Category Archives: The news

DCIFF Alum and Producer David A. Melendez Shares Lessons from First Production

Premiering films from local filmmakers remains a celebrated category of the DC Independent Film Festival. So, when feature films like last year’s One Penny win “Best Feature” and go on to receive similar accolades from over 2-dozen other festivals across the U.S., we celebrate with the people who made it happen. David A. Melendez speaks with DCIFF about lessons from a first production and the business-focus that got him there. Look for him in attendance at this year’s Festival.

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David A. Melendez, Co-Producer of 2017 Best Feature One Penny and co-owner of StonePark Productions

You have this inspiring, entrepreneurial story of realizing your passion for film making in your teenage years and taking an unconventional path to your first production and the founding of StonePark Productions. What’s the most important lesson from your journey that you can pass on to up and coming filmmakers?

Always keep your filmmaking dream alive, but don’t overlook the importance of the business side. Michael DeVita (business partner and co-founder of StonePark Productions) and I started a real estate development company which helped us fund our project. However, the knowledge and experience we gained from real estate was instrumental in creating our film; developing plans, leading a team, organizational skills, budgets and deadlines, etc. We want to be involved in movie making for the long haul, but need to be savvy and business minded to do so. Developing great stories is one thing, but establishing a career to tell those stories is another challenge.  My advice: be creative but don’t underestimate the business.

What did you learn from producing your first feature film “One Penny” that you will apply to future projects?

The value of pre-production. If I could go back, I would have given us more time. Thinking on the fly should be a filmmaker’s strong suit, but it can get taxing very quickly, especially if you’re wearing multiple hats. Many times, we didn’t have a well thought out “Plan B,” and it caught up with us during post. There are no short cuts – the more effective you are in pre-production, the smoother everything else will go.

You’ve been to a number of film festivals. For a filmmaker, what was unique to the DCIFF experience?

The DCIFF staff. I always want to connect with the Festival Director in some way.  It’s interesting to speak with the person responsible for having your project in the lineup. Deirdre Evans-Pritchard is smart, hardworking and incredibly invested – she understands the importance of how a festival can launch one’s career and confidence as well as showcase independent filmmaking.  DCIFF’s staff sets filmmakers up to not only showcase their projects, but to garner press, interact and engage with the audience and develop relationships with other filmmakers. Their venues across the city are unique, well planned and really showcase the culture of Washington, D.C. The filmmaker brunch was one of my favorite events – something that I recommend to all filmmakers who attend the fest.

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Still from One Penny which premiered at DCIFF 2017 and won “Best Feature”

Any words of advice for independent filmmakers seeking funding for early projects?

Funding doesn’t necessarily mean cash. Develop partnerships, barter for locations and/or services – use your producing skills to lower the budget. Only then, put together what cash you absolutely need. Friends, family and crowd funding are all good sources, but have everything planned.  Don’t just ask for money to fund your dream – have an actual written plan and put some sweat equity into the project so your contributors know you’re truly invested and its really going to happen. Michael and I relied heavily on self-finance – something that is extremely risky, and I don’t necessarily recommend for everyone. However, if you want absolute control of your project you might have to go this route and bet on yourself.

Can you tell us anything about upcoming projects?

We just finished our theater run w/ One Penny and are now planning an iTunes/Amazon release next month. We’re currently developing our second feature film which will be a crime/thriller – much bigger production, but we’re excited for the challenge.

From a company standpoint, StonePark plans to hear pitches from other filmmakers to potentially finance and co-produce. We know the talent is out there – the connection just needs to be made.

Announcing the DCIFF 2018 Films

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Narrative Features

Andover (USA / 96mins / 2017) by Scott Perlman
Key Cast: Jonathan Silverman, Jennifer Finnigan with Scout Taylor-Compton, Richard Kind, Steven Bauer, Jonathan Lipnicki, Angela Kinsey, Bai Ling
Adam is a brilliant genetics professor at Andover University. His wife Dawn is a beautiful, talented artist who he loves more than life itself. After she dies in a fire, Adam is desperate to get his wife back exactly the way she was, but with each attempt his chances of getting her back grow further away.

