Welcome to the 2015 Green Bay Film Festival

GB_FilmFestivalBy Patrick Mares

This year’s Green Bay Film Festival is almost on us. We went over the treats they had in store and what makes this festival unique with the festival’s director Cyndee Sweetland.

Interviewer: Could you explain what separates you from the other film festivals in the area and all over the nation?

Cyndee Sweetland: The Green Bay Film Festival is an international Film Festival. Unlike Wildwood in Appleton which is just Wisconsin short films, we have Wisconsin short and feature films as well as films from other areas of the United states and internationally. I believe we have films of 17 different countries this year, and this varies year to year.

And it’s an independent film festival, which makes it different than most places that you would see movies in Green Bay. The festival’s only one weekend, so it’s a big event for filmmakers, who attend. We have I think 70 films being represented this year out of the 79 that we’re playing. So that’s darn close to 50 filmmakers, and actors, producers that will be attending the festival.

It’s very much like Sundance, in that it’s independent films. There’s filmmakers there. There’s opportunities for audience interaction with filmmakers. Obviously it’s not near as big as Sundance. And in our case this year it is in one location, at the Radison hotel in Green Bay.
Interviewer: What makes a film an indie film? Does it have certain size or budget constraints? What’s the definition that you use for your film festival?

Cyndee Sweetland: Most people would define an independent film as something that’s made outside of Hollywood. And there have been some contentions in the independent film industry that there are some Hollywood film makers that are making independent films outside of Hollywood that have bigger budgets. They have more access to stars and more funding. In our case, we reach out to all filmmakers. We don’t have budget restrictions, but most of our films are done on either no budget or fall between zero and maybe $500,000 budgets. And that’s kind of what we’ve seen trending. And they have to have been made and completed within the last year and a half.

Now we do have some special events. This year we have two that we’ve added to the film festival. Trade of Innocence is an older film. I think it was done in 2012. And that goes along with our special speaker, Becky McDonald from Women at Risk International to talk about human trafficking. So we’re doing a public awareness [piece] on human trafficking. The film depicts issues in Asia, but Becky will be talking about how trafficking looks like: globally, internationally and in Wisconsin.

Our other special event is a Walt Disney film, the world premier of a remastered film. [It’s] the first time ever seen in its remastered four-K version, and that’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And that movie was filmed in 1954 originally. So those are two out of the ordinary exceptions. Our filmmakers who submit … are all in competition. These films are not.

Interviewer: So in the last couple years I’ve been aware of several Bollywood films, an animated feature sponsored by Chipotle, and several student projects. Would any of those fall under the umbrella of what you look for?

Cyndee Sweetland: We do have some animated films. We do have some student films. Last year I would say a good third of our films were from college students, universities all over the world; this year not so many. We have students that are rival filmmakers. I think there is a Bollywood type film in there. I’m not sure of the name off the top of my head. But all of those would fall under the categories [we accept]. Usually we get some very good storytelling from video in these pieces. We got about 450 submissions this year. We’ve seen a lot of films and we’ve narrowed it down to 77 of the best of those films.

Interviewer: So what do you want to tell me about this year’s feature? I see that you have some zombie flicks, movies that are aimed at children, the trafficking special: what would you like to highlight?

Cyndee Sweetland: We have a lot of wonderful films. We’re opening this year with a film made in Wisconsin. It’s from Door County, a sci-fi flick. It’s a fun light comedy that filmmakers, cast and crew will be attending and answering questions afterwards. So we’re celebrating the opening of the festival with a Wisconsin film. And that film’s called The Emissary.

Saturday one of the films we’re opening with is called Out of the Fire. And it’s a wonderful art film that talks about community and the challenges of being an artist and making a living. And that centers around a potter. His intern is actually a potter from Spring Green in Wisconsin. And it’s a piece about how a community works together to make art happen. Saturday night we have a zombie double-feature and that is going to be highlighted with a filmmaker who will be coming to the film Chrysalis and a zombie flash mob with the girls and boys club with special effects makeup artists, the pianist’s chambers hotel and then that will be followed by the other zombie movie in the double feature. And Another World is an Israel zombie film in English, the first in English.

And on Sunday we have our children’s short film and we do have a contest for kids [in] kindergarten through fifth grade; called color my monster. Kids who enter that contest will trade that entry in for a free ticket to children’s short films. And then we have The Incredible Adventures of Jojo (and his Annoying Little Sister Avila), and that’s a wonderful family film, very cute.

We have two Wisconsin documentaries that are made locally. One is called If a Bully Watches This which is about bullying in Wisconsin, and one is called Champion: The Legacy of Jackie Nitschke. Philip Levi will be there from the Jackie Nitschke Center along with the two filmmakers. That will be a wonderful way to close our festival along with our awards ceremony.

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All in all it sounds like the city has a treat on its hands come March sixth through eighth. Moviegoers will be given the option of reserving their seats all weekend with a $75 dollar gold pass or mixing and matching individual showings at seven dollars a piece. With three screens running and options ranging from documentaries to bundled short films, even the most discerning moviegoers should find something that catches their eye.

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