Photo credit: Tim Vernor

Photo credit: Tim Vernor

It’s no secret that the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF) has some exciting things in store for its May showcase. It traditionally exhibits independent, underground, and experimental films but also takes advantage of multi-platform technology to show such work. Combining cutting-edge media, cultural exchange, and educational opportunities, STIFF 2015 is sure to be a fascinating festival, and has a special Red Carpet Party and Fundraiser this Saturday (you can get tickets here). Washington Filmworks sat down with Festival Director Tim Vernor to discuss the innovative methods STIFF is using to explore new technology and forms of storytelling.

Vernor recounts how the festival was “started by a group of filmmakers who made a film locally here in Seattle that involved alternative subject matters, and such films weren’t really traveling the main festival circuit.” So, the filmmakers created their own festival that has now become STIFF. “Seattle and the whole independent film community needs an alternative film festival to show alternative films,” says Vernor.

STIFF also fits into the digital revolution of showcasing content in new and exciting ways, so much so that it embraces transmedia. “I would define transmedia as the convergence of multiple forms of media to tell a story either simultaneously or asynchronously. We want to display its breadth and depth – there are 18 different categories this year for 18 different platforms, ranging from cellular devices to social media to gaming. These are all different ways of digitally telling a story,” explains Vernor.

This year’s festival includes the usage of Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset where viewers watch a 3-D documentary. Additionally, there are several interactive websites combining gaming and documentary film that viewers can log into, as well as a “second screen project” where audience members watch a documentary on a large screen then vote on their cellular devices on which character they want to see more of or where the storyline should go. In Vernor’s words, “viewers can actually steer the story through technology.”

STIFF is a large festival, but the organization also provides year-round programming and education. “We offer community-based education which we started this year,” says Vernor, “anyone from the community can pitch an idea for a class (such as digital media). Then we schedule the classes with an instructor and engage with the community.” The organization also has monthly “STIFF Nights” and “STIFF TV,” panels and interviews that feature transmedia artists and filmmakers discussing the new ventures and forays into digital media.

“We have a lot to offer as an organization, both for the festival and the rest of the year. Our goal is to engage with the community about the evolution of media platforms.” Vernor is optimistic that the festival will grow even more next year for its 12th edition.

We thank Tim Vernor for his time, information, and insight to the digital media world. Get more information about the festival on STIFF’s website. You can attend STIFF 2015 May 1-9 in various University District venues such as the Grand Illusion Cinema, Jet City Improv, Lucid Lounge, and Scarecrow Video.