Vail Film Fest is more than movies |

Vail Film Fest is more than movies

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Short Film Competition DT 4-2-08

VAIL, Colorado ” It does seem a bit ridiculous, maybe even a little over-the-top. Trying to watch more than 80 films in four days sounds like a couch potato’s dream come true, unless your dream is to one day have a career in the movie industry. Then forget dark theaters, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to mingle with movie stars and all those lesser-known, but equally-important writers, directors and producers.

The Vail Film Festival may not be as prestigious as Cannes or Sundance, but that doesn’t mean amidst the whirlpool of screenings and camera flashes there aren’t lessons to be learned by aspiring artists in all aspects of the biz.

“You never know who you’re going to be talking to out here. There’s, you know, producers and writers and even, like, if you’re a musician … there’s so many ways to get involved with film,” said Megen Musegades, associate director for the Vail Film Institute.

These days getting a major movie studio to distribute a tiny indie film is extremely difficult, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve an audience. The fact is indie-film makers can use all the help they can get when it comes to getting their film recognized and there is practically no better place to begin than the film festival circuit.

“Now film festivals kind of play a large part in getting your film (distributed),” said Daniel Schechter who wrote and directed the film “Goodbye Baby,” which will play on Saturday at the theater in Arrabelle. “Your best bet is premiering in a really good festival. We premiered at Slamdance (Film Festival), which has a tremendous amount of respect.”

Schechter’s advice is to aim high and try to get your film into the big-name festivals first, but take whatever you can get. To apply for entry into any of the country’s film festivals visit

As Musegades put it, you never know who you will meet at the Vail Film Festival. She said one of the biggest advantages to attending the festival movies is that many of the creators, cast and crew will follow up screenings with Q-and-A sessions. What better way to pick the brain of experienced filmmakers then to ask them questions you’d never otherwise be able to.

“I guess that’s probably one of the coolest things about film festivals,” Musegades said.

Not only that, but you never know whose hands your business card will fall into once you’ve handed it out. Networking at a film festival is a crucial way to make progress in the industry.

This year the Vail Film Festival has a new component: The 48 Hour Reel Quick Film contest which gives filmmakers (or anyone with a camera) the chance to shoot a five-minute short film and enter it into a contest where the winner receives $8,000 worth of movie-production products and tickets to next years festival. The next short film the winners make will automatically be granted a showing at the 2009 Vail Film Festival. Each contestant is given a list of things expected from their film and scenes can only be shot within Vail city limits. This is the perfect opportunity to face the pressure of deadlines, limited budgets and constraining rules that often come with larger productions.

Boulder resident Alan O’Hashi, 54, will be involved in the contest. He has made short films in the past that have made it into various other film festivals.

“I have no career ambitions that’ll be happening out of this or anything like that, but you never know. You never know what’ll happen,” O’Hashi said.

Pouring your heart out onto the pages of a screenplay may seem like easy work to some, but what happens after you’ve written the next “Citizen Kane?” That’s the question Dallas resident Nancy Sanders has to face now that she’s completed a screenplay titled “Poe’s Second Chance” ” the story of a disillusioned TV show host who must reevaluate her life when she meets a man claiming to be Edgar Allan Poe.

Lucky for Sanders, her screenplay is the winner of the Vail Film Festival’s screenplay competition. The first act of her work will be read aloud with emotion by professional theater actors in front of a live audience on Saturday at the festival. The audience can give Sanders feedback, ask her questions and the reading will also give her a chance to see how people react to her script.

The reason people enter their screenplays in festivals is to get feedback on their work and to expose their stories to filmmakers, Sanders said. The end goal is to sell the script, of course.

“This is really exciting for me because it’s a script that I put a lot of time in on,” Sanders said.

Sanders hopes that some interested parties will be in the audience because obviously she wants to see her screenplay made into a feature film.

“Yeah, that’s always the final goal,” Sanders said.

The soundtrack is quickly becoming a key element to many a film’s popularity ” just look at “Juno” or “Garden State.” Getting your music on the soundtrack of a hit movie is one of the best things that could happen to any musician, which L.A.-based singer/songwriter Jay Nash is well aware of. The Festival Music Cafe will feature musicians showcasing their material in hopes that a filmmaker will be touched by one of their songs.

“Music and TV and film is a really important aspect of the independent songwriter’s career,” said Nash, who will be performing at this year’s Vail Film Festival. He has played other festivals in the past and said that he loves the artistic atmosphere they foster.

There is a high probability that some of the same people who decide which songs go on a movie’s soundtrack will be listening this weekend.

“When it’s a great movie and a great song it amplifies and it does something great for everybody … The movie is remembered and the career of the artist is, you know, moved forward,” Nash said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

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