adirondack film festival

Adirondack Film Festival Recap

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:

“Revelations” premieres on our site on November 5th!

Adirondack Film Festival Recap

We just wrapped up an AMAZING weekend in Glens Falls for our About a Donkey screening at the Adirondack Film Festival. It’s a newer festival in its 3rd year that I had honestly not heard of until a few months back. A filmmaker friend told me that they had a great time at the festival the year before, so I decided it was worth the low-ish submission fee to give it a shot with our feature. I’m so glad I did because it is now on my personal list of top film festivals, for sure. There are a few reasons. First, they were extremely organized & communicative leading up to the festival, and overall had a really filmmaker friendly vibe. They also stood out right away because they created a distinction between their high profile feature invitationals (which they called headliners) and the truly independent features in competition that came in via submissions; something festivals so rarely do (blog post on that coming soon). Then they offered all filmmakers one free hotel room during the festival, which is also very rare, especially for ALL filmmakers. And on top of that, they gave us a code for free Uber rides to & from the main venue. So, considering the perks and overall very open & honest approach, I had a good feeling going into the festival. However, I didn’t expect to have as phenomenal a time as we ended up having. 

For one, everyone part of the fest knew who we were right away and made an effort to make us feel included and taken care of the whole weekend. And something incredibly unique & creative is that they had local artist Anthony Richichi create pieces of art inspired by each film with a filmmaker in attendance. Anthony was happy to meet us; he told us he loved our film, and showed us the art he made - which he said was inspired by two moments in the film that really stood out to him. We feel he captured moments that definitely embody those two characters and tend to get good reactions from the audience at screenings. It’s such a cool thing he and the festival do, and it really shows how they make every individual filmmaker feel seen and appreciated. 

And then there’s the audience! For such a new festival, it has some serious community support. So often, especially with a feature, it’s a struggle filling a screening. It requires a lot of networking with the other filmmakers at the fest, hoping that they’ll choose to see your film instead of whatever other films or blocks conflict with it, and promising you’ll do the same for theirs. It can be good for film-community building, but it can also feel salesy and competitive. We’re all film fans, as well as film makers; but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t want the only people at my screenings to be the other filmmakers with work screening at the festival. I love the ways we can support each other, but festivals should be a way to also reach non-filmmakers in their hometowns. Getting one’s work in front of general audiences will always be the dream, but so few festivals actually create that access & engagement. This festival, though, somehow manages to do it! The locals were genuinely excited about the festival’s existence in their town, and they really came out to discover new films and filmmakers. Of course, we did network and make new filmmaker friends too, but the festival didn’t have that pressure of selling your screenings to each other in the way others do. We all just got to pick what interested us most, and show up where we could, when we could.

So, having witnessed the high local turnout at opening night, we were very eager to see what ours would be like. We were a bit skeptical of our 2pm on Friday timeslot, but the 12pm feature screening before us had over 50 people in attendance; and the vast majority seemed to be locals, completely unfamiliar with the film or filmmaker. That got us excited for our own turnout! And it only got more exciting when we saw the staff needing to add more chairs for all the new people coming in for our film! We ended up with a full house of 77 strangers in attendance. There was one filmmaker friend who came to support, but all the others were not only locals to Glens Falls, but seemingly not filmmakers at all. They were exactly the kind of people we wanted to reach, individuals outside our network or usual reach who appreciate independent art but probably wouldn’t seek it out on the kinds of indie platforms our work would later be distributed on. As for the screening itself, the venue was beautiful and the film looked incredible in the space. The film got a lot of laughs. However, there was one negative aspect of the experience; there’s a moment in the film where two women are on the verge of a romantic (but not sexual) moment, and an older woman in the audience got up and walked out with her two young grandsons. And then a kiss happens in the film between those two characters, and another elderly woman shot up out of her seat and walked out at that exact moment. We were definitely disappointed by those two reactions. It put a bit of a downer on the experience for us; but only for a moment because, as soon as the credits rolled, we had people surrounding us with compliments. A woman shouted, “what a beautiful little film” as she exited, and others told us they loved it and that they would vote for us for audience choice. An elderly man, who’s a demographic we thought least likely to identify with our film, chatted with us the longest, asking us questions about the filmmaking process and complimenting us on how strongly the story came together and touched the audience. We were riding high after that, and enjoyed the rest of the day, taking in more screenings (all of which were extremely well attended by locals), and enjoying the filmmaker party that evening. 

