The Fairhope Film Festival is around the corner and will be taking place Nov. 1-13. Those behind the scenes have been hard at work to make sure the event will be ready to roll.
Festival director Mary Riser has been working with her team to put the festival together through a process that takes about eight months to complete. Riser has been curating films for 18 years now and is looking forward to putting on the annual event.
“We will continue to show 40-plus award-winning films that have been produced in the last year to 18 months,” Riser explains. “We have films that are international [with subtitles] and English speaking, documentaries and narratives. Plus we show 20 to 30 short films each year. I am attending film festivals to get the best of the best.”
Along with the task of discovering films to show comes the responsibility of finding the proper allocations to fund the event. Pat Hawthorne is a dedicated volunteer who assists in getting financial support for the event.
“I help the Fairhope Film Festival executive director and board of directors think of other streams of income for this local 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We write grant requests, as well as sponsorship letters, to local businesses and individuals who have a love of film, or see the value Fairhope Film Festival brings to our community,” Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne stressed how important it is for the community to play a part in helping the film festival be successful.
“Ticket sales traditionally cover less than one-third of the cost to hold a festival of this caliber. It has to be a community-supported event to survive,” she said. “The city, the downtown merchants, other local businesses and those who love the arts have all contributed.”
Once the funds are secured, the rest of the festival falls into place with plenty to offer movie lovers and casual film viewers alike.
Related events include a filmmaker panel, a showing of several shorts, as well as an opening night party and a red carpet awards ceremony.
To kick off the festival, an opening night party is thrown on the first Thursday, where guests and filmmakers can socialize and discuss the films shown throughout the festival. The filmmaker panels, according to Riser, are consistently popular with the crowds.
“Our filmmaker panels, free to the public, are always a big hit,” she said. “Last year we hosted 30-plus filmmakers and many spoke about the craft of filmmaking. For instance, Catherine Hicks is a Pixar Animation Studio Animator and she spoke about the craft of animation movies. Jackson Hill brought a drone and spoke about and demonstrated its value in making film.”
The viewing of the short films is another popular aspect of the festival. According to Riser, the event is “well received” and they typically choose films that are shorter than 20 minutes. Riser explains, “An audience for the beauty and importance of short films is definitely growing as people are more exposed to shorts.”
To close things out with a bang, the red carpet party is held on Saturday night and it also serves as the festival’s award ceremony. According to Hawthorne, “The catering and band were top notch and the Eastern Shore Art Center was decorated like never before. 2015 was truly a red carpet event in Fairhope — or, as Eva Golson [director of the Mobile Film Office] likes to say, ‘in little LA [lower Alabama].’”
Hawthorne added the party is open to the public but the event is not free like the opening night party.
“The Red Carpet party is an exclusive sponsorship by our Film Mogul and although tickets are sold to the public, it’s at a reduced rate because this is such an upscale party. Last year, tickets were sold for $30 but food cost alone was $50 per person.”
Although the film festival is several months away, they are still doing things to promote the event and the art of filmmaking. Every last Monday of the month until June, the festival committee shows a film in the theater at their office in Fairhope.
Over the years the festival has been growing and Riser expects the 2016’s to be one of the biggest yet.
“We expect a larger number of participants as more and more people who love films hear about us. We draw from the local area and regions. People come from Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Last year, we even had one moviegoer from Alaska,” she said.
Tickets for the 2016 films and events will be sold on the FFF website after mid-October (www.fairhopefilmfestival.org) and can be picked up at the FFF box office starting Nov. 9. Anyone can sponsor now by calling 251-990-7957 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The FFF is a fun event for casual and die-hard film lovers alike. As the festival’s web site says, “Meet us on our front porch this fall to catch a bay breeze and 70 select tales you won’t forget.”
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