Monday, March 02, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Sunday, Day 9

It hasn’t completely sunk in that it’s over. It’s such a surreal experience watching something unfold over the course of the last nine days that you’ve spent twelve months planning. Each little element of the festival, from the font size and type on a poster, to the items of food at a party, to each of the films that we screen, to the number of tables in our booth, are all results of conversations and decisions that we’ve made and to see them all in action is a pretty cool feeling. Another amazing feeling is having so many incredible volunteers and staff members that are just as dedicated to this project as we are. So many things just magically happen and get done around us where we don’t have to do anything, so it’s great having people that are willing to fill in all of the gaps that we leave.

It’s such a massive undertaking to pull something like this off and we know we absolutely couldn’t do it without all of our helpers. To start with, Julie Matthews is responsible for wrangling all of the volunteers as well as a lot of the other office-type duties and I know we couldn’t run the festival without her. Plus the sixty-or so volunteers that give up their free time to spend it with us is fantastic for us, and great for the attendees and filmmakers as well. We’ve got the best group of volunteers out of any of the festivals that we’ve attended so that makes us really proud.

One of the other things I’m proud of in regards to our festival is our judging staff and our judging process. Huge thanks goes out to all of our judges in the feature film, documentary and short film categories. You guys all did an amazing job helping us break down hundreds of excellent films into what we programmed this year so thanks to all of you.

The venues were fantastic again this year as well. Thank you to Teresa at Creighton, Karli at the Omaha Community Playhouse, and Kenny and Walt at the Great Escape Theatre for all you’ve done for us over the last nine days. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect venues and have received nothing but great feedback from all of our attendees and guests about how great they were all treated at each of our venues. We’re proud to call each of them our home for OFF’09 and into the future.

As for our award winners and all of the filmmakers that submitted and attended, I want to thank each of you as well. Picking “winners” is always the most difficult thing to do at the festival, and gladly some of that decision is shared with our audiences in the form of the audience choice prizes. This years’ audience choice awards went to:
“Granny Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” directed by Nicky Phelan – short film
“A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story” directed by Lane Wyrick – documentary
“Touching Home” directed by Logan and Noah Miller – Feature Film

A special award was given this year to the short film for best Cinematography which was a $500 certificate for Eastman/Kodak film which went to the short film:
“Valley of the Moon” directed by John Monteleone

Omaha Film Festival jury prizes were also given in six different categories to the following films:
“Agent 5: A Night in the Last Life Of” directed by Matthew Desotell - OFF the EDGE
“Varmints” directed by Marc Craste – Animated Short
“Coons” directed by Chris Cloyd – Nebraska Short
“Sugar” Alex Beh – Short Film
“Phantom Punch” directed by Robert Townsend – Feature Film
“The Providence Effect” directed by Rollin Binzer – Documentary

Due to some very generous donations and sponsors, we gave out over $14.000 worth of prizes during our awards ceremony so another huge thank you to all of our sponsors. And yes, it is frustrating having to give all of those prizes away!

Thanks to all who attended this year, it was a great event. Let’s do it again!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Saturday, Day 8

Seventeen screenings with films starting at 10:00am and running through 11:45pm in three theaters. That’s about 32% of the entire festival in one day. Sounds like a real treat huh? Today was actually a fantastic day. We went through ten feature films, four documentaries and 27 shorts in three short blocks and in spite of the snow and the ridiculous cold (remember it was 60 degrees out just a couple of days ago) we ended up having some pretty good crowds. The two biggest gatherings were for the special screening of “Sunshine Cleaning” (of which I only got to see about half) and the locally produced film “Grapes: the Story of an Aspiring Serial Killer.” Saturday is also the day when most of the films have their second screening so the filmmakers that were in town for their first screening typically stick around for this one too and we had some tremendous Q&A sessions today.

The crowds that surprised me the most were for the documentaries. People came out in good numbers and the Q&A’s for those are always engaging. I was also pleased with the turnout for the shorts programs. We played all of the shorts except for the Nebraska Short block and people really seem to be enjoying those.

Now with only one day left, I’m starting to feel the melancholy that comes with planning an event for a whole year and finally see it winding down and elation due to the fact that it’s winding down! Sunday will have the two remaining feature film second screenings, and then we’ll have our awards ceremony, followed by the best short film, feature film and documentary, based on the audience choices throughout the week. Gathering the ballots after every screening and tallying them up afterward, then summarizing them and presenting that award is always a fun and interesting process as we get to see what the audience’s reactions are to the films that we’ve chosen to screen.

Tomorrow’s e-mail will be the wrap up and will have all of the thank yous in it, so for today I’m signing out and looking forward to a week’s worth of sleep. And a new thank you to the mystery person that brought us the tall cans of RedBull this afternoon. We couldn’t have gotten there without you.
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