Film Festivals

The Making of…the New England Film & Video Festival

1 Mar , 1998  

Written by Shatema Threadcraft | Posted by:

What started as a small festival in Northhampton, MA back in 1976 has since blossomed into a competitive showcase for regional independent film. Here, NEFVF Managing Director Devon Damonte talks about his contribution to the festival, what he’s worked on in the past, and this year's films.
What started as a small festival in Northhampton, MA back in 1976 has since blossomed into a competitive showcase for regional independent film. The festival’s goals, however, remain the same – to give audiences access to a diverse body of work by independent and student video and filmmakers, and to provide artists with an opportunity for audience, media and industry exposure.

Run by the BFVF, the festival continues to distinguish itself among the abundance of festivals nationwide by focusing only on the works of regional artists. Here, NEFVF Managing Director Devon Damonte talks about his contribution to the festival, what he’s worked on in the past, and this year’s films.

What’s it like working on the New England Film and Video Festival in comparison to others that you’ve worked on?

Read Interviews with other 1998 New England Film & Video Festival Award Winners…

Laurel Chiten
Laura Colella
Flora Cohen
Jay Craven
Ellie Lee

Festival Schedule, Film Guide & Tickets

Well this festival is really unique in that focused on this region of filmmakers. Most little festivals are trying to go after the next big thing. And what’s hot in the art film. And what was hot at Sundance or what was the big hit at Berlin or whatever. So they’re all kind of playing off of each other, and this is really supporting the grass roots of the young filmmaker. It’s also unique in that the community of filmmakers really supports it. It’s got this family atmosphere about it that everybody’s helping each other out and they come to the festival to see who’s got new work that they know or they don’t know. Who’s starting out maybe it’s their first film. Many festivals are either all amateurs or it’s simply the local stars. Here they’re all together, so you have the student who’s never thought about being a filmmaker along side someone who’s been doing it for 20 or 30 years. Amateurs have direct contact with people who have been doing it for a long time.

What’s different about this year’s festival?

More entries. More than half of the award winners are films by women, which I think is great. I mean we didn’t plan to do that. It was really a nice surprise, that it worked out that way. And we have more features, twice as many as ever before. That says that there are a lot more NE filmmakers getting serious about it that they can get a feature film together. It’s no mean feat. It can take years and years. It takes a lot of commitment to have a feature film. And then that there’s narrative films like Tax Day and Stranger in the Kingdom. If people think that all we show here is "boring" documentaries or experimental offbeat or straight up weird, this stuff is straight ahead drama that’s entertaining.

How are you different from your predecessor?

My background is festivals. I wanted to bring the festival up to a new level. That’s always been my interest. Not so much a festival that’s for industry people, the one I did in Washington was more for general audience members. The person that did this job before me, Cherie Martin, came from Hollywood. She had this approach that was real savvy and real smart about bringing it into this new realm. She really did a lot for the festival to make it much more professional. She got some national sponsors that they had never even dreamed of having. She made it a national event. What I feel like I bring to it, to build on that but to take it towards more general audiences and to make it a fun festival and to impress upon people that there is great film showing here, that it’s not just stuff that filmmakers want to see. The great thing about film festivals is that you can get introduced to something that you don’t have any connection to. I seriously believe that film can change lives. That’s kind of a big statement, but I’ve seen it happen. It’s changed my life. You go to a film that wasn’t your top choice and there will be this amazing spiritual content or they’ll be this one line that speaks to you. Yeah, I mean, I don’t expect any one else to believe that, but if you’re just looking for a good time on a Tuesday night, you can find some pretty entertaining stuff.

What are some of the films showing?

Take some of the highlights, for example. The winner for best indie film. Memory Hatches. It’s this really beautiful experimental film that uses this film language that I’ve never seen before, and I’ve seen thousands of films. It blew me away. It’s so moving. It has so many different approaches packed into 29 minutes. Amazing sound. It was a real find of the judging process. There were 187 entries this year, 25% more than last year. So you’re going through them and you’re getting tired and this came on and everybody just went wow. Really special. The awards night is going to be a great screening, incredible work there. The best of festival is this film called Repetition Compulsion. Very powerful. She did interviews with women from a shelter she worked at and then animated to the interviews – a totally unique approach. It’s essentially a documentary animation piece, but because it’s animated it has this emotional punch that really moves you in a way that nothing else can. Man Bites Breakfast is a short animation by a student from Dartmouth. Knocked our socks off. I was joking that Disney was going to hire this guy. Sure enough, he works for Disney now. To see it at the beginning of his career is pretty amazing. His teacher is really well-known animator. At this age, this guy is the best animator that he has every seen. You can see his pure stuff. There’s also A Stranger in the Kingdom, by the filmmaker Jay Craven from Vermont. It’s a feature. There are more feature films this year. Tax Day by Laura Colella, her debut feature. She had an award winning short a few years back.

Have you noticed any other good things about Bostons film scene? Is it a good place for aspiring filmmakers and others who want to be involved in the film industry?

The community of filmmakers here is really strong. I came here from Washington state where there’s a community in Seattle, and an even stronger one in Portland. I found that filmmakers in Seattle and Portland don’t really work together and really don’t even know what the other filmmakers are doing a lot of the time. It seems more cooperative here. People in Boston know about what’s going on in Western Mass. and Vermont and things like that. The BFVF is an extraordinary resource. You don’t find it everywhere, this kind of hands-on place where people can come. And the community access stations seem very active as well, more so than other places. What surprised me here was how many people were doing commercial work during the day and their own work at night, it’s a really strong thing here.