming process. We try to keep it as anonymous as possible. Having a DVD screener that works in a commercial player is best. If the screener does not play, there may not be time to get a replacement. Submitting early ensures our programming committee will be able to have multiple people preview the film and score it. Having the screener labeled and readable with accurate running time noted is important.
The deadline for early entries is August 15th, while later submissions may be made up until December. The fest will debut on April 22nd and last until the 26th. For more information, check out the fest’s Website at www.kcjubilee.org for more information.