Three years ago, Brooklynite Morgan Rae Berk successfully gathered the surfers that inhabit the concrete capillaries of New York City to give them something they yearned for: surf. No, it wasn't a session at nearby Rockaway. It was almost better -- Mexico, Costa Rica and Indonesia -- and all on the big screen. Berk launched the Surf Film Fest NYC in 2007, and its third installment landed in Tribeca Sept. 24-26. Coming this Friday and Saturday, New York City will for the first time have the chance to see its chillier little brother: the Snow Film Fest NYC.
"Someone asked me, 'Why not start a ski and snowboard festival?" says Berk. "So I did!" And with 1,875 out of 2,500 seats sold at Tribeca Cinemas, it's clear it hasn't gone unnoticed.
Berk's is just one amidst a plethora of powder-filled cinematic events this year. Alongside Snow Film Fest NYC enters the brand new Summit Action Sports Festival (Dec. 8-11 in Breckenridge, Colo.), and festivals like Whistler's eight-year-old Telus Fest Filmmaker Showdown, Aspen's six-year-old The Meeting, and the fourth-annual International Freeski Film Festival (iF3), in Canada and France, are also blossoming.
"We think it's great there are other festivals in the snow world popping up. These talented filmmakers need platforms," says Ann Wycoff, co-founder of X-Dance (Jan. 21-25 in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah), the original action sports film festival, which started in 2001 and coincides with Sundance.
But do the filmmakers agree? It's divided. "As a smaller production company, festivals help a lot," says 31-year-old Eric Iberg, whose film "Like a Lion," about freeskier Tanner Hall, premiered at iF3 in Montreal on Sept. 17. "It takes as much effort to create a tour as it does a film."
Bigger name companies, like famed ski film company Matchstick Productions, don't see it that way. Submission fees, handing over free copies of the film and hiring employees to juggle logistics can end up costing them money, especially when ticket sales don't circle back to filmmakers. "We lose the quality control that we have on our own movie tour," says Michael Hans, MSP's Director of Business Operations.
Film festivals also do something for filmmakers that they may not even realize: "Festivals push filmmakers," says FUEL TV's SVP of Programming and Marketing, Shon Tomlin, who has attended X-Dance since its inception. "They watch each other's films and it has elevated the quality of filmmaking and story-telling."
The Meeting, which convenes in Aspen in late September, has modeled its festival after that exact idea; between open-to-the-public movie screenings, there are industry sessions with speakers, panels and discussions where topics such as cinematography techniques, distribution strategies and the state of the industry are covered. "Having a good time and learning something in the process makes the trip worthwhile," says filmmaker and photographer Stan Evans, who's film "Say My Name," about freeskier Grete Eliassen, will showcase everywhere from X-Dance to the Summit Action Sports Festival.
But the best thing about hosting a snow film fest, especially in a place like New York? Bringing the mountain experience to folks who may not have lived it. Even Matchstick Productions is on board with Snow Film Fest NYC for their latest film, "The Way I See It." "The shows that interest us don't overlap with markets where we already host screenings," says Hans, "It enables us to reach a bigger audience."
Evans is also chomping at the bit: "New York City is one of the most concentrated areas of influential people in the world. Perhaps one of our films will make someone's day and they'll tell others about it."
-- Nov. 19-20: Snow Film Fest NYC, New York
-- Nov. 20: International Freeski Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada
-- Dec. 8-11: Summit Action Sports Film Festival , Breckenridge, Colo.
-- Jan. 21-25, 2011: X-Dance, Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah
-- April 15-24, 2011: 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown, Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival, Whistler, Canada
-- TBA, 2011: The Meeting, Aspen, Colo.