Captain Black (USA / 86mins / 2018) by Jeffrey Johnson
Key Cast: Jeffrey Johnson, Georgia Norman, Charley Koontz, Linara Washington
What happens when a middle-aged fanboy’s fantasy goes too far? Mike, a mild-mannered restaurant manager, gets captivated by a stash of comic books left behind one night by one of his employees. He begins to become obsessed with one of them, featuring the avenging hero Captain Black, and his sexy cohort, Kitt Vixxen.

Closure (USA / 90mins / 2018) by Alex Goldberg
Key Cast: Catia Ojeda, Dee Wallace, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Milena Govich, John Sloan, Tom Choi
Following her mother’s funeral and a recently ended relationship, Nina flies to Los Angeles to find her sister who has gone missing.

Killing Diaz (USA / 80mins / 2017) by Cameron Fife
Key Cast: Sugar Lyn Beard, Josh Zuckerman, Max Crumm, Adam Brooks, Andy Fisher-Price, Andy Goldenberg, Bradford Benoit, Jason Kelley, Krysta Rodriguez
Five friends plot to murder an upstairs neighbor, simply to avoid an awkward conversation. When Joe is kicked out of the apartment, he sleeps with Diaz, an upstairs neighbor, and tells her he’s in love with her in order to seal the deal. Just three days later, when a few friends come over, it’s decided that the only way to remedy the situation…is to Kill Diaz.

Loneliness of a Sewer Trucker (Canada / 85mins / Canada) by Hakan Sahin
Key Cast: Luke Oswald, Oscar Derkx, Warren Cowell
The “offbeat story” of a man’s entire life spent in an isolated oilfield community. Three characters confront the rituals of life and their stories converge at a cabin deep in the woods where an old man lives. His story completes the other stories to reveal a single character existing beyond constraints of time where the past, present and future coexist to show the arch of a human life.

Million Loves in Me (Malaysia, Canada / 105mins / 2017) by Sampson Yuen
Key Cast: John Y Koon, Lan Lo, Wilson Lee, Ruby Yap
The larger-than-life story of a wealthy mother and daughter who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders. Their controversial private lives are exposed to the public when they are charged by the police for hoarding pets in their apartment (Inspired by a true story that headlined in Hong Kong).

Palacios (USA / 77mins / 2017) by Robert Herrera
Key Cast: Libby Bibb, Olajuwon Davis
Eugene, an inner-city teen, escapes the city streets and hides away on a Midwest city rooftop during the 4th of July holiday. He is found by Holly, a widowed alcoholic, who lives in the secluded rooftop dwelling with her Boston terrier. Written and shot in St. Louis one year before the events of Ferguson and shooting of Mike Brown took place a few miles away.

Patient 001 (USA / 87mins / 2018) by Katie Fleischer
Key Cast: Rosie Fellner, Michel Gill
A young-wife desperate to give her beloved comatose and dying husband a child considers her only option: cloning. Giving birth to a son fulfills her dream of having a family. But the arrival of the baby awakens a supernatural presence unleashing unexpected results. The family must make an impossible choice and live with a secret forever.

The Astronauts’ Bodies (Germany / 74mins / 2017) by Alisa Berger
Key Cast: Lars Rudolph, Zita Aretz, Béla Gabor Lenz, Luzie Nadjafi
When his two mature children start leaving the house, as they just have graduated from school, their father stops taking care of his body as a protest. His son Anton takes part in a bed-rest-study to contribute to space-traveling, while his sister Linda is in search of her first love. A film about the longing of exiled bodies.

The Rainbow Experiment (USA / 129mins / 2018) by Christina Kallas
Key Cast: Chris Beetem, Francis Benhamou, Christian Coulson, Kevin Kane, Nina Mehta, Laura Pruden, Connor Siemer, Lauren Sowa, Swann Gruen, Christine McLaughlin
An investigation uncovers more than just blame at a Manhattan high school when a science experiment permanently injures a student. “A multi-character whodunnit set in an NYC high school after a terrible accident happens on school grounds. It’s an ambitious film that reaches for the stars with its sprawling narrative, kinetic energy and mature exploration of interpersonal relationships between generations.”


