Once in a while, an organization puts on an event that dissolves preconceived notions and ideas and delivers something truly unique. For instance, film festivals all over the country have a traditional model – exhibition of films, panels with guests, and audiences lining up around the corner. It’s very familiar to filmmakers and fans – however, the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival (CGIFF) does things a little bit differently.
Tim Udall, Producer and Director of Operations of the film festival, describes the program as a “mentorship film festival that looks for new and upcoming filmmakers, offering them a platform that they might not otherwise find and critical insight into filmmaking.” This idea of meaningful mentorship is what sets CGIFF apart from the pack, and Udall (along with Founder and Executive Director Breven Warren) were aware of this distinction during the festival’s inception in 2008. “Sometimes,” Udall explains, “it’s harder to find independent voices amidst a festival displaying high-quality cinema and several concurring programs. So we wanted to hear those voices and give them a safe space to have conversations with one another and learn about filmmaking. We wanted to build a conversation between filmmakers from all backgrounds and levels on how to improve while meeting each other and collaborating.”
This format certainly makes CGIFF different from other festivals, but why is this mentorship and constructive criticism so important? Udal explains that “with any art form, it’s hard to grow without constructive criticism – filmmakers at our festival discover what they think is good, and how to improve on that. Having other professionals in the industry that can talk to you about why filmmakers make certain choices and what they can change to achieve their goal – that’s an extremely effective conversation to have.”
The criticism and mentorship manifests itself in different ways throughout the festival. “First of all, we have question and answer sessions in which filmmakers can present their work and address certain things that illuminate their process. Also, visiting professionals provide services such as crowd-funding sources and ways to finance and improve the festival – so we as organizers are learning too. Finally, we offer several workshops and programs such as writing workshops with professional screenwriters and actors, and have a discussion about filmmakers’ own scripts – stemming from watching them be performed – where they receive feedback from other writers and actors, which is a very beneficial process.” Warren elaborates, saying the “panels are largely curated by our community including film professors, industry professionals and other filmmakers who have something they are interested in sharing, teaching and mentoring to the larger creative community.”
With so many ways to incubate filmmakers, it’s important for CGIFF to have a clear vision of success in mind. “It’s simple,” explains Udall, “Our vision of success is people being encouraged to make the art they love. When they continue their process, we continue our festival and invite others to help them grow. Filmmakers that make it into the festival are often close to calling it quits but, when they make it in and engage, it reinvigorates them to further pursue their craft.”
Additionally, Udall exclaims that the festival organizers and filmmakers “love the Pacific Northwest and want people to truly experience the area, so we have a bunch of non-film related activities such as outdoor experiences and camping.” He explains that films screen on the weekends in Washougal and Vancouver, and outdoor activities occur during the week.
Udall’s insight and reflection upon the festival’s constructive character sheds light on its distinct nature, however, no festival is complete without original and compelling programming.
Warren describes the process and content people can expect this year: “We receive submissions from a number of online film sources, as well as script and media outlets. We also have a number of programmers who work for other film festivals and often encourage filmmakers to submit to us. We also get a lot of submissions each year who were recommended by filmmakers who had attended in the past. We take all submissions into consideration. And then we choose our favorite films who fit into our mission. These films are independent creations, original projects with unique storytelling techniques. We show all genres and have programmers who specialize in them respectfully. We show a variety of features and shorts including family friendly films, educational documentaries, compelling narratives, dark twisted horrors and breathtaking animations and beautiful experimental art films.”
Many workshops this year focus on the business of film. This year there will be a “documentary workshop” where filmmakers will “discuss the challenges of accountability and authenticity to truth in documentary filmmaking. What is the filmmaker’s responsibility as well as their subjects knowing our history becomes defined by what we see on screen?” Additionally, there’s a panel for filmmakers interested in crossing the line between independent and studio distribution. Warren explains an important question in this program is, “what do you need to get your film sold in the industry today as the market continues to change?” They will also have filmmakers who “will be speaking on micro filmmaking and the art of telling a story in only a few minutes. They will be speaking on and sharing the craft that goes into small stories on screen while also sharing their own micro films.”
Warren and Udall are excited for the programming, workshops, and filmmakers’ processes to collide during CGIFF ’15. “We simply want to give our filmmakers the tools they may need to succeed in their art.”
Washington Filmworks thanks Udall and Warren for sharing information on their compelling and distinct film festival. The 2015 Columbia Gorge International Film Festival runs from August 6-16. Here is more information.
Breven Angaelica Warren
Founder & Executive Director, Columbia Gorge International Film Festival
Breven Angaelica Warren, part time resident of Washougal, WA, is a passionate film festival organizer, programmer, and art lover who believes in creating and cultivating communities of working artists. Breven founded the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival to educate, encourage and empower filmmakers.
Upon returning to Washougal in 2004, Breven utilized her filmmaking experience and produced her first feature film in Washougal. After turning the family home and farm into a production facility, the evolution of Angaelica Farms is no surprise, now a prime destination venue for an international film festival. Breven is currently working seasonally for such festivals as Sundance, AFI Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, Outfest and Slamdance. Breven takes all of her experience working for the most prestigious film festivals in the country and applies herself each summer to Columbia Gorge International Film Festival, to create a most unique and exceptional event.
The growth of Columbia Gorge International Film Festival provides Breven with the opportunity to put all of her work into practice with her family and her partner, Timothy Richard Udall, creating a destination festival that connects film lovers and filmmakers in a most inspirational location.
Timothy Richard Udall
Producer & Director of Operations, Columbia Gorge International Film Festival
Timothy Udall was working at Capital Studios in Hollywood when he and Breven met. The immediate connection was inevitable, their mutual love for international arts and supporting artists was fueled. From this moment on, Tim and Breven have collaborated on every detail of the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. Tim has elevated the technical and production aspects of the festival and grown the long term vision.
Tim has serious plans for CGIFF, including an outdoor amphitheater and various venues on Angaelica Farms. He continues his collaborations with Breven, now working in varied capacities from Tech to Production Management at AFI Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Slamdance. Tim is a master of operations and oversees the planning and execution of much of the festival events.