Grant enriches Ashland film festival

If you're heading for the Ashland Independent Film Festival April 7 through 11, you can expect more filmmakers than ever to be there.

The festival has been awarded $17,500 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that presents the Academy Awards, to bring filmmakers to its 10th annual event.

AIFF executive director Tom Olbrich said the grant will ensure that more film people are present to take part in events or just talk about their movies and answer questions.

"Filmmakers attending separates the experience from just going to a film and then going home," Olbrich said. "The experience of the filmmaker walking down the aisle after the movie and standing in front of the crowd, to me it's what makes a festival unique."

AIFF, one of only 30 festivals in the nation to receive one of the grants, was selected from among more than 200 applicants.

AIFF ( is held at the Varsity Theatre and the old Ashland Armory in downtown Ashland each April, the work of six year-round staffers, several seasonal workers and more than 300 volunteers.

Two-thirds of the festival's films sold out in 2010 but — typical of nonprofit arts groups — ticket sales don't come close to covering its budget. The balance comes from grants, gifts, businesses and other sources. AIFF won a similar grant in 2008.

"It's a big deal in the film-festival world," Olbrich said.

The 2010 festival was the largest AIFF yet, with more than 6,000 film-goers purchasing 16,800 tickets to 82 feature, documentary and short films during the five-day event. Olbrich said about 60 film people associated with 50 films were present.

"It's hard to say just how many," he said, "but this will allow us to bring more."

More than 600 films have been entered for consideration for the 10th annual AIFF. The deadline for film entries from around the world is Dec. 17.

The deadline for Southern Oregon filmmakers (Curry, Coos, Douglas, Klamath, Jackson and Josephine counties) to enter films for consideration in the festival's free Locals Only program is January 14.

This year's festival will again feature The Launch, a free competition for Southern Oregon student filmmakers in age categories from elementary school to college.

Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at

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