Movie Interviews

Published on August 2nd, 2021 | by gareth


Phoenix Film Festival 2021 Interview

Recently I spoke with the people behind the Phoenix Film Festival and learned more about the history of the event and what they have planned for this year.

You can learn more about the event and the schedule here.


How did the festival get started and what has changed over the years?

The festival was founded by two filmmakers in 2000, who felt that a city the size of Phoenix deserved a first class film festival. The first festival was such a success that it was proof that Phoenix was ready and willing to support a great festival.


What have been the keys to the growth of the festival?

Our programming has been paramount to our growth and success. Our great relationships with filmmakers and distributors has put us in a position to continually program great films. Because of that audiences know they can trust our programming and return year after year.

What is new for this years show?

We’ve add a couple of new events. The first one is “Coffee with Mitch” on both Saturday mornings of the festival. It’s hosted by Rotten Tomatoes Certified Critic Jeff Mitchell and it will give audience members a chance to talk about their favorites and get a few tips from Jeff.

Another new event in “Filmmaker Conversations.” This is an alternative to our normal panel discussions. Filmmakers with films in the festival will be talking about specific topics in a casual environment and allowing audiences to ask questions.


How do you select the films which will be included?

For our competition films, we have a committee that helps us narrow down by watching and reviewing each film. From there, the best of the best go on to our program directors who make the selections. For our higher profile and out-of-competition films, we research films that have had success on the festival circuit as well as work with distributors and studios that are making films available to festivals.


How many films will be featured this year?

99 Feature Films and 115 Short Films for a total of 214


How has the uptick in Covid infections affected the show and your plans?

Our biggest adjustment started with not hosting events in our big tent. We’ve scaled them back and will not be operating the Party Pavilion at this year’s festival. The next big step is switching to reserved seating to eliminate crowing people into lines. We also continue to work with our host Harkins Theatres, who have done an amazing job with precautions during the pandemic and we’re happy to follow their lead.


What would you say to those who have an aversion to indie films vs studio films in regards to what the festival can offer them?

The great part about our festival is we have a great mix of films. Not only are we programming straight up indie films but we also program a group of arthouse films from studios before they’re set to release. No matter which you choose, you’re going to get films with great storytelling.


How long does it take to plan for the festival?

Roughly it takes about seven months from when we open our call for entries. With our return to the Spring of 2022, we’re going to finish one festival and get right into planning the 2022 films.


What are some areas of growth you would like to accomplish in future years?

I’m looking forward to growing our Community Spotlight areas. This includes films from African American, Asian American, LatinX, LGBTQ, and Native American filmmakers. We’ve made a big jump in 2021. I’m looking forward to even more films from these categories in the future.


How many awards are typically given at the festival?

Between feature films and short films, we typically will award 25 Copper Wing Awards during a festival.


What has been your biggest challenge and your greatest success with the show this year?

Working through the pandemic and putting the festival on in August, compared to the spring is easily the biggest challenge we’ve ever had to face. A big part of the success is simply making it through it however, our film line-up really is great success for us this year. There is such a variety of films and the quality from top to bottom is something that I’m very proud of.




About the Author

Syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site and publication “Skewed and Reviewed”. He has three books of film, game reviews and interviews published and is a well-received and in demand speaker on the convention circuit. Gareth has appeared in movies and is a regular guest on a top-rated Seattle morning show. He has also appeared briefly in films such as “Prefountaine”, “Postal”. “Far Cry”. and others. Gareth is also an in-demand speaker at several conventions and has conducted popular panels for over two decades.

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