The Ketchikan Public Utilities Live in Ketchikan second annual film festival is set to open its free community screening Friday evening at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.
The deadline for entries was Monday, and festival organizer Alexandra Brown, who also is the video production specialist and social media manager at KPU Telecommunications, said that they received 1,781 entries this year for the festival. In 2018, they received 1,400 entries.
“It even grew bigger than I expected,” Brown said.
She added that they’ve received a wide range of content, including documentaries, fiction and music videos.
The first rule for film submissions, listed at filmfreeway.com/ketchikanfilmfestival, is that the films must be a maximum of 10 minutes long. The second rule is that the films must be from, or about Alaska. Another critical rule is that the film’s content must be G-rated.
Many of the entries will not be eligible for an award, mostly because of the requirement that they be from or about Alaska, Brown said. The largest number of films actually come from India, with the United States in second place, and Iran in third, she explained.
The second rule is a change from 2018, Brown said. In its inaugural year, films had to be from, or about Ketchikan. She said she expects the field to offer a bit tougher competition this year.
“This adds another level, makes them try a little bit harder,” Brown said of the film makers. “But again, that’s kind of the exciting part, that it presents a challenge.”
The first-place winner will receive a $300 cash prize, according to the festival’s website. The second-place winner will receive a $200 B&H photo and video store gift card, and the third-place winner, a $100 B&H gift card.
Brown said her biggest challenge as the organizer has been to winnow the huge number of submissions uploaded onto the free film festival site to the number that will fit in the two-hour time frame of Friday’s screening event.
“But, it’s worth it,” she said. “Being able to provide a free platform makes it easier on the videographers, and the accessibility is really important, because if they’re able to upload straight to online, or they’re able to copy and paste a link from YouTube, it makes it really easy for them to submit.”
That allows more submissions, which makes for a higher number of quality films, Brown said.
She used the Ketchikan High School team of Jacob King, Dwight King and Luke Reynolds as an example of how the ease of submitting entries allowed a local team of novice filmmakers enter the 2018 festival. Although their piece wasn’t eligible for a prize, as it ran over time, the film was shown at the screening, and it received enthusiastic audience response.
“The crowd was laughing the entire time — clapping — just really engaged in this piece,” Brown said.
She said there were a few films chosen to play at the 2018 screening that were ineligible for prizes, but that were deemed worthy of inclusion, and this year would likely be the same.
KPU staff then sent the piece to the Alliance for Community Media - Northwest Region film festival and the students’ film won the Best in Youth award, competing against entries from several states.
Those experiences energized the team, Brown said, and they have entered a new film — this one fitting the required time limit — for this year’s KPU competition.
The students used an iPhone to film their piece, Brown said, as many filmmakers have, and she said the quality is great, even for the big screen.
“You don’t need to have a $10,000 setup,” Brown said. “You can still do that with a phone, or do that with a mirrorless camera.”
The biggest surprise Brown said she’s gotten as the organizer of the festival is that many people specifically created films for the festival, such as last year’s second-place winner, Jason Baldwin, with his film, “Shadow and the Four Spirits.”
“I didn’t realize how much work somebody would put in specifically for a piece for our film festival, especially since it was the first year running,” Brown said.
There are three people who comprise the judging panel, according to Brown: one community member at large, one film professional and one camera professional. The judges rate films on creativity, direction, cinematography, production value and pacing.
Judges watch the films online, and awards are announced at the end of the community screening event.
Brown said she got the idea for the event when she’d been in town for about four months. She previously had lived in Juneau, where the Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society holds two film festivals annually. As she met people around Ketchikan, she said she was impressed by the breadth of talent.
“I’d met some local video makers and I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of really talented photographers and videographers here — why don’t we do a film festival?’”
She said when she first started her job at KPU, she wanted to create an event with community involvement such as the cooking show the organization had produced previously, but with a different thrust.
“I’m terrible at cooking,” Brown said. “So, I didn’t feel comfortable putting on a cooking contest. I was trying to think of something that we could do that would still be KPU-associated and a community event and something that people could participate in.”
She said city staff immediately were supportive of the idea of starting the film festival, because it’s a community event that “not only provides a fun outlet for the community to come and attend and watch,” Brown said, “but also all the submissions are then shown on KPU TV.”
Besides seeing the films live on Friday at the Discovery Center, people also will be able to view them on the KPU cable channel. Other than those two venues, Brown said people can find videos that the filmmakers uploaded to YouTube on that site by searching for the artists’ names.
She added that the film festival also gave KPU a chance to “develop relationships with the local videographers and photographers, so there’s many reasons why it’s not only beneficial for the community, but also beneficial for us at KPU.”
Brown was quick to answer when asked what is her favorite part of organizing the festival.
“I love the community response,” she said. “So positive. Last year, it was absolutely packed at the Southeast Discovery Center. It was down to standing room only. I really enjoyed seeing the community engaged with these local artists and being able to enjoy what they created.”
Brown’s advice for people considering creating films for upcoming festivals was straightforward.
“If you’ve got an idea, just do it,” she said. “I mean — mockumentary, documentary, music video — pull out your phone. I mean, why not?”
The community film festival screening will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m., at the Discovery Center, located at 50 Main St.