Documentary Features

Born in Deir Yassin (France, Israel / 63mins / 2017) by Neta Shoshani
The Israeli narrative of Deir Yassin, the Arab village taken over in 1948 and turned into the government-owned psychiatric hospital in 1951. A stain on Israel’s past, that no one likes to talk about that set in motion the Palestinian refugees.

Change in the Family (USA / 63mins / 2018) by Sam Hampton
The transgender experience though the perspective of one family. As individual family members they are refreshingly authentic about their thoughts and feelings about Zo and the resulting transformation and changes to their family.

Generation Zapped (USA / 74mins / 2017) by Sabine El Gemayel
Wireless technology poses serious health risks, from infertility to cancer. Interviews with experts in science and public health, along with people who suffer from high sensitivity to wireless radiation suggest ways to reduce your exposure and protect your family.

Sevan the Craftsman (Turkey / 71mins / 2018) by Umran Safter
The story of Sevan Bicakci, an Istanbul Armenian master artist who has drawn inspiration from all of Istanbul’s history, and civilizations to produce world-famous jewelry.

This is Congo (USA / 93mins / 2017) by Daniel McCabe
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has seen more than five million conflict-related deaths, multiple regime changes and the wholesale impoverishment of its people in the past two decades.


Narrative Shorts

Afterword (Germany / 9:47mins / 2017) by Boris Seewald
Desperate to find her voice in the wake of an ended relationship, she resorts to sharing any piece of advice she can muster.

Ancestor’s Day (Russia / 14:35mins / 2017) by Nataliya Stoltidis
The complex relationship between a mother and daughter.

Ape (UK / 10mins / 2017) by Noah Dunbar
An obsessive, impotent, angry young man, is seduced from isolation by an online movement of chauvinism and primal patriarchy.

Conscience (USA / 11:51mins / 2017) by Austin Drakes
Anthony struggles to get over his past relationship. He gets advice from some unusual friends.

Counterfeit Kunkoo (India / 15mins / 2018) by Reema Sengupta
Smita must find herself a house to rent…but without a husband. An intimate perspective on the identity of the ‘Ideal Indian Female’ in urban India of today.

Death by Script (USA / 8mins / 2017) by Jason Kessler
A Hollywood script reader comes across a script that may or may not cause horrific death.

Hide and Seek (USA / 9:36mins / 2018) by Shoshana Rosenbaum
A rock musician turned stay-at-home dad makes an impulsive wish that sends him into an alternate reality.

Locked Outside (France / 6:54mins / 2017) by Ross Richardson
Two female skateboarders look for freedom and escape from the trappings of their Parisian life.

Miriam is Going to Mars (USA / 13mins / 2017) by Michael Lippert
A woman with schizophrenia attempts to escape a psychiatric hospital by signing up for the first human mission to Mars.

Moving Violation (USA / 12:17mins / 2018) by Laura Hinson
A jilted bride finally faces the truth about her ex-fiancé after a newly-installed speed camera on her street pushes her to the edge.

Photokill (USA / 19:21mins / 2017) by Lance J. Reha
A thief steals a camera that he later discovers contains photos of a hideous crime.

Potty the Plant (UK / 11:51mins / 2017) by Aeddan Sussex
When a child goes missing, it’s up to Potty the talking and singing potted plant, and the rest of the staff at Little BooBoo’s children hospital to uncover the truth.

Punchline (USA / 14:40mins / 2017) by Joseph Robert Redl
What nudges Dante closer and closer to the edge of his own self delusions is a punch line.

Relax (USA / 7:10mins / 2018) by Matthew Herbertz
An anti-Trump activist waits outside a supporter’s home considering something that could result in deadly consequences.

SandBox (USA / 16mins / 2017) by Eddie Lebron
A woman copes with grief through the use of a state-of-the-art virtual reality headset.

