A preview of the 2015 Provincetown, Nantucket, and Woods Hole film festivals
Cape Cod and the Islands are known around the world for their gorgeous beaches, pristine natural settings, fresh and flavorful seafood, and a laidback vibe that keeps vacationers coming back year after year. In the past two decades, the region has also become a mecca for visitors who enjoy the fine art of filmmaking.
During the summer, interest in first-run independent films heats up at annual festivals in Provincetown, Nantucket, and Woods Hole. Not only do attendees have the opportunity to see films that may never appear in local theaters, they can interact with the filmmakers behind the films, and learn about the filmmaking process, the struggles, and the attention to detail involved. “This is the place to discover films before the rest of the world knows about them,” says Connie White, artistic director of the Provincetown Film Festival.
The festivals draw thousands of film enthusiasts, directors, actors, and others in the industry every year-—as well as summer vacationers curious to learn more. With many evening screenings and events, the festivals offer many cool options for cooling off. Enjoy! For more information, visit capecodlife.com/readersinfo.
Living on the Edge
Held annually in Provincetown—on the tip of Cape Cod—the Provincetown International Film Festival honors filmmakers who live and work on the edge. “We honor filmmakers who make their audiences think,” says Connie White, the festival’s artistic director. “Their films must be provocative, adventurous, and artistically well done.”
Since its inaugural year in 1999, the festival’s mission has been to show a diverse selection of American and international narrative features as well as documentaries and short films. The festival also seeks to highlight the Provincetown community’s unique qualities, including its rich history dating back to the Native Americans, the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims, a fishing village with strong Portuguese connections, and an oasis for gays and lesbians. Every year, the festival hosts more than 30 events honoring filmmakers and 100 or more films are screened.
According to White, the presentation of the annual Filmmaker on the Edge Award is the festival’s signature event. John Waters, who directed films such as Hairspray (1988), Serial Mom (1994), and Pink Flamingos (1972), which all pushed the boundaries of conventional propriety, was the first recipient of the award back in 1999. Today, Waters is a fixture at the festival, White says, and his pencil-thin mustache makes him easy to identify.
Filmmaking pioneers Kevin Smith (2010), Darren Aronofsky (2011), and Roger Corman (2012) have also received the award for their many films that have challenged social norms.
The festival’s annual “Breakfast With…” event is another staple and features panel discussions with filmmakers and other special guests. In 2014, discussions focused on topics such as first-time female filmmakers, documentaries, and the HBO film, The Case Against 8. Participating as a first-time, female filmmaker in 2014, Sheila Canavan created the documentary, Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank.
Over the years, the festival has drawn interest from a variety of celebrities, including actresses Debra Winger, Patricia Clarkson, and Jane Lynch.
Though the festival ends June 21, the Provincetown Film Society, the festival’s parent organization, holds events all year long. “We work with the Wellfleet Drive-In to show classic films such as Jaws,” says White. “We also showed the film, A Hard Days Night, on its 50th anniversary last year.” For tickets, visit ptownfilmfest.org, or call 508-487-3456.
The Write Stuff
The natural beauty of Nantucket Island may be difficult to capture or reflect in words—and that may be one of the reasons organizers of the Nantucket Film Festival work so hard each year to honor writers and the art of screenwriting. “We believe the writer is at the heart of every film,” says Bill Curran, producer of the festival, which this year runs from June 24 to 29. “We are choosing to elevate a role that doesn’t get its proper credence.”
This year’s festivities begin Wednesday, June 24, with an opening night screening at Nantucket High School. In addition, two films shot on the island are scheduled to be part of the festival lineup. “We are thrilled to show films made locally,” Curran says, “including Gray Lady (2014), which was written and directed by John Shea and features actors Eric Dane, Amy Madigan, Natalie Zea, and Rebecca Gayheart; and Peter and John (2014), written and directed by Jay Craven, and starring actors Jacqueline Bisset, Christian Coulson, Shane Patrick Kearns, Gordon Clapp, Gary Farmer, and Diane Guerrero.”
