WINCHESTER – If the 10-year history of the Skyline Indie Film Fest (SKIFF) is ever made into a movie, it could be a story about the theme that ties all the indie films shown this year together: survival.
Succeeding in the film industry is tough for everyone involved. “Films get sidelined all the time because of funding, weather and difficulty finding talent. It’s hard to think of a job with more barriers,” says Brian Patrick, co-founder and chairman of the board of SKIFF. Organizing a non-profit film festival is similar. The challenges are piling up. However, festival organizers are as excited about the 2022 festival as they were in 2012 when it started in Winchester.
This year’s Skyline Indie Film Festival, which begins Thursday and ends Sunday, has done more than just survive a decade. It flourished and became an unmissable four-day film festival for movie buffs, casual film buffs and indie filmmakers. All thanks to the constant volunteerism of festival co-founders Brian Patrick and Christine Patrick, owners of the Winchester Book Gallery, as well as the SKIFF Board of Directors and support from the City of Winchester, Shenandoah University, local businesses, a fleet of film screenings and more. .
Patrick admits surviving COVID-19 has been a challenge for the festival and sees it as a year of rebuilding. But, what has resulted from the revamping of things over the past two years is an improved experience for moviegoers who now have plenty of in-person and streaming opportunities. Tickets for the full festival are $50. Individual screenings can be purchased for $5. Or viewers can buy a $12 ticket that lets them see five shorts. Patrick says the festival strives to keep ticket costs affordable to increase accessibility. Films are not rated, but trigger warnings are provided where applicable. All tickets, the festival program and film descriptions are available on the festival website: skylineindefilmfest.org.
Ticket holders can watch experimental films, narrative features, documentaries and short films that residents of the North Shenandoah Valley might not see unless they travel to a major city. Ticket holders will enjoy in-person content at two downtown Winchester locations – Winchester Brew Works at 320 N. Cameron St. and The Espresso Bar & Café at 165 N. Loudoun St. on Loudoun Street Mall – and at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Kernstown Commons Blvd. Additionally, 90% of the content will be available for streaming during the festival.
The trials and tribulations depicted in the collection of over 50 films shown at this year’s festival come in many forms – from horror and sci-fi films to documentaries. Want to know more about ultra-running? Watch Ken Kline’s film “Delivering Hope” about the challenges he faced on his ultra run for charity in Alaska. Curious about these 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids dolls that have been the subject of more than one adult fight? “Billion Dollar Babies: the True Story of Cabbage Patch Kids” will have you gazing into your doll’s dusty eyes with a whole new understanding. do you like music? Horror? Story? There’s an independent film at SKIFF for that.
However, what makes this festival truly special is that the Skyline Indie Film Festival eschews the concept of a red velvet rope separating filmmakers from fans. Instead, it embraces the honesty and collaboration that fuels and is found in independent cinema, according to Patrick. Ticket holders can commune one-on-one with the filmmaker during a Friday night mix and mingle and during Q&A sessions following select screenings.
One filmmaker who can’t wait to interact with fans is Ariel Baska. Her film is one of nine local plays included in the upcoming festival. Baska’s short film, “Our First Priority,” chronicles a young woman’s experience with medical gaslighting and avenging angels. “My movie was played from Berlin to Mumbai to London, but we actually shot it right across the parking lot from the Alamo Drafthouse Winchester, so it’s only fitting that it’s played here, in the place where we all came together and has been so supportive of us so much. We all have endless gratitude and love for Steve Nerangis and all the staff at the Alamo Drafthouse who welcomed us with open arms,” says Baska.
The ability to connect with an audience is an integral part of independent cinema. “Independent film festivals are essential to my mission as a filmmaker,” explains Baska. “I want to be able to engage in meaningful conversations about my film and the questions it raises. Putting a movie on a streaming platform in isolation can potentially grab attention, but there’s no dialogue. Spaces like Skyline are so important because film is so much more valuable when people can browse together, discuss and develop ideas.
Several non-local directors will also be accessible to discuss their films and their profession. Patrick gets a bit giddy discussing one of them. He can’t wait to speak with Patrick Read Johnson and learn what happened in his independent film “5-22-77”. The film tells the story of a “Star Wars” super fan’s struggles as he grew up in rural Illinois, while hoping to become a filmmaker. Johnson directed such well-known films as “Angus” and “Spaced Invaders”.
Johnson will be one of many directors brought together by the festival. Patrick says planners will have special meals and get-togethers for the filmmakers and take them on a much-anticipated trip to Dinosaur Land at White Post.
“We often receive repeat filmmakers who have been so charmed by the old town and welcomed by festival-goers and organizers on their first visit. We’ve had filmmakers travel from South Carolina, New York, Colorado, California, and even Germany,” says SKIFF Board Member Gina Daddario.
Patrick notes that seeds of collaboration between filmmakers have been sown at previous festivals and knows of joint projects that were born at Skyline Indie Film Fest.
The films selected for screening at this year’s festival were carefully selected by a team of volunteers who screened around 300 independent films, according to Patrick. He says at least two to three pairs of eyeballs checked each submission. Screening officers are volunteers with varied interests. Some are students at Shenandoah University. “As a professor of media and communication and film production, I was able to engage students in a film festival internship where they screen, rate and review films throughout their spring semester,” notes Daddario.
Patrick feels the power of movies and believes his mission is to bring the unexpected to the community to help people with varying interests and hobbies connect on a micro level through the big screen. Discovering a great film and then adapting it to an audience who then connect with each other and with the filmmaker reveals the power of art, according to Patrick.
“Films that come from independent filmmakers are as unique as the filmmaker themselves. They are not beholden to any studio or big investors. Filmmakers use whatever equipment they have, whether it’s an iPhone or a high-tech camera. The end product of the process is their “truth on film”. If we were all better at representing ourselves, we could go further,” says Patrick. “That’s why we have a community and a conversation. We learn so much from each other.
Patrick is humble when talking about the work he has put into the festival over the years. Asked about the idea that he and other volunteers could be kindred spirits with independent filmmakers, who literally work behind the scenes to find and promote human connection, Patrick pauses. “Music makes me cry – often. Movies make me cry – often. Films combine spoken word and music to form a tight core. It’s an impressive way to make a statement that is impactful in so many ways. .”