First Annual Saratoga Springs International Film Festival
September 17, 2016: The Saratoga Springs International Film Festival
This year a small group of area entrepreneurs, filmmakers and community members introduced its first in what they plan to make an annual tradition: the Saratoga Springs International Film Festival. Local student enthusiasm for fact and fiction-based storytelling, matched with the town's support for independently made cinema, makes 2016 an ideal time to introduce what will hopefully be a sustainable and dynamic event. A labor of love this past year for its director, programming team and local volunteers, the festival drew on the city's many venues for their 2016 lineup (which included screenings, panels and workshops), building relationships wtih the Saratoga City Center, Bow Tie Cinemas and Skidmore College.
Michalina Scorzelli, Veronica Medina-Matzner,
Caitlin Stedman, Nicole Coady, Andrew Balog
The inaugural event, with Director Caitlin Stedman and Veronica Medina-Matzner at the helm, brought local, national and international films together with a talented core team of organizers for a full day of back-to-back programming. “We were confident in the quality of our programming,” Stedman says. On the day of, “we were hoping the excitement we had encountered from people in the planning process would carry over into the actual event.” Largely organized by film genre, the festival offered a rich crop of documentary shorts, both comedic and dramatic, historical dramas, romantic comedies, films about sustainability, inclusion, violence and many more. The audience was an eclectic combination of Saratoga locals, out-of-town film fanatics, and Skidmore College students and faculty looking outside the box for their latest independent movie fix.
Skidmore certainly had its share of representation throughout the day, with screenwriter and MDOCS Instructor Nicole Coady organizing the “Female Filmmakers Moving Forward” Panel, and Skidmore's Project Vis Mellon Fellow Nicky Tavares’ Virtual Reality class flocking to a “Virtual Reality and the Future of Media Experience” panel.
Photo by Montyce & Co. Photography
Moving forward with their sights on next year’s festival, Stedman noted a lot of learning happened, “We did learn a lot about how we can streamline certain aspects and where we should focus our efforts moving into year two. The festival itself had an extremely positive energy surrounding it,” she states. Medina-Matzner adds, “We hope that by next year we can be part of the city's calendar and become a permanent cultural attraction for the community and to continue to offer a platform for the regional artists to showcase their work.”
It's a great time for festivals in the Capital District, and Saratoga Springs joins Ballston Spa and Glens Falls (among other communities) in hosting film programming, alongside area educational institutions, including the College of Saint Rose's 15 Min Max, a five-year festival showcasing work of youthful filmmakers in the area. Skidmore will soon take its place among the hosts. This past year, the MDOCS program started laying the groundwork for a documentary festival hosted right on Skidmore's campus. The Festival will feature student works ranging from film, photography, audio, exhibit and mixed media, all telling evidence-based, research-driven stories. To kick off the planning stage, this fall semester's Festival Programming class (Part I) will be visiting regional festivals for inspiration. The course is part of a two-part series that will continue into the spring semester, where students will tackle the curation and programming of the student-run documentary festival that will launch in June 2017 as part of the Storytellers' Institute. This semester’s "Festival Programming" class has proven to be a welcomed addition to the MDOCS curriculum, and is the first (of hopefully many) segue into the beast of the festival circuit.
—Sam Grant ‘18