More than 50 films are on offer this weekend at the 33rd annual Breckenridge Festival of Film. They vary in length from features to shorts running just 10 to 30 minutes. Some were directed and produced by people who are well known in the business; others were made by ambitious amateurs.
The films address a number of topics and issues, fitting into seven different categories — spiritual, comedy, short comedy, drama, short drama, documentary and Adventure Reel. The Adventure Reel is new this year and includes films that highlight the adventurous spirit of ice climbing, whitewater rafting and exploring the world’s exotic locations, like Antarctica.
Among the Adventure Reel films is “Ice,” which is the filmmaking debut of Barry Stevenson. Video production is not new to Stevenson. He owns a production company, Outside Adventure Media, which creates marketing and promotional videos for businesses and outdoor recreation companies.
It was through his business that “Ice” came about. Stevenson was hired to create a video for the Ouray Ice Park. As he went about the project, he got sucked into the enthusiasm and excitement of its subjects.
“When I got there and started shooting, I realized this is a great story here,” Stevenson said.
From his footage, he created a 10-minute directorial cut, which friends encouraged him to submit to several film festivals, including Breckenridge.
“I’ve always been a photographer and editor, and so I’ve always been doing this,” Stevenson said. “Now I realize that there are a lot of really interesting stories out there than can be told at film festivals.”
Stevenson had never been ice climbing before filming “Ice.” Now, he’s hooked — he bought the gear, found some partners and is planning on returning to Ouray to try it out.
“I fully intend to really jump into it, crampons first,” he said with a chuckle.
The personal stories were what drew him in to the subject. In addition to various dynamic shots of climbers, “Ice” features interviews with the people that Stevenson ran into at the park. They gesture wildly, lean in, eyes lighting up as they attempt to describe exactly how ice climbing has captured their imagination and their passion.
“I just showed up and said I’ll just start talking to people and see what comes of it,” Stevenson said. “I just happened to meet some very interesting and animated people who were passionate about their sport.”
In addition to showing his film, Stevenson will participate in the “Making of the Shot” forum to be held before the Adventure Reel. The purpose of the forum is for the audience and amateur filmmakers to discuss the cinematography behind spectacular shots in adventure film with the filmmakers themselves. Several of Stevenson’s aerial shots from “Ice” will be used as examples, which he’s excited to talk about.
“I’m going to show the raw unedited video, that shows how the entire shot was done, which I think will be really interesting for the audience,” he said, adding, “There are a couple little secrets that will be revealed.”
Ying and Yang
“Ying and Yang,” the second film by executive producer Randall Sawyer, uses an experimental format to explore questions of identity and sexuality.
The protagonist of the film, a young African-American man, realizes that he’s fallen in love with his best friend, who is also male. The plot then follows his internal struggle as he attempts to come to terms with his feelings in relation to himself and the outer world.
One of the more unique aspects of “Ying and Yang” is that there is no dialogue. The entire 12-minute film is narrated in poetic verse, from the view (and voice) of the protagonist.
“The most challenging part really was not having dialogue between the parties on the screen,” Sawyer said. “We needed to be able to convey the message of the spoken word that’s behind it, and visual images, and have it make sense. I think (director) Kevin (Walker) and (writer) Devere (Rogers) did a great job of conveying that.”
Sawyer founded his company, Front Stoop Productions, in July of last year. Although it’s his second film production company, Sawyer also holds down a day job in investment banking. Filmmaking started as a pastime, but “it’s blossomed into a lot more,” Sawyer said. And it continues to do so, as “Ying and Yang” gains more success and notice, including a recent acceptance into the Raindance Film Festival in London.
Sawyer’s also interested in getting out the message behind the film.
“The major reason for producing it is I wanted to be able to tell the story that I think is underrepresented,” he said. “One of the founding goals of Front Stoop is to give people a voice that don’t normally have a voice, or have the mechanism to display their feelings.”
The timing of the film has also worked out well, he added, with issues such as gay rights and gay marriage coming into the forefront of the news in the past year. Sawyer hopes the film will cause those in the audience to closer examine their feelings and opinions.
“I think this film’s really about acceptance and accepting one’s feelings,” he said. “Just because society tells you (that) you need to feel or act a certain way, if your feelings inside are telling you something different, you need to come to grips with that and find acceptance for that, and I think that’s what the entire film’s about.”