FilmGate Interactive’s third iteration starts today in Miami. The film festival/conference is an interactive, immersive event that is part entertainment and part an educational workshop for emerging filmmakers. The creative and independent organization is quickly rising to be the main stage for “transmedia” storytelling in South Florida. It is a new field, and an exciting one, as its technology-heavy aspects have lowered the barriers of entry associated with traditional filmmaking. “There are a lot more women and is a more egalitarian and definitely independent,” says Diliana Alexander, Executive Director of FilmGate.
FilmGate Interactive is a creative conference living at the intersection of storytelling and new technology and runs from Feb. 20 – 28. Now in its third year, it promises to deliver well-rounded content while making it fun as well. The week is packed with events for everyone. As a film lover, I cannot wait to experience some of the interactive screenings, but there are plenty of events for filmmakers that are simply not available anywhere else in South Florida.
There is a cornucopia of events to attend this year in a short time span, which can easily become overwhelming. “This year there are a couple of themes behind the conference,” says Alexander. The thematic strands behind this year’s events are climate change, the right to privacy and death. Sobering issues that are covered via interactive filmmaking, like One Dark Night, which re-casts the story of Trayvon Martin’s death through a fully immersive virtual reality experience. According to Alexander this a “must-see” interactive exhibit. Director Nonny de la Peña has been leading the charge on advocating for experiential journalism and using transmedia, as it changes how we receive information. In a recent TED Talk, she made the case for virtual reality technology use in journalism that puts the audience inside the story.
The festival is also spotlighting France this year, and one of the more important representatives of the nation comes via the screening of Wei or Die, a 90 minute interactive feature film by Simon Bouisson. The screening is a North American premiere and will be shown with subtitles. This is another of the must-see films in FilmGate Interactive. Wei or Die is a multi-camera narrative that tells the story of hazing gone wrong. Bouisson, along with the film’s producer, will attend FilmGate Interactive. Another not-to-miss screening is Do Not Track, an interactive web documentary about tracking data on line.
A new addition to this year’s FilmGate Interactive is “The Percolator Industry Pitch Session,” which aims to connect filmmakers with local talent. The program entails a training session on how to pitch ideas to networks and will be followed by actual opportunities to pitch to a few networks including VICE, MTV and others still to be confirmed. Up to 15 local filmmakers will be able to pitch their ideas to individual networks, which will then gather for a closing panel to give feedback to the entire class of participants on what worked and what didn’t. “Even people who were not able to participate in each session will be a part of it through the workshop,” says Alexander. This is an innovative idea that is clearly a welcome addition to South Florida, home to talented people that at times struggle to connect with the right resources to create locally.
Finally, it wouldn’t be South Florida without a kick ass party. FilmGate Interactive hosts its “kickoff” party mid-festival, on Thursday, at 7 p.m., at the Deauville Beach Resort. In addition to a great time, there are a pair of free events and several ticketed workshops like a sound workshop, led by Billy Wirasnick who has helped pioneer the Slow TV movement in the U.S. “Sound is such an important asset in immersive filmmaking,” says Alexander. Also, local actor and Emmy Award Winner Jordi Vilasuso will lead a two-day intensive Master Class designed for actors. The festival will also host a three-day Cinematography class in Stiltsville with RED Digital Cinema led by Phil Holland, a digital imaging specialist on several notable movies, including credits on several X-Men and Fast & Furious movies. Also it sounds idyllic to be in such a unique, historical location.
The festival kicked off in 2013 thanks to a winning a big grant during the Knight Foundation’s Arts Challenge that allowed FilmGate to become an international Conference, which allowed the festival to bring some of the most innovative storytellers from Canada, London and France to Miami. Alexander says the grant allowed for than important guests to take part in the festival but also brought important ideas to it. “Being a Knight Grantee, outside of financial assistance, also introduces you to other amazing projects, and we have gained many collaborators from just sitting beside other recipients of amazing projects and loving what they are doing,” she says.
As the film community grows in South Florida, there will be more need to build peer-to-peer bridges and share technical knowledge about filmmaking. This is one of those areas where FilmGate shines. Although South Florida is not a filmmaking hub, that dream may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.
For tickets go to: www.filmgate.miami. Individual screenings are $10 for subscribers. Advanced tickets are $60 and include access to the Tech Playground, workshops, projects and an invitation to the launch event. An All Access Pass can also be purchased for $120, which includes invitations to industry happy hours, the kickoff pool party at the Deauville Hotel and the Future Survivor themed closing party and awards ceremony.