Bringing the Festival Experience to AshfordMay 31st, 2011 | Posted by in Film Festivals | Movie Reviews | New Releases
This weekend marks the 5th annual Rainier Independent Film Festival in Ashford, Washington. Ashford, a small town over an hour south of Seattle, is a far cry from the urban atmosphere of Seattle’s current film festival and the festival founders feel this rural community is a welcome change for filmmakers on the festival circuit. IndieFlix is honored to be a supporting partner of this growing festival. I had the chance to speak with Festival Director and Co-Founder, Win Whitaker, earlier this week about his commitment to educating audiences, the variety within this year’s catalog, and the future of the Rainier Independent Film Festival.
Kyle Boynton: Ashford, Washington is a town of less than 300 residences in a rural area of Washington. What inspired you to start a film festival in this region?
Win Whitaker: My wife Sarah and I did the festival circuit with our film, Sherpa – The Proving Grounds, and had decided that to have a festival in this area would be unique in the fact that it would almost be more of a retreat for the filmmakers and very intimate for the festival goers.
KB: Congratulations on your fifth year! How have you seen the festival change over the past few years?
WW: We have definitely learned a lot from the first two years. We do not screen any films during the workshops so the filmmakers have a chance to attend. It also seems that more filmmakers from the Northwest have found us. We now get quite a few short films submitted – I believe that is the result of not having a problem with any length. Many festivals have a hard time screening a 38-minute short film. To us, if the film is quality, we will show it.
KB: What is your goal for the festival? Where do you want to see it in 5 years?
WW: My goal is to break even! It is getting better, but we still end up out of pocket when it is all over. I would like to see more involvement from distributors like IndieFlix. This is what will get the filmmakers excited. Also, with more sponsorship we would be able to give more screening venues – meaning more films! We have to pass on so many great films because we just do not have the screen time.
KB: How did you connect with filmmakers to bring them to this festival?
WW: We have been using primarily Withoutabox. Word is getting out through other avenues as we pass our 4th and 5th annual.
KB: There is a huge variety within this year’s film catalog. What types of films do you like to see at the festival? Any specific themes you want to see more?
WW: Personally I like a wide variety of films – Documentaries, Shorts, Narrative. We have tossed around the idea of themes, but I think at this point it would hamper the quality of the films we actually screen. Meaning we would have to give up a really great film on world peace because are theme for the year is actually “The Association of Corn from the Midwest and How it Affects the Perfect Tortilla”.
KB: Which films are you most excited to screen at this year’s festival? What films have been your favorites in past years?
WW: Actually all the films I am excited about – I am always anticipating the audience reaction to the films and the interaction between them and the filmmakers. Over the past years there are no favorites, but there are a few that I am especially proud to have had at RIFF. The Crimson Mask is one.
KB: What filmmakers are you looking forward to seeing or meeting this year?
WW: Every one of them that comes!
KB: Your festival is committed to educating your audiences, as well as your filmmakers. What are your hopes for this year’s seminars and workshops? How do you hope to expand the educational element of the festival in future years?
WW: Warren Etheredge always gives the best workshops. For filmmakers and audiences, they are highly entertaining and very informative. We had technical workshops the first two years — cameras, editing etc. I would like to see that again.
A very special thanks to Win for taking the time to speak with me.
The IndieFlix team is looking forward to making a road trip and visiting the Rainier Independent Film Festival this weekend. Will you be attending this growing festival? Take a look at the festival’s selections here. What films are you interested in seeing?