The Sioux City International Film Festival, which runs next week, will give moviegoers a chance to glimpse aspiring talent from around the world.
The festival, which started in 2005, has seen the film industry evolve over the last 13 years, according to organizers Rick Mullin and Adam Gonshorowski.
“It went from VHS to digital, which is incredibly easier to deal with,” said Mullin, president of the festival.
“The quality of the films has gone up tremendously,” said Gonshorowski, a Sioux City filmmaker who attended film school in Los Angeles. “It may be the ease of access for filmmakers to get high quality equipment, or it may be we have access to more filmmakers due to the online film submission platforms, but the quality of films has gone up exponentially.”
Because movie theaters are saturated with big-budget action movies and sequels, it can be tough to find movies that rely heavily on a strong story line. This festival celebrates small films with great stories audiences otherwise wouldn’t get to see on the big screen.
“We like good movies,” said Mullin. “A lot of the movies that play in the mall and at the Promenade are the big-budget films that involve lots of special effects and very little story line. We like movies with a good story and good acting, but the bottom line is the story. We get 200 to 300 submissions per year, and a lot of the movies are beautiful visually, but there is no story, so you don’t care. If there is no story, we aren’t going to show it. To me the fun part of the festival is coming to see the small films you won’t see anywhere else.”
Whittling down the submissions to about 60 films to be shown at the festival is a delicate process.
“That’s the hard part,” said Mullin. “These are all short films, and we know for each showing we need to have an hour and a half to two hours of film.”
“We are definitely limited by time,” said Gonshorowski. “If we have two great films that are 15 minutes each and one really great film that runs 30 minutes we have to weigh our options so we can figure out the pacing of our program.”
“The film festival board members are broken into groups to judge each category of film,” said Mullin. “We have an online rating system, so at the end of the process it becomes clear which movies were the really great ones, the ones we will feature in the festival. From within those, the judges will go on to choose the best film in each genre. The really fun part happens during the festival when the audience gets to choose a film from every genre to win the audience choice award.”
Oscar nominee, TV pro join festival
This year, in addition to all of the film submissions, the festival will welcome Andy Behring, director of more than 100 episodes of television shows, including “Gotham,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Flash,” and former Sioux Cityan Ron Clements, writer and director of Disney’s “Moana,” “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Both will lead workshops during the festival which will be free to the public.
“The workshops this year are fantastic,” said Gonshorowski. “They rival any of the workshops I attended while living in LA. This is access to people we don’t normally get in this area. You will get to interact with them and learn first-hand how their filmmaking processes work."
Behring will break down a couple episodes of TV he directed, telling what choices he made while shooting these episodes to make them fit into the bigger picture of the season. Clements will share his story of going from KCAU in Sioux City to Disney.
“When Clements was a senior at Heelan, he would get out of school and go to KCAU, where he worked with George Lindblade,” said Mullin. “Lindblade provided him with access to a camera and some film and, when he wasn’t working at the station, he was able to create his first animated film, ‘Shades of Sherlock,’ which featured Mickey Mouse as Sherlock Holmes. This film led him to get noticed by Hanna-Barbera and, eventually, Disney, which turned the film into ‘The Great Mouse Detective.’ Since then he has written and directed many of Disney’s modern classics.”
After last year’s festivities were cut short due to a harsh February snowstorm, the organizers decided September would be a better month in which to hold the event.
“The filmmakers couldn’t come in, and people couldn’t come to the movies, so we just shut it down,” Mullin said of the last event. "It was a disappointing thing, and we decided we were not going to go there again. We figured the middle of September would be a sweet spot where we wouldn’t have snow or be bumping into many major events.”
With five days of movies featuring multiple genres and films made from as far away as Kosovo, there will be something at the festival for every moviegoer.
“It’s fun and inexpensive,” said Mullin. “There will be free Jolly Time popcorn and a cash bar, along with food trucks. It’s a great entertainment option.”
“If you are sitting at the festival and don’t like the film you are watching, just wait 10 minutes and another one will start,” said Gonshorowski. “It’s going to be a celebration of cinema.”