Reel Indie Film Fest takes cue from SXSW

RIFF exec director Avi Federgreen talks to Playback about pairing indie music and film, reaching new audiences and launching indie careers (opening film Los Wild Ones pictured).
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The Reel Indie Film Festival launches Oct. 16 in Toronto with a lineup of music-themed indie features, shorts and music videos.

The festival is an opportunity to showcase indie films, driven by “pure passion” and smaller budgets, that wouldn’t necessarily be seen at other Canadian film festivals, says RIFF exec director Avi Federgreen.

It’s also a chance for emerging filmmakers to get face time with more experienced filmmakers to gather practical intel on topics like licencing and placement of music in film, financing films through crowdfunding, and pitching and marketing through digital and social platforms, he adds.

“Smaller festivals are better for emerging filmmakers to get those questions answered than the bigger festivals,” Federgreen says.

Federgreen came on board to run the inaugural Reel Indie Film Festival after a conversation with Indie Week founder Darryl Hurs at SXSW a few years ago.

Hurs was looking at ways to expand Indie Week as the indie music festival approached its 10th anniversary this year. The two thought that a film component would be a natural extension to the festival, taking a cue from festivals like SXSW, which has music, digital and film sections.

The four-day RIFF will focus on films that encapsulate musical inspiration and supporting filmmakers’ music-oriented stories.

Highlighting that merging of music and film is the newly announced keynote address on Oct. 17 by The Doors drummer John Densmore.

Densmore will speak at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel, following the world premiere of his film Window of Opportunity on Oct. 16 at 9:30. The film, produced by Densmore and written and directed by Samuel W. Joseph, will screen as a special presentation at the Royal, in addition to the festival’s six-feature lineup. The fest will open on Oct. 16 with Elise Salomon’s documentary Los Wild Ones, kicking off a festival lineup that includes six features, six shorts and six music videos.

A music video and a short film will precede each feature screening, says Federgreen. That screening lineup speaks to the natural progression of filmmakers to start their careers making music videos before moving on to shorts and features, he adds, citing director David Fincher as an example of a big name director who began his career directing music videos for Rick Springfield in the mid-’80s.

Canadian features on the roster include Matthew Dorman and Marcio Novelli’s doc Walking Proof; James Cullingham’s doc In Search of Blind Joe Death – The Saga of John Fahey and Mann Munoz’s drama The Legend of Jimi Lazer. The feature lineup also includes Maxine Trump’s doc Musicwood and closing night film Bayou Maharajah, directed by Lily Keber.

Also screening at the festival, headed up by exec director Avi Federgreen, are Purgatorium, a short from Canuck director Christine Buijs, and a slew of Canadian-directed music videos.

The complete festival lineup is available online.