Inside the 2011 Vail Film Festival (w/ exclusive video)

A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the 8th annual Vail Film Festival to check out Olympus’s new initiatives in digital filmmaking and photography. As someone that loves independent films, experimenting with digital cameras, and snowboarding; the only way I would have been more anxious to pack my bags and fly to Colorado would’ve been if Lindsey Vonn had personally offered to escort me to the slopes and give me ski lessons upon arrival.

I’d never visited any Colorado ski resorts, so all of my preconceptions of the town were summoned from an exaggerated mix of pop culture references to Aspen (think Dumb & Dumber, Southpark or Family Guy). Just before touching down at Eagle Airport, I imagined that I would have to sift through hoards of stiff yuppies draped in mink furs and Burberry scarves scoffing at me for participating in the barbaric sport of the mono-ski.
But after settling into the newly remodeled Sebastian Hotel and taking a walk through the quaint cobblestone streets, I was relieved to find a proportionate balance of twenty-somethings on spring break from the nearby CSU Boulder, mild-mannered family crowds, and even a few polite young urban proffesionals sipping chardonnay and enjoying the afternoon’s aprés-ski.

Olympus came to Vail as one of the primary sponsors of the film festival and host of the 48-hour “PEN Your Short” competition. This contest gave teams of filmmakers the chance to shoot a 3 to 5 minute long video in just 48 hours with the PEN EP-L 2, a compact digital SLR camera that boasts interchangeable lenses and an array of in-camera ‘art filters’. The participants of the contest ranged from tight teams of young but experienced production buffs to a pair of local radio hosts that desperately began to search for a video editor moments after the countdown kicked off.

In theory, it was a great chance for everyone to showcase their ability; a level playing field of equipment, a list of specific shots & techniques to be incorporated in the videos, and the freedom to showcase any topic or narrative feasible within the given deadline.

Shot with the Olympus PEN and Olympus Tough TG-610

After meeting the 48-hour teams & getting familiar with the PEN, the impressive XZ-1, and Olympus’s Tough TG-610, myself and the handful of other journalists had the chance to participate in the weekend’s festivities and catch the various festival events and screenings. In its 8th year, the Vail Film Festival has yet to reach Telluride or Sundance proportions; but the stars that came to support the event and quality of the films shown lead me to believe it will eventually grow to be associated within the weight class of the bigger festivals over the next 5 years.

The films screened ranged from a charming low budget love story titled Falling Overnight, to a quirky Sideways-esque film about a female scientist that refuses to give up control in every aspect of her life, to a fascinating documentary about legendary skier Bill Johnson.

There were festival parties held across several ballrooms inside the Sebastian, with intimate musical performances by artists like Cary Brothers & Meiko. Representatives of films in the festival rubbed elbows with Vail’s socialites and a few celebrities (that had been lured to the festival by handing them awards) like Kate Bosworth, Michael Imperioli & Oscar Nunez; Lindsey Vonn even made a brief appearance, but I got the impression that my ski lessons would have to wait.

One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was chatting with Kris Krosskove, a Hollywood cinematographer and camera operator that had used the Olympus PEN to shoot several of the racing scenes in Disney’s 2010 horse-racing film Secretariat. Krosskove took advantage of the PEN’s small profile to capture angles that wouldn’t have been possible with full sized cameras, using it to shoot fast-paced action sequences that were then intercut with standard 35-mm film shots. It was both fascinating and reassuring to speak with a professional that was using the same tools that everyday consumers have access to; proof that a typically slow-to-adapt industry is in fact willing to incorporate new, inexpensive technology.

The founders of the Vail Film Festival are well on their way to establishing a legacy in Vail, and for travelers interested in independent film but reluctant to join the masses at Sundance it’s certainly a viable mountain festival alternative. The good snow, great venues throughout the town, and an overall charming and pleasant setting to mingle with the creative class and see a unique selection of films will certainly bring me back.

To check out the unique variety of finished films from the Olympus 48-hour film competition, visit the Olympus Youtube channel and see if your favorites match up with the contest winners.

Stephen traveled to the Vail Film Festival on a trip sponsored by Olympus. No editorial content was guaranteed and he was free to openly experiment with Olympus’s cameras while snowboarding, bathing in picturesque hot tubs, and rubbing elbows with A-list celebrities.

Cinematical is in Park City for Sundance

Our sister site Cinematical is holed up in chilly Park City, Utah for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and they recently posted a great set of photos highlighting the beautiful snow-covered streets and shimmering lights of the city at night. Even if you’re not a movie buff, you can’t help but wish you were bundled up, warm Irish coffee in hand, hobnobbing with celebrities and checking out a new premiere. Jealous? I know I am.

Cinematical will in Park City all week for the festival, so head over to their Sundance hub to follow the latest in movie news, interviews, and reviews.

Sundance Starts Soon

know we’re just a few days away from the start of Sundance, the
indie-gone-mainstream film festival that takes place in lovely Park City, Utah. I know that some of the folks here at
Weblogs are going, and, man, I wish I could count myself among them. But
someone has to stay home and work a real job. But I am told by a reliable source that this will be one of the best
Sundance Fests yet, and the streets of Park City are going to be teeming with stars and hacks alike.

you’re like me and will be experiencing the festival with virtual vicariousness, then you will want to bookmark the
links to the various shorts that will be available online. Also, you may want to check out the festival’s program to see which films have made it into
the fest. The list goes on and on, but I confess I am interested in several of the small art-house films like
Art School Confidential
by Terry Zwigoff
and Neil Young: Heart of Gold by 
Jonathan Demme, both of which will be premiered at the festival. Also of interest is
The Science of Sleep
by Michel Gondry,
whose DVD of collected shorts I Netflixed recently and enjoyed immensely.

So keep an eye out for more on
Sundance as the magic date (Jan 19) approaches.