When Stephen Savage founded the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema in 2010, he hoped for success. But now, in year seven, the festival is starting to outgrow its venues. Savage confirmed the awards ceremony, the consummation of the six-day festival, had to be split into two nights because of advanced ticket sales for the ceremony. The Rustic Theatre, home of the festival, can no longer seat all who have bought tickets for the awards. Consequently, the ceremony will be divided into two sections, held on Saturday and Sunday nights, Jan. 9 and 10. The Rustic website lists capacity at 232 seats.
“It’s a testament to off-Hill interest in the festival,” said Savage. “We’re becoming a major ‘go-to’ festival for U.S. independent filmmakers. Another indication of interest in our festival is in our international submissions. Filmmakers in the United Kingdom and Australia are targeting our festival for premiering their films. We also have films from both Iran and Iraq this year.”
Savage said submissions this year are off the charts, with web and music video submissions driving up totals. He estimated there are 133 features, featurettes and shorts, as well as 13 documentaries, in addition to web and music videos. There are four screening venues this year, as there were last year — the Rustic, AstroCamp, Caine Center and Mary Austin (Silver Pines).
Savage anticipates the festival will expand to nine days in 2017 with the likelihood of increasing the number of screening venues.
Increasingly Savage, festival founder and director, has handed day-to-day management to Executive Director and Festival Producer Trinity Houston and Co-producer Martina Webster as he continues his writing and directing career. Savage begins production soon on his most ambitious film, “The Wind of Heaven,” shooting in both California and Montana in spring 2016.
Full festival passes for Hill locals continue to be a bargain, said Savage. At $135 for non-local, full-festival passes, day passes at $35 and single-event passes at $15, full passes for locals are $45 online or $35 pre-sale (anytime prior to opening day) at the Rustic box office. “We always want to increase our local attendance,” said Savage.
Of special interest for IIFC 2016 are some recently scheduled special-screening events. One, “The Story Behind ‘Nights in White Satin,’” is a documentary produced and directed by filmmaker/musician David Minasian. It tells the 1966 story of Justin Hayward and a nascent rock band called the “Moody Blues” recording their landmark “Days of Future Passed, Nights in White Satin.” Seats are sold separately and the film features an interview with “White Satin” composer Hayward. Screening is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the Rustic. A companion piece, “Watching and Waiting,” also will be shown, a 2014 Hayward concert featuring some Moody Blues classics and band rarities performed live for the first time.
Screening again, but this time as a benefit for the Susan G. Komen Foundation of the Inland Empire, is Savage’s feature film “Vertical,” 2015 winner Best Foreign Film, London Independent Film Festival. “Vertical” screens at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Rustic. Tickets are $15 and benefit the foundation for fighting breast cancer. “Vertical” was shot on location in Idyllwild and features some top-of-Tahquitz Rock shots.
Lastly, Katie Cleary, actress, model and TV spokesperson, brings her passion for animal rights activism to IIFC with her documentary “Gimme Shelter,” a hard look into the politics of animal rescue and those who are at the forefront of the international movement to end animal cruelty. Cleary’s film screens as a special “Spotlight Film” at the Rustic at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9.
Check the IIFC website for film schedules, seminars and special events at www.idyllwildcinemafest.com. It runs from Tuesday, Jan. 5, to Sunday, Jan. 10.