I just got back from a wonderful weekend in Glens Falls attending the Adirondack Film Festival for my short “The Gaze” and Kelsey’s short “Revelations.” Kelsey & I attended last year and absolutely loved it. Here’s that recap, which details all the amazing aspects of the festival we were delighted to discover for the first time. This year, we were thankfully joined by Dani Thomas, our team member and Kelsey’s fiancée, for the whole 4-day trip, as well as “Revelations” Cinematographer Kimberly Drew Whiten and her girlfriend Rosemary Janeiro on Saturday. We all had a blast.
We were initially disappointed to see that, despite having two screenings for each film (one on each day), our blocks were actually programmed up against each other both days. We realized this would mean having to divide and conquer during our screenings, rather than be there to support each other. However, it actually ended up being kind of cool swapping screenings between the two days. The venues are all in walking distance, so it was easy to head over to each other’s block after we each introduced our respective film.
The audience reactions to both films were great! “Revelations” got a low of “aww”s at a sweet moment, and many people commented on how touching the short was and that they especially appreciated the representation of queer women over 40. “The Gaze” got a really loud “HA!” at an appropriate moment towards the end, which was fun to hear. Some filmmakers had nice comments after, and I had 2 local encounters that were really thrilling. One was when a man who I’d assume would dislike my film (based on a conservative appearance), came over to tell me he really enjoyed it and was considering buying one of the drawings based on it (more on the drawings later). And the other was when a young couple came over at the afterparty and said they just had to meet me and discuss the “brilliance” of my film. One of the young women was a local college student and an aspiring actor. She was so excited to chat with me that I couldn’t help but be really excited to chat with her! I’m glad the film resonated so much. It was a joy meeting and speaking with them.
Beyond our own screenings, we all watched over 50 shorts and multiple features. We went to parties and ate amazing meals. And most of all, made a bunch of new friends. I’m not going to recap the whole experience because it would be unnecessarily long (too late?). But I’d like to highlight some reasons why this festival is truly something special. Between my own work and traveling to festivals for my role with Seed&Spark, I’ve attended probably 100 festivals at this point, including some top tier ones. And this one just completely stands out. It's definitely in my top 3 as a filmmaker.
The community really shows up! This festival has 6 screens going at once the entire time and somehow manages to nearly fill all rooms. I’ve been in screenings where there are 200 people sitting there, which you’d think would mean the other venues are empty, but in fact none has less than 30 people and most have significantly more. I’ve never experienced local, non-filmmaker crowds like this. It’s truly wonderful. At both screenings of both “The Gaze” and “Revelations,” 60 people were in the room. Seriously. We counted. During the same window of time, we each had somewhere between 58 and 65 people watching our film. And this happened two days in row! That’s amazing, and that was in just 2 of the 6 venues.
Speaking of the venues, they’re great! They all have excellent picture and sound. Even the ones that aren’t actual theaters have an immersive quality thanks to efforts of the technical staff. They all also have a lot of character that give you a sense of the town.
And the town itself is worthwhile. It’s really easy and enjoyable to walk around. There are great shops and restaurants (with vegan options). And with the fall foliage, just standing around in the center of town is its own reward.
The programming is excellent! Head of Programming Jess Levandoski talks about her programming process in this article. I really respect her taste, and I appreciate her commitment to inclusion and representation. The audience is pretty homogeneous (white and mostly retirement age). So I think it’s wonderful that Jess makes it a point to program content that will possibly challenge their points of view. (And I find it equally wonderful that they all keep coming out for those diverse perspectives each year.) The shorts blocks are put together with such thoughtful curation and aren’t crammed with too many films (they all cap out around 60 minutes). And I really, really love that they create an overt distinction between invitational features (called “headliners”) and the truly independent features coming from submissions. I talked more about this last year, since we were there with a feature.
The accommodations and community-building are top notch. The festival takes care of the filmmakers in big and small ways! Not only does the festival offer a free hotel room to every single film with someone in attendance, they also have free food at a party every night and at one filmmaker breakfast. The festival staff members are also super warm and welcoming. They all recognize you and your film, and really make filmmakers feel special. This is most apparent in the existence of the Tooning In Gallery, which consists of drawings by local artist Anthony Richichi. He draws at least one piece inspired by a frame in each film that has a representative in attendance. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. It’s such a lovely element of the festival, and obviously so much work on his part. I just love it!
I will say that the one con amongst all the pros of the festival is the fact that they don’t have Q&As. I believe it’s because they want to keep things perfectly on time and running smoothly (which they totally do), and Q&As can be unpredictable. But if they’d just build the time into the blocks, I think this very attentive audience would be super into having Q&As. As filmmakers, we don’t just want to see our work in front of a crowd; we want to hear feedback and know how things are being interpreted. We want to discuss our artistic intentions and talk about the making of what we and our collaborators did together. There were so many times through the weekend where I desperately wanted a Q&A. Not even for my own work, but for others. I had questions for the filmmakers, but had to run to catch another screening. Or, even if I could spend the time talking to the filmmaker(s) one-on-one after, what I really wanted was to hear what that particular audience would say or ask about the film(s) in a group setting. There was one block, probably my favorite of the bunch that I saw, called Laugh Therapy. It featured comedies about the experience of being a woman. I feel it tackled underrepresented subject matters in entertaining ways. There were 200 people there and they were laughing non-stop through the block. I would have seriously loved to hear the conversations that’d come out of that room. I think it would’ve been a cathartic experience for so many people involved. The lack of Q&As is the only thing that disappoints me about a festival that is otherwise phenomenal. I hope that they listen to all the filmmakers asking for Q&As this year, and incorporate them next year. And, of course, I hope I’ll be there next year to experience it!
Local Vegan Treat:
Catch “The Gaze” next at:
Nightmares Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, October 25th
Ax Wound Film Festival in Brattleboro, Vermont, November 15th or 16th
“Revelations” premieres on our site on November 5th!