My favorite time of year is upon us where the weather is not too hot and the events around Valley are in abundance. But the one I am most anticipating is the 15th Annual Phoenix Film Festival. The Phoenix Film Festival annually screens over 150 films and has been named one of The 25 Coolest Film Festivals by MovieMaker Magazine. Founded in 2000 by independent filmmakers as an opportunity to showcase independent filmmaking and has quickly become Arizona’s largest film festival.
This year its opening night is on March 26th and concludes on April 2nd. Last year’s festival saw over 25,000 attendees and there are hopes to pull in even more film enthusiasts this year. The week-long Festival will be held once again at Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theaters located at 7000 E. Mayo Blvd. Phoenix, AZ 85054.
I had the amazing opportunity to speak with festival director Jason Carney and discuss the selection process, the theme of the festival and their Sunday event “Geek Day” which is free to attend.
What qualities do you look for in the non competition films that you personally handle?
Jason: I love for a film that will appeal to our audience that is also a high quality film. We also look for a diverse group of films. Many other festivals that you go to have a narrow theme like just comedies or dramas but we try to bring in as many different genres as possible just to give the audience a lot of options. We try to program a little something for everyone.
What do you want the filmmakers and the film goers to gain from this years line up?
Jason: For our filmmakers we want to give them a bigger audience and a quality presentation to showcase their films. We have a stellar reputation with filmmakers out there and it’s because we are giving them access to a larger audience and a great theater like the Harkins Scottsdale 101. For our film goers we want to give them access to films that they may not see anywhere else. The great thing having the filmmakers there. It’s what separates a film festival from just going to the movies by having the filmmakers there to talk about their films and interact and bond with the audience.
Your festival is hosting a “Geek Day” on Sunday March 29th. What does that event entail?
Jason: So we wanted to set up our party pavilion to bring in all of these different vendors of geek culture to set up different booths at no charge. We wanted to have a nice wide variety of booths of various geek culture to have a fun day. It’s great because its free for the vendors and for the audience to come out and check everything out. Some of our vendors include Samurai Comics, National Comedy Theater, and all kinds of crazy fun booths.
What inspired you to put on this event?
Jason: We wanted to have a theme for Sunday of that weekend. Friday night is usually our Industry Night which kind of caters to the local film community. On Saturday we have Kids Day which is gear towards kids ages 3-12 with lots of hands on film activities. So Sunday was a day where we thought we could really create a signature event and the Geek Day idea was created and we just ran with it.
So can you tell me a little bit about the International Sci-Fi and Horror Film Festival that is going on at the same time?
Jason: So it’s actually a festival within our festival that caters to Sci-Fi and Horror. Each day we have one theater dedicated to showing all horror and sci-fi content and then late at night we use four or five theaters to show more horror and sci-fi films.Previously the International Horror and Sci-Fi festival was held in October but trying to run two large film festivals a year was a tough challenge. So we decided to bring them together to give horror and sci-fi filmmakers a large platform to show their films. It was a natural way to bring them together by integrating it into the main festival.
What is your personal favorite part of the film festival?
Jason: It’s the experience of having the filmmakers there. It’s a bond that gets created during the festival. The great part of our festival is that everything takes place in one location, all of our screenings, parties, and special events. So we create this great community during the week-long event where you have audience members and filmmakers interacting outside of the film. Audience members waiting in the lobby can interact with the filmmakers because they are so accessible. It’s really cool. You go there and you say “I just saw this guys film and now he’s standing in line next to me for the next film.” The filmmakers are there to see each others films too. The filmmakers and audience create this great community that you don’t see at other festivals and that’s something that I am most proud of.
Any recommendations for Geeky films at the festival this year?
Jason: There is one film we have called “Makin’ Wookie” which is about a group of young actors putting on a musical parody of “Star Wars.” That one is going be a blast.
*Makin’ Wookie will be shown on Tuesday March 31st at 5:00pm.
Tickets and passes are on sale now and available through the Phoenix Film Festival website www.PhoenixFilmFestival.com. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Phoenix Film Festival Ticket Center next to the Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theater.
Tickets range in price from $13 for a single screening to $300 for a platinum pass. For more information call 602-955-6444 or go to www.PhoenixFilmFestival.com.