Suzanne and the Man (USA / 7:18mins / 2017) by Milena Govich
Susanne endeavors to find her own voice & rhythm when she finds herself in a meeting with the king of mansplaining.

The Apocalypse Will Blossom (USA / 5mins / 2017) by Courtney Jines
A young woman moves to Washington D.C. to start the next American revolution.

The Inescapable Arrival of Lazlo Petushki (UK / 11:10mins / 2017) by Sven Werner
A scruffy young man is about to arrive in a mysterious city by ship, when he finds himself lost and on the run in its labyrinthine hull. On his surreal journey he’s being chased by the inescapable: himself.

The Wedding Dress (Saudi Arabia / 24:45mins / 2017) by Mohammed Salman
Asmahan is a superstitious seamstress. She believes, like everyone in town that if she sews her daughter’s wedding dress for herself she will die.

Three (USA / 12:45mins / 2018) by Jordan Miller
Peter Graham finds himself in a conversation with a demon who promises to fulfill his deepest desires.

Toll Booth (UK / 11:30mins / 2017) by Martin Stocks
Terry starts working in an isolated toll booth on the Yorkshire moors, following his predecessor’s disappearance.

Tone (Canada / 2mins / 2017) by John Graham
A hypnotic dance of transformation in a metaphorical forest.

Walled In (USA, Canada / 8:30mins / 2017) by David Morrison
A troubled high school student meets with her Principal one final time.

Writer’s Block (Mexico, USA / 9mins / 2017) by Alex Mendez Giner
A writer in the middle of her creative process, receives a series of anonymous packages with morbidly disturbing content.


Documentary Shorts

9 at 38 (South Korea / 18mins / 2017) by Catherine Lee
A violinist’s unwavering pursuit to bring North and South Koreans together, straddling their uncrossable border, for a first-ever joint concert.

Big Paradise (USA / 10mins / 2017) by JP Olsen and Kristen Nutile
Robert Kidney, a powerful and complex person who lives and works in the shadow of the Midwestern decay, has been a musical force since the 1970s.

Daddy (USA / 30mins / 2018) by John Gallen and Alex Faoro
The story of youth basketball coach and drug trafficker Curtis Malone, who founded the DC Assault, an AAU basketball team whose mission was to keep inner city boys off the streets by helping them earn college scholarships.

Little Fiel (Mozambique, USA / 15:40mins / 2017) By Irina Patkanian
A documentary with stop motion animation loosely based on Mozambican artist Fiel dos Santos who makes art of decommissioned guns donated by the public in exchange for food and tools.

One for the Road (USA / 11:50mins / 2016) by Fernanda Faya
As she moves from Brazil to NY, the filmmaker looks back at her grandma’s migration as a way to find traces of her own identity.

SAFSTOR (USA / 14:52mins / 2017) by Adam Diller
The past and the present of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant to address our inherited infrastructure and our inherited commitment to maintaining and decommissioning our nuclear power plants.

The Shift (USA / 8:23mins / 2017) by Elivia Shaw
As dusk descends across the San Francisco Bay, the city’s 911 dispatchers prepare for the busiest time of day, the swing shift.

The Summer at Ten (China / 22mins / 2017) by Chen Hao
Childhood, acrobatics, family… all these things are intertwined in the summer when the children are ten years old.

Triumph of the Shill (USA / 10:21mins / 2017) by Nina Berman
Reimagining Leni Riefenstahl’s classic film as an aesthetic blueprint to consider the 2017 presidential inauguration and election of Donald J. Trump.

Typewriters Today (USA / 3mins / 2016) by Kyle Finnegan
Some people think the typewriter is a thing of past, but Ed Michael knows this to be false.

The Wives (China / 31mins / 2017) by Runze Yu
Portraits of three Chinese women in different stages of their unwitting marriages to gay husbands.


Animation

A Love Letter to the One I Made Up (Israel / 6:05mins / 2017) by Rachel Gutgarts
A lonely walk home is intertwined with an underwater fantasy world.

