An interview with HFF’s Nathan Fleet
What sets your festival apart from other festivals?
We have a very strong connection with the local filmmaking community. So while we have the regular programming of local and international films, we have a community screening called FILM CLUB FILMS where we offer local clubs and camps the theatrical experience of watching their movies with an audience, doing a proper Q & A and offering mentoring for the young filmmakers. It has become just as popular as a comedy shorts program. We also have an original series called JUXT. We select a filmmaker to create a short film that is left open ended. The next year we select a different filmmaker to pick-up where the previous one left off. They can take it in any direction the want. We are heading into our 7th installment of JUXT this year.
Do you have a favorite film that has showcased at your Festival?
I personally love a Polish film that we screened last year called THE CAGED SWALLOW, from the Lodz Film School. A brilliant work on all fronts.
Is there something in particular that you look for in submissions? Or are there multiple factors?
When we program, the rules are simple. Pick good films. If there is something about it that we like, we grab it. Regardless of genre, shooting format...if we like it, we want it on our screens.
What is your goal for your festival?
Now in our 10th year, we aim to build from our successes and slowly expand to bring more of the community into the independent film world. Many people won't take a chance on a film that comes backed with little or no publicity / celebrities. There are so many hidden gems that the average person would love. We just need to convince them once, to come to a screening.
Do you have an interesting story that has taken place during a past festival?
The most interesting story happened a few years ago. Within the first 10 minutes of our opening Gala, we all heard a loud BANG, we saw sparks flying outside and then the power went out. As we scrambled to find out what went wrong and who to call, a filmmaker walked in with his DSLR and showed me a photo of a very crispy squirrel laying on the ground. The power went back on and it was business as usual. We honor him every year with the "Sparquie The Squirrel award" going to the most electrifying film in the festival.
How is your festival received locally?
It was a struggle in our first 6 years but once we hit 7 and really started to show that we weren't going anywhere, the crowds started coming in. Eventually the local press also go on board and have been very good to us. With an extremely low advertising budget, this has helped tremendously. And as mentioned above, our local Film Club Films has been very well received and more groups are looking to be involved.
Where do you see or would like to see your Festival in 5 years?
In 5 years I see our festival creating many more opportunities for filmmakers to screen, but also to learn. I am big on education and I am working on building that aspect of it. Especially when there are over 100 filmmakers in the city at the same time, it is a great time to learn from other's experiences. And most are more than willing to share.