Being on the organizational committee for the Silver Wave Film Festival was a great experience. It gave me the chance to go back to the New Brunswick Filmmakers Co-operative to work for a few weeks and to spend a lot of time with some great friends. Tony and Cathie are some of my favourite people and to work with them over a few weeks was a joy. After 15 years the film festival is a compact, friendly, and smoothly running machine. It’s not the biggest film festival, but they’ve simplified and worked things out to give everyone a warm and supportive experience. The strange thing about a festival is that the programming decisions happen months earlier, so for those behind the scenes we’ve seen the films and are anticipating how the audiences will enjoy them. Getting as many filmmakers as possible in is the secondary goal as it’s important to have the creators there with the audience.
It was fun to be part of the mundane details of the festival such as helping to make up the passes or fold the programs for the Industry Series or help in reworking the sponsor reel that plays before the films. I’d introduced some of the programs in past festivals and did that again, but had a lot more insight into what was happening behind the scenes this time. The reaction to the films was positive and the whole atmosphere around the festival is one of happiness. The community around the NB Filmmakers Co-operative has long been positive and supportive and it’s why I became involved with filmmaking and teaching. So in many ways you can trace my whole professional career back to the film coop in the early 1980s.
I was closely involved with the Canadian and International Shorts programs which had films from across Canada and around the world, but a lot of the films were from Nova Scotia and I knew many of the filmmakers. It’s a privilege to showcase the work of people you admire and share it with an enthusiastic crowd. Going to a festival away from home is also a good way to see how people who don’t know you will react to what you’ve made as well. Attendance was up at the screenings and for many us who live in Nova Scotia, the positive spirit and celebration of our work was a nice boost after a challenging year.
Seeing the screenings of the low-budget features Owl River Runners and Noon Gun for the first time at Silver Wave was a lot of fun too. I missed them when they played at the Atlantic Film Festival and was eager to see them on a big screen with an audience in Fredericton. When you know the people who make a film there is always a bit of nervousness when you see something as you hope that it turned out ok after hearing about it while it was in production. It’s even better when you see the films and you enjoy them along with an audience. Owl River Runners is funny and local, telling a story about rural New Brunswick that feels recognizable. Noon Gun looks at a challenging issue with racism and history and community in North End Halifax and makes a powerful and moving statement.
Structurally the Silver Wave Film Festival happens mainly over a weekend with an opening film Thursday night, an Industry Series of panel discussions on Friday during the day with the rest of the weekend full of film screenings. Most of the panels have filmmakers who have films in the festival, so the participants get a good overview of the challenges that they’ve faced in making their films. The biggest day is Saturday with time in the morning to allow for a trip to the farmers market before the films begin. In the evening the main events are the New Brunswick Shorts Gala films followed by the Silver Wave Awards. Sunday is a lighter day with screenings starting in the afternoon and going into the evening.
The films are great to see with an audience and there is a lot of fun to be had after the films are over in the James Joyce Pub (with a wonderful range of New Brunswick and other craft beer and cider on tap) and in the Hospitality Suite after the bar closes. Thanks to the small size of the festival it’s possible to meet just about everyone who is there and to talk about the films they’ve seen too. The most social day and night is Saturday with the party getting started later after the awards and photos of the winners. The bar and Hospitality Suite were packed into the wee hours filled with excited conversations about films and celebration by the winners of the awards. Sunday is more casual with the most people sitting down to talk more quietly in the bar as they reflect on the films and make plans for the future.
The key to a film festival is figuring out what you want it to be about and then balancing the films with the audience, the filmmakers, and the space between all those things to allow for interaction. I’m happy with how it went this year at Silver Wave and look forward to helping with it more and being on the lookout for other films and filmmakers to follow over the coming year. The films themselves are the smallest and shortest part of the entire process and the true joy is having the opportunity to connect with people who love creating and sharing stories.
What makes a film festival special for you and what do you love about a festival?