Ken Wajda wants to be very clear upfront: "No sponsors, no gift bags, and no four-star hotels." In other words, this ain't Sundance or Telluride -- festivals that some feel have bowed to big money and become too commercial for the filmmakers' good.
The first annual Westcliffe Digital Film Festival aims to set its roots wearing its convictions on its sleeves -- 100 percent of the profits will be given back to the filmmakers as grants. This is digital film -- by the makers, for the makers. We the viewers get the pleasure of going along for the ride.
Where else can you catch cutting-edge new film while lounging on hay bales under an outdoor screen at the base of the formidable Sangre de Cristo Mountains? Or when have you caught a flick inside of an old train depot? Wajda, a contributing photographer to the Indy, wants you to think "Woodstock of film" when you think of the Westcliffe film festival.
"I'm going to pull this off for under $1,000; this is truly a guerilla film festival," said Wajda, creator and organizer of the event.
How's this possible, when some festivals go under with budgets in the six-figure range? Passion for the craft, hard work and creative talent, among other things.
Wajda is set to make history when the credits roll this weekend -- fitting, as digital media itself has revolutionized the filmmaking scene.
One secret to Wajda's method: free press via postings on forum pages of film related Web sites. Not a single dollar has been spent on advertising.
The reasonable submission fee from filmmakers will cover the weekend's budget on the festival's end, and the $5 per film entry fee will be returned to the contributors via the grants. Even the filmmakers are all self-financed.
Another unique aspect of Westcliffe's festival is that guests are encouraged to camp out under the Rocky Mountain stars, though lodging in town will also be available.
Seventeen films are premiering, and at least five of the filmmakers will be on hand to host panel discussions and represent their films. Subject and form are diverse, ranging from Gangsta Knitter, a two-minute music video/ comedy that combines rap with knitting, to Jeannine Ross's 52-minute documentary Florida Fights Back, a film about the debacle of the Florida 2000 presidential election, told from the residents' point of view. Parties at a local restaurant, Sangrita, will be held Friday for the opening and Sunday for the awards brunch. Saturday viewers can also attend a barbecue.
Westcliffe has many other entertainment offerings and is a perfect base for day-trip outings for folks who want a mix of leg-stretching and moviegoing. Visit www.westcliffedigitalfilmfestival.com for a list of venues, area information and a complete schedule of festival screenings and events.
-- Matthew Schniper
First annual Westcliffe Digital Film Festival presented by Westcliffe Independent Film Association
Friday-Sunday, Aug. 27-29
Single film screening $5. Associated parties and discussions $5-$15.
Call 719/783-9283 for more information, or go online at www.westcliffedigitalfilm festival.com