Curran says the mission of the festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is to accentuate the idea that a great film does not exist without a great story. Through staged readings, late night storytelling sessions, and the annual Screenwriters Tribute Award, attendees can participate in fun and interactive events to learn about the quality writing that serves as the backbone of any well-crafted film.
Over the years, the festival’s annual Screenwriters Tribute Award has honored industry legends that have brought distinction to the art of film writing. Honorees have included Judd Apatow, the creator of Bridesmaids; Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, the writers of Sideways; and in 2014, Aaron Sorkin, who wrote The Social Network. This year’s tribute and award ceremony will be held Saturday, June 27, at Sconset Casino.
Perhaps the most interesting live events at the festival are the stage readings and late night storytelling sessions. Past stage readings have included an adaptation of the Steven Soderbergh and Scott Kramer film, Confederacy of Dunces, featuring Will Ferrell, Rosie Perez, Alan Cumming, Moz Def, and Paul Rudd. The Late Night Storytelling sessions feature filmmakers and other guests telling five-minute stories that address a particular theme.
“This year’s theme will be fact versus fiction,” Curran says of the event, to be held Friday, June 26. “Ophira Eisenberg, writer, comedian, storyteller, and host of NPR’s weekly comedy trivia show, Ask Me Another, will once again host the evening.” Curran added that the names of the storytellers who will participate in the event are kept secret until the event, but past participants have included Rudd as well as Tina Fey, Jim Carrey, and Sarah Silverman.
Another annual event that has featured big names in the industry in the past is the All-Star Comedy Roundtable. Ben Stiller, Bill Hader, and Chris Rock have all been involved over the years.
Though the Nantucket Film Festival does attract popular celebrities and industry professionals, Curran says the festival does not suffer from overcrowding or excessive hype. “We are not a big, sprawling festival with hundreds of films to show,” Curran says. “Our festival is five days long and gives audiences a nice mirror to look at film.” For tickets, visit nantucketfilmfestival.org.
Movies, Music, Science, and More!
Now in its 24th year, the mission of the Woods Hole Film Festival is to showcase the work of emerging and independent filmmakers, to highlight films that are relevant to Cape Cod, and to foster a creative and independent film community both at the festival and on the Cape.
“The festival gives audience members the opportunity to share experiences and opinions not only with the filmmaker, but with each other,” says Judy Laster, the festival’s founder. “Filmmakers also relish the opportunity to screen their film for the first time with an audience. It’s a truly unique occasion.”
This year’s festivities get underway Saturday, July 25 with a screening of Maya Forbes’ 2014 film, Infinitely Polar Bear, at Redfield Auditorium on Water Street. The film depicts the life of a father who is struggling with bipolar disorder. Over the following week, more than 100 films will be screened at various venues including the old Woods Hole Fire Station, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), Redfield Auditorium, and Falmouth Academy’s Morse Hall.
One special event on this year’s lineup is a presentation titled, “The Kissinger Twins, Cinematic Labyrinths—Interactive and Transmedia Storytelling Showcase.” This event features film and photography duo, Dawid Marcinkowski and Kasia Kifert, and shows how they mix classic film, photography, and the latest digital technologies to create interactive, web-based cinematic storytelling.
Laster also offered details on an event from a recent festival that emphasized the importance of providing the audience with an original experience they can not find elsewhere. “Cultural icon, Wavy Gravy, attended the 2009 festival’s screening of Saint Misbehavin’, the Wavy Gravy Movie, directed by Michelle Esrick,” Laster says. “The fact that Wavy was there added to the authenticity of the screening. You could feel the audience smiling throughout the film.” The film went on to win the festival’s coveted Audience Award, the voting for which allows those who attend festival screenings to voice their opinions.
“Audience members can vote on the films they see,” Laster says. “They can create a buzz for various films by selecting them for specific awards such as the Audience Award, Best Comedy Short, Best Cape Cod Section, and Best Narrative Feature Film.”
The festival also features a loaded lineup of live music, including a performance by 6 East, a Cape Cod acoustic guitar duo. Tickets—including passes, ticket packages and tickets to individual films—go on sale July 1, at woodsholefilmfestival.org. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 508-495-3456.