Embracing the season of virtual film festivals
The first time I encountered the Backcountry Film Festival, I did a double take. Wait a minute, I thought, an entire film festival devoted to human powered pursuits in the backcountry? When the films started rolling in a small theater in Laramie, Wyoming, I realized, yep, that’s exactly what it is. And I’ve got to say, it was pretty sweet to witness so much energy around backcountry adventures (ski touring, of course, being the primary subject).
This year things are looking different for the Backcountry Film Festival, and many other events like it, though not, it seems, in an entirely bad way. Some festivals and screenings are becoming even more accessible by moving online, some are handily utilizing the by-gone staple of drive-in movie theaters, and some are still offering in person events, so long as Covid protocols are in place.
So if you’re itching for your annual film fest or ski film screening experience but aren’t sure how to get it, here are three options to kick off your ski season.
Backcountry Film Festival
Each year, the Backcountry Film Festival which is an branch of Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance, offers festival film screenings around the country. These events typically serve as fundraising events for the organizations hosting them, as well as an engaging early season way to bring local backcountry ski communities together.
This year, says WWA Events and Marketing Director Melinda Quick, the goal is to run things similarly, even if local screenings take place online. In planning this year’s content “we were really focused on making sure our hosts could still participate,” Quick explained. “We’ll have roughly 80 different screenings throughout our tour that are hosted or organized by local non profit, business, or grass roots groups that directly impacts that backcountry community or mountain town.”
First up in their line up is a virtual showing of Best of Fest, which highlights favorite films from over the years. They’re also offering special Q&A episodes with filmmakers. Come October, the festival tour itself will go on as well, but with a little less fan fair and more opportunities for virtual screenings than in typical years. The big focus there is for audiences to stay local not only literally (on your couch) but virtually, and Quick encourages anyone planning to attend a screening to look for one closest to their backcountry community.
“We’re just going to flood the world with Backcountry film festival screenings and see how it goes,” she said with a laugh. Still in question is how they’ll get Sierra Nevada six packs to people watching at home…
Check out the Best of Fest trailer below and keep an eye on BFF Eventive page for screening schedule and details to be announced in early October.
Banff Mountain Film Festival and World Tour
The big news from the Banff Center Mountain Film and Book Festival this year is that their entire annual fall festival will be virtual. This is actually good news if you’ve always wanted to go but couldn’t physically get there. An additional bonus? The virtual version will be cheaper.
This year, from October 31 – November 8, Banff is offering access to 25 virtual events for $150 CAD, which in a normal in-person year would cost $20-$65 per event. Audience members can also go ala carte to buy curated mixed film programs that include 4-6 films for $10-$15 during the online festival.
Included in the programming is 75 different films and speaker programs, as well as book events, discussions with authors and kid’s art making workshops. Though Banff hasn’t released titles yet, I’m told that 18 of the films will be snow specific.
“More and more we are seeing skiing and riding films that focus on touring and self propelled adventure,” said Festival Director Joanna Creston in an email last week. “There seems to be less glam with the heli access films these days. It’s giving a more soulful and authentic feel to our ski programs.”
They’re also offering a virtual beer tent where audience members can tune in on Zoom and meet the filmmakers, athletes, authors or other celebs. And if you miss the annual festival itself, you can still attend a World Tour screening some other time through the year. Many screenings will be virtual, but some are slated to be in person with Covid safety protocols in place.
See last year’s teaser below and check out the Banff website to find a screening near you, or purchase festival tickets starting October 1.
Teton Gravity Research “Make Believe”
TGR has fully embraced the socially distanced moment, and the 1950s. The majority of their fall film tour for the latest shred fest, Make Believe, will take place at scattered drive-in theaters around the U.S. and Canada with only a scattering of indoor events (BTW: shout out to The Spud in Driggs, ID for the best name for a drive-in theater).
They will have a handful of in-person events, including one they’ve dubbed the Make Believe Maskerade Ball (not a typo) at Denver’s Oriental Theater. They encourage limited participants to “Dig into those winter closets and grab your Sunday finest in buffs, balaclavas and face masks; break out the goggles and gloves, rock the helmets, and for the ultimate in protection, dust off those one pieces” to make for an evening of “physical distancing” and “social stoke”.
Also on offer is the opportunity to rent out the Boulder A-Lodge’s private movie screening room. For $150 you and nine of your friends can sign up for an ‘intimate viewing experience’ complete with the film fest swag you know and love including Sierra Nevada cold ones and Yeti Ramblers. Now that sounds like a party.
Watch the trailer below and check out Teton Gravity Research to find a screening near you.
5 Point Film Fest Flagship Event
Of course, we can’t leave out WildSnow’s local creative hub, the crew at 5 Point Film Fest. Each spring, the festival fills Carbondale, CO with big names and smiling faces in adventure films as the town settles in for several nights of adventure, awareness, and more. Covid of course cancelled the annual event this past spring, and so a virtual stand in will take its place this fall.
Running online October 14–18, the film fest will offer four evenings of 55 short adventure films and feature length programs along with close-up conversations with filmmakers and special guests. The programs will be emceed and will include the opportunity for audience members to vote for their favorites. Once again, the bonus of virtual programming is accessibility and lower prices, all accessed from the comfort of your couch. Buy your tickets at 5 Point Film Fest.
So there you have it, four ways to get your ski film screening fix this fall. But if you want to forgo all the hoopla and just get stoked for skiing (or scared, we’re still not sure), check out Lou’s classic short film that includes a sacrifice for the snowgods — which, for the record, did not make it into 5 Point, not for lack of trying.
Manasseh Franklin is a writer, editor and big fan of walking uphill. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction and environment and natural resources from the University of Wyoming and especially enjoys writing about glaciers. Find her other work in Alpinist, Adventure Journal, Rock and Ice, Aspen Sojourner, AFAR, Trail Runner and Western Confluence.