Cabinet (USA / 1min / 2017) by Tandis Shoushtary
Handrawn vérité animation, detailing events surrounding a kitchen cabinet.

Count Your Curses (Belgium / 8:30mins / 2017) by Lorène Yavo
Two roommates face a recurring problem: their house spirit was devoured by an unknown creature overnight.

Critical Living (UK / 7mins / 2017) by Alex Widdowson
Critical Living draws upon the experiences of people involved in the Philadelphia Association therapeutic communities.

Death of a Father (India / 10:16mins / 2017) by Somnath Pal
When Babu’s father passes away, he is caught in a web of age-old rituals and social formalities.

Digital Trauma (Netherlands / 8:21mins / 2016) by Maria Molina
What consequences do the access to a digital memory have for post-conflict societies?

Hybrids (France / 6:22mins / 2017) by Florian Brauch, Matthieu Pujol, Kim Tailhades, Yohan Thireau, Romain Thirion
When marine wildlife has to adapt to the pollution surrounding it, the rules of survival change…

Honk (Vietnam / 2:56mins / 2017) by Triet Le
A satirical animation about abusive honking in Vietnam.

KCLOC (USA / 2:50mins / 2017) by Ninaad Kulkarni
People’s perceptions of time.

Laymun (UK / 4:42mins / 2017) by Catherine Prowse
A gardener in a Middle Eastern war zone fights the destruction around her with life-giving plants.

Ming (USA / 3:07mins / 2017) by Danski Tang
A Chinese student’s experience as a live figure model while abroad.

Missing Connections (USA / 4:15mins / 2017) by Vince Dixon and Steele Stewart
Everyone has their own beautiful and complex story.

Negative Space (France / 5:24mins / 2017) by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter
My dad taught me how to pack.

The Green Bird (France / 6:45mins / 2017) by Pierre Perveyrie, Maximilien Bougeois, Marine Goalard, Irina Nguyen-Duc, Quentin Dubois.
A Green Bird lays its first egg. It’s going to try everything to make it hatch.

The Shepherd (USA / 6:11mins / 2017) by Natalie Vinciguerra
A lonely shepherd struggles with turning into a werewolf.

Ugly (Germany / 11:54mins / 2017) by Nikita Diakur
An ugly cat struggles to coexist in a fragmented and broken world,

Unexpected Discoveries (USA / 2:01mins / 2017) by James Mabery
A young fellow finds himself stumbling upon an ordinary flashlight that allows him to explore other places.


High School Films

After Life on Earth (Canada / 2:18mins / 2017) by Callahan Bracken
A man finds himself abandoned on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where he must find the fastest way to evacuate.

Aftershock (USA / 9:30mins / 2017) by Ryan Beard, Ceci Becker, Alexander Gaither, Stephen Gentry
A policeman making what seems to be a fairly routine arrest learns that this criminal has information on a mistake he made early in his career.

Break (USA / 2:44mins / 2017) by Alex Haney
A college student’s panic attack is witnessed from internal and external perspectives.

Common Places (USA / 10:18mins / 2017) by Grace Gallagher
A slice of life film that follows the days of three women, a child, a teenager, and their mother.

Credit One (Chile / 4mins / 2017) by David Murillo
Life can sometimes feel monotonous and repetitive, but we must not make the mistake of confusing it with a game…

Invisible (USA / 7:25mins / 2017) by Matt Gannon
The plight of the 3.5 million Americans who experience homelessness each year.

Make Believe (USA / 2:25mins / 2017) by Matt Thomas and Armin Nikravan
Some kids play by the rules. Some don’t.

Not As I Do (USA/8:20/2017) by Deeksha Marla
A young girl discovers her dad is not the hero she thought he was.

The Backstage (South Korea / 10:23mins / 2017) by Nyeonho Song
Only 5 minutes left until the play starts, and the director is struggling to fix all the problems.

Through the Window (USA / 12mins / 2017) by Zachary Spicer and Kira Daniels
Two thirteen year-old girls that share a home and a sleepless night of adventure.

