EWU film professor oversees 20th year of Spokane film festival

By Dayana Morales, Arts & Entertainment Editor

This year, EWU is the Presenting Sponsor for the 20th annual Spokane International Film Festival (SpIFF), taking place from Feb. 2 to 9.

The festival offers a small selection of world-class films, comprised of the best international features and shorts. The three types of films in the festival will be: shorts, which are up to 25 minutes; 25 minutes and pass, which is a mid-length that can go up to 50 minutes; and 50 minutes and pass, which is a feature.

The festival exists to promote smaller films. Here, films that didn’t get commercially released for wide distributions get the chance to be seen in a more intimate setting. The filmmakers also get to engage with their audience.

“The filmmakers are our special guests,” said SpIFF Director Chase Ogden. “I think it is a big advantage to the festival that you get to meet the people that make the movies you watch. We do get a lot of filmmakers that are either established in the indie circuit or up-and-comers.”

Ogden is a filmmaker himself and an EWU professor in the film department. Ogden was on the SpIFF board prior to becoming director for five years. For the last four years he was a programmer.

For shorts, they use programs called Filmfreeway and Withoutabox. Both work as festival portals. This is where filmmakers upload their films, along with all of the information about it.  After that, they find the festival they want to submit to and pay the fee.

“Then our programmers watch all of those films, at least two people on every film, we usually try for three of four,” said Ogden. “The ones that get the most likes, we try to find a way to pair them into packages based on region. The Best of the Northwest is all shorts from the Pacific Northwest, and then we have U.S. and Canada, which are all English language shorts. Then we have world shorts, which are from everywhere that is not U.S. and Canada. We also have an animation showcase, which is also world shorts. We do take mid-lengths as well. They are harder to program than shorts are but this year we actually are playing two mid-lengths, one with Best of the Northwest and one leading up to a feature that’s shorter.”

Although features are submitted, fewer of them are seen than shorts.

“The rest of our feature holes we actually approach filmmakers or distributors based on work we’ve seen or heard about at other festivals,” Ogden said.

Ogden gathers a pool of potential films, which the senior programmers review. Then they narrow it down to eight films that they enjoyed.

Each day of the festival has its own schedule, with a different showing. Everything besides the Best of the Northwest will screen three times at the Magic Lantern Theater. The Magic Lantern Theater is a smaller setting and that is why they will have the encore screenings here. The Best of the Northwest films will be playing at The Bing Crosby Theater.   

Opening and closing parties will be available to all ticket holders. There will be free food and a cash bar if you are 21.

“They’re a really valuable part of a festival because it’s about mingling with other film lovers and audience that you know are of a like mind,” Ogden said.