The 11th annual San Francisco Frozen Film Festival is set to take place Thursday, July 20th, through Sunday, July 23rd. The festival, which celebrates independent film from the Bay Area and around the world, will once again screen their selections at the Roxie Theater.
Founded in 2006 by childhood friends Isaac Schild and Gabriel Bellman, the nonprofit San Francisco Frozen Film Festival — SFFFF — began as a platform for artistic film endeavors from traditionally underserved communities. Since then, SFFFF has grown to include awards presentations, a youth program, and year-round events.
According to Bellman — who along with Schild is co-director of the festival — SFFFF is designed to be a positive force for everyone involved. While it offers its attendees an opportunity to screen unique films from around the world, it also provides filmmakers with the valuable experience of seeing their work on a movie screen and with an audience — often for the first time.
The festival grew out of both Bellman and Schild’s passion for film and visual art, as well as their dissatisfaction with the state of independent film festivals, just after the new millennium. According to Schild, SFFFF is designed to be both “artist friendly” and “artist forward,” as well as being a considerable step at the beginning of burgeoning careers in the film industry.
Schild pointed out that applicants come from all over the world and include people with varying degrees of relation to the film industry. A filmmaker himself, he understands the impact and inspiration that aspiring filmmakers can receive from having their film screened alongside industry professionals during the weekend at the Roxie. He noted that SFFFF is “open to the best art, no matter who makes it.”
Although the festival screens mostly short films, Bellman said that it is not by design. The panel for the festival — which includes Bellman and Schild, among others — receives about 400?1000 film submissions each year. The length of submissions varies greatly, with some as long as features, and some running a minute or even less. The films are divided into categories, including documentary, dramatic film, comedic film, local film, LGBTQ film, and more.
Since Bellman’s personal belief is that the festival can “help individual artists hone their craft by screening films to a large audience,” he and the others selecting films often choose to present the work of as many different artists as possible in one weekend of screenings. Trained at USC’s Cinema School and then at NYU in film, Bellman is proud that the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival helps keep people coming to movie theaters. According to him, it can be a very different experience to be “trapped with the art in a room,” rather than seeing something alone and on a computer screen.
The power of the silver screen is something that resonates with Bellman. He and Schild are often surprised by the effect some of the more experimental films have once they are projected onto the Roxie’s big screen. With two award-winning documentaries to his own name, Bellman looks forward each year to giving burgeoning filmmakers their first screening in a real theater.
Some of those filmmakers are as young as eight years old, and they often hail from all over the world. The mission statement of the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival includes supporting artists from underserved communities. In Bellman’s opinion, that definition changes over time. While it of course includes filmmakers from minority communities, LGBTQ filmmakers, and women filmmakers, Bellman extends it to anyone without access to standard film recording equipment, or training at renowned film school.
That means that the films screened at the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival make up a varied and eclectic program. Managing that program into something cohesive and “sensical” is one of the challenges Bellman and Schild face each year. Having categories helps, and the duo firmly believes in the importance of their work and its contribution to the independent art community in the Bay Area. Bellman points out that because of the high cost of living in San Francisco, you have fewer “working artists” and more “artists who are working.” The festival itself originally had an office, but after the digital revolution, there was no need to pay for the space. They do, however, still receive a few submissions on DVD and VHS each year.
The festival also serves as a networking opportunity for filmmakers and others in the industry, as the weekend screening brings artists from around the world to the Roxie Theater, and has often been a catalyst for collaboration. The San Francisco Frozen Film Festival partners with other local organizations for events and initiatives, including the Bay Area Video Coalition — BAVC — and the San Francisco Public Library. Those two organizations are vital to the festival’s Youth Program, which is managed by Sara Judge.
Judge believes in the importance of organizations and initiatives geared towards youths that focus on “creativity and not just consumption.” She spearheads the festival’s initiative to support a new generation of filmmakers. In addition to their work with BAVC and the San Francisco Public Library, Judge noted that she has worked with SF-based Streetside Stories in the festival’s past, and looks to do so again in 2018.
The festival begins with a free opening night celebration at Piano Fight on July 20th from 7 to 10pm. Screenings begin at the Roxie Theater that following Saturday, July 22, and continue through Sunday, July 23. For more information about the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival, to purchase tickets, and to sign up for their email newsletter, visit their website at http://www.frozenfilmfestival.com.