Transformation (USA / 4:05mins / 2017) by Nicolas Medrano
A critical look at over-dependence on technology in modern society.

Welcome Home (USA / 7:45mins / 2017) by Luke Broyles
Five Vietnam veterans describe their personal stories—perspectives, ideas, and struggles— after they returned to the United States.

A Film Fest’s Value in the Age of Streaming

DCIFF_PressPhotos-20As web access to on-screen stories has grown exponentially, it’s a fair question to ask: what’s the value of a film festival when most everything will end up online anyways? There’s so much content available on the top few mainstream platforms alone that someone could almost endlessly view new film, series, documentaries, and shorts. What’s more, film fanatics can bypass mainstream content and go straight to websites like Filmstruck, VelvetCulture, or IndieFlix to see independent film. Yet, going to the movies is a collective experience that isn’t replicated at home on a laptop or flat-screen TV. The value of coming together to see new, independent productions at a festival extends to more than just the filmmaker seeking promotion and a niche group of film aficionados and critics. That’s why there are still hundreds of film festivals alive and well worldwide.

Filmmakers whose work is showcased gain earned recognition for excellence and an occasion for celebrating their significant investment of time, resources, and creativity, in addition to a special opportunity for engagement with an audience. DCIFF, especially, works to honor filmmakers for their achievement of producing a story that connects with viewers, asks important questions, and offers something new. Part of that celebration is coming together and taking the time to experience the film, publicly affirming the work. Out of that comes the chance to directly engage with viewers, to hear first impressions and reactions, and to enter conversations (formally, through Q&A sessions, or causally at receptions).  A large part of the mission, necessarily, is forwarding the careers of filmmakers whose work has potential to connect to a larger audience. Selectees are in the running for helpful introductions to distributors, who can purchase rights and market in their own region or country. Additionally, festivals (some, not all) offer an opportunity for filmmakers to engage with professional peers in sharpening their craft and industry-knowledge through workshops, seminars, and masterclasses—all of which DCIFF hosts.

The experience differs significantly for the attendee who comes to receive, rather than present, story. Here’s the draw to attend: for anyone hungry to experience new stories on screen, the festival offers a chance to see what’s been made right now outside of mass-marketed content. The festival provides a helpful filter: out of the colossal supply of new, creative projects, a select menu is thoughtfully chosen for viewers to experience. In years past, DCIFF has received over 2,500 submissions, and the largest festivals often receive several thousands of feature films and twice as many shorts. In other words, attendees get to see the best of new work without either wading through the many thousands of films that will eventually be online, or only seeing work that has been noticed by distributors and deemed marketable to mass audiences. There is, too, the unique opportunity for attendees to meet and engage with filmmakers and learn more about the process and technique that goes into making the on-screen stories that have become such a large part of our cultural experience.

Finally, cultural community is enforced when there is a space made for people to come together, share an experience of a new perspective, and discuss what’s just been encountered. Communities choose to engage new art in clusters and film festivals play an important role in providing that venue for connection to stories that inspire, educate, and ask the right questions. DCIFF’s strong history of creating that space—for filmmakers and attendees alike—promises a worthwhile opportunity in this year’s festival in February!  If you want to receive updates about festival programming, sign up here

Exclusive Interview with DCIFF Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard

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Deirdre Evans-Pritchard, DCIFF Executive Director

Film festivals involve many moving parts: from reviewing submissions and communicating with filmmakers to attracting press and hosting screenings and awards. Arguably, DCIFF offers more than most festivals through its workshops, seminars, and masterclasses, as well as the high-school film competition and Congressional summit (“On the Hill”). Behind every successful organization, of course, is a dedicated team and visionary leadership.

In this post, we meet that leadership, DCIFF Executive Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard and learn a little bit about her background and vision for the festival. Deirdre leads DCIFF through her expertise in programming, fundraising, and building partnerships.

Join our recent conversation, get to know Deirdre, and through her, DCIFF!

How did you initially get involved with DCIFF?

