Saturday, December 06, 2008

A little insight on film selection for the BMFF

Now that tickets are on sale for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Huntsville, we get many inquiries about what films are playing each night. In order to answer this question in a roundabout way, I will now reveal how film selection works, or at least, how it works here.

Algonquin Outfitters has a film selection committee of one, yours truly. Once the films are selected for the World Tour, the hardworking folks at the the Banff Centre compile a list of films available to screen and make it available to tour hosts. The list tells me the film's title, director & producer, country of origin, length, classification (ie. general audience or parental guidance), awards won at the festival, subject focus and a short description. Even more useful is a list of comments made by audience members, festival staff and "road warriors" who have seen the film either at the festival in Banff or on early dates of the world Tour. Not every film on the list gets reviewed this early, so sometimes all the information I have is a descriptive sentence by the film-maker. The festival also has resources and guidelines for film selection and sends out a promo DVD containing short clips from selected films (for some reason I haven't received one yet). There are also some great resources and an excellent contest for the interested public.

With this information, I go through the list and make notes. Certain films jump out as "100 % must show," others as "no way," most as "maybe" and a few as "well, I'd really like to see that but will anyone else?" After 10 years of hosting the festival in Huntsville, I think I have a reasonable sense of what will or will not appeal to our audience. Having said that, our audience is one of the most diverse on the tour, so it is not easy to predict and I long ago accepted the fact that you can't please everyone. Then, I use a spreadsheet to make a list for each night, which calculates running times for the first and second halves and the whole evening. I used to use a calculator for this but then I discovered Excel. Finally, I email my preliminary list to the Banff Centre and get the tour coordinator's opinion. Her opinions on audience reaction, the order films should be shown, music and film quality are invaluable.

So that is where I'm at in the process for this year. Once I hear back from the "Banff people," I will finalize the list and post it on this very blog.

If you are anxious to buy tickets before that, and can only go to one night, I will say this. The first night (Jan. 20) leans more towards towards the action sport/adventure category but this year's film selection contains films with many layers of themes. Many of the action sport films have underlying themes of culture, travel and human interest that will give them a broad appeal.

The second night (Jan. 21) features a wider range of film subjects, leaning more towards nature, mountain culture, humour, creative film-making and adventurous travel. And, of course, there are ski films in the list for each night!

I hope this helps!

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