On Saturday, we watched a bunch more of the excellent content (programmed by the lovely Programming Director Jessica Levandoski), including films by existing filmmaker friends in attendance. One of my favorite things about the festival, too, is that the thematic shorts blocks were heavily curated and very short. None went over 70 minutes, which I think is perfect. So often, shorts blocks go on for so long without a break, and films don’t get their deserved processing time. I think the scheduling of the festival was really efficient. My only complaint is that they don’t do Q&As. On one hand, I get it & appreciate it for the fact that more films could be screened and people could get from one venue to the next (all 5 were in walking distance) without missing the beginning or end of films. But as a filmmaker, I think a lot of the satisfaction of discussing your work with an engaged audience is lost when there’s no designated Q&A time. We had some great conversations with people who had time to stick around, but I do think we would’ve been able to get more feedback and build relationships with people who’d take an interest in future work if we had the platform to discuss the film in an allotted amount of time immediately after our screenings. That said, I think the festival did an excellent job of facilitating conversations with the local attendees at the evening parties. I’d love to see more balance there in the future, maybe even just 5 minute Q&As for the single screening feature blocks.

Anyway, at 6pm, we had our second screening (another perk of the festival was that all films screened at least twice), where we were put in a smaller venue at the hotel (still looked & sounded excellent) with 40 seats. We had 36 people in attendance. Four were filmmaker friends but all others were locals. It seemed that the Saturday screenings overall were less attended than Friday, and ours was considered one of the bigger crowds of that day. But even so, I didn’t see a single screening with less than 20 people (which was such a refreshing change from our last festival experience). Not to mention, every screening had 4 other screenings happening at the same time. The fact that all were decently attended is seriously impressive. (Trust me, I attend a lot of festivals for work. It’s legit amazing. Only matched, in my experience, by NCGLFF.) Our film, again, got great laughs. And no one walked out this time! Afterwards, many people told us they loved it as they exited. One woman was on the verge of tears and said “thank you for making me feel so good,” which nearly made us cry. Our filmmaker friends complimented how we created “such vivid characters … and so many, in such a short amount of time,” and how much “the family felt like a family,” and they appreciated how well we “built up the sexual tension in the main romance so that it all really paid off.” All lovely comments. An older woman came over to us and said “now, I have to say, as someone over twice your age, you really showed me your world … and it’s not my world, but it’s yours … and all of that is so normal, and that’s just great … and I loved it. Thank you for sharing it with me. And I’m so glad girls made one of the best ones!” It was such an unexpected and sweet comment. We had to decipher it a bit, but we assume she was trying to make a positive statement about the way we presented our queer and interracial relationships in the film as just existing without any drama or needing to label them. And it’s cool that she deemed our film as one of the best she had seen! Also, again, an older man who we wouldn’t expect to come over to express feelings about the film came over and asked what inspired such a creative story, and then told us we did a great job and he really enjoyed it. It was so wonderful having people come up to us with curiosity and appreciation. So few festivals manage to create and capture that kind of engagement (especially when there’s no Q&A or pressure on them to say anything to us at all).

The Adirondack Film Festival is really special and will definitely be a staple on my submission lists moving forward. I recommend you check them out next year; even if you don’t have a film screening - it’s in a sweet & scenic town with beautiful Fall foliage, and the festival has overall very worthwhile programming!


Local Vegan Treat:

Catch the film next at:

  • YoFiFest, November 3rd at 12pm.

  • We have a January screening in Montana & a February screening in California, but we can’t announce those festivals yet. Stay tuned!

P.S. As I was typing this, I received a super sweet message through my website. See below <3

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