Many years ago, I was involved in setting up the Anthropos Documentary Festival in LA, the forerunner of AFI Docs, so when I moved to DC I kept linked into film activities. When I met Carol Bidaut, DCIFF’s founder, I felt that I shared her sense of the importance of assuring non-conformist, non-aligned and non-mainstream creative film programming in DC. Several years later, I volunteered to keep the festival alive when Carol left the city. I hope that over the last seven years I have made the festival internationally recognized and respected without sacrificing her original vision.

You’ve helped select several years of screenings, so can you help frame the type of content that attendees should expect to see at DCIFF?

DCIFF is independent not just because the films are indie (and the definition of what is an indie film is murky nowadays as production expands worldwide and Hollywood’s production power dilutes) but because it is not stuck on any one one theme, style or format. Each year will be different but always inclusive, energetic, educational and a chance to meet many filmmakers. Our aim is to be fresh, risk-taking, cutting-edge and willing to turn on a dime. We hope our audiences get caught up in that energy and join our community for the ride. 2018 will, of course, see parties, seminars, and screenings, with a chance to talk to filmmakers. We’ll also celebrate animation and filmmaking by getting everyone involved in making things. This year, we plan to dig into issues of fake news and how to make films in dangerous circumstances.

You’ve spent considerable time in the film industry, shaping film festivals on both coasts and teaching at USC’s Cinema School. Why do film festivals need to happen?

That’s simple: people are making amazing work, but there are limited avenues to see it. DCIFF programs events and holds screenings that highlight and frame great film art in ways that benefit everyone. The impact of watching films together in a big theater and then talking about it or hearing from the artist is still powerful. In fact, now that watching moving images is so mundane, a festival like DCIFF really is a temple to great talent because we select finalists from such a large number of submissions.

Filmmaking is one form of storytelling, set apart from literature, theatre, and television series. What does a concise, on-screen story give us that these other forms of storytelling don’t?

I am a trained anthropologist and folklorist and in all cultures storytelling has always been both visual and aural. To me, film is the way this has continued into the modern world, and it is much more clearly linked to traditional storytelling than the written word. Why do children’s books have illustrations? …because before we are trained to prioritize reading, we link what we see to what we hear. So I think of film as an invention that was just waiting to happen and one that—the complexities of editing and production aside—plugs into our natural way of experiencing the world.

Washington, DC’s film scene includes a long list of film festivals devoted to showcasing work that is specific to one genre, culture, or topic. Yet, we review thousands of submissions from around the world in several categories! How is DCIFF set apart from other area festivals and what do we offer that’s valuable to filmmakers? 

Yes indeed, DC is awash in film festivals, a testament to how many films are out there worth watching. DCIFF is proud to be part of this regional film festival community but we have a very clear mission different from many festivals around us. We are a competitive festival with the mission of forwarding the careers of emerging and established filmmakers of exceptional talent who work locally, nationally and internationally. So we do not curate films (except for our retrospectives or films shown in honor of specific filmmakers). We honestly do not know the lineup of the festival until a couple of months beforehand. It is a surprise for us ourselves, how the programming lines up each year! But, we do always have an educational section—workshops, masterclasses and seminars—and now that so many people are making movies, we find that people interested in getting acquainted with filmmaking attend, not just the film professionals.

We work hard to offer a festival experience that honors filmmakers for their work and rewards them with networking opportunities. For a filmmaker, what are the most valuable and enjoyable aspects of attending?

When filmmakers attend DCIFF they often end up building new networks and sometimes go on to work together after they leave. Also, we pride ourselves on looking after filmmakers as best we can when they attend. But the main thing is always the pleasure of watching your film screened in a big theater with an engaged audience and then answering their questions afterwards. And then of course, this year, it looks as if we will have some cash awards as prizes…and that’s always a draw!

Thanks, Deirdre, for sharing with blog readers—what a pleasure!

Thanks, Daniel, for talking to me about DCIFF and welcome as the festival’s new blogger. We look forward to learning about things filmic of interest to those in DC, other filmmakers and lovers of film.