Elizabeth Shepherd, festival director says: “We really enjoy being able to nurture and inspire young filmmakers.”
Q: How did the festival begin?
A:This is our 10th anniversary. The Northwest Film Forum is almost 20 years old, and from the beginning the Forum thought it was really important to reach out to future audiences and have a festival for children. For a few years we had a festival called “Childish,” then decided to make it an official international film festival. We’ve gotten to a point now that some of the kids who first came to the festival are now going off to college.
I had been the director of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. It was a great and joyous thing for me to continue doing this work.
Q: Are some of the kids studying film?
A: Yes, some of the kids have gone on to study film. We don’t show a lot of youth-made films, but we did show a film one year by a 12-year-old boy. He came to the festival and we had a big Q & A with him. He just finished high school and is going off to study film. He’s teaching a camp at the NW Film Forum this summer. We’ve really enjoyed being able to nurture and inspire young filmmakers.
Q: What is special about the Children’s Film Festival Seattle?
A: One important thing to know about our festival is when it is over in Seattle, we send a lot of our programs out on tour. We curate the REDCAT International Children’s Film Festiva, which is held annually at the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Hall in Los Angeles. In 2015, we’re helping the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMkids Film Festival.
We have the Best of the Fest animation and live action that gets sent out across the U.S. Our programs get seen by a lot of people throughout the country after they premiere in Seattle. Another important thing about our festival is that it’s very cozy. We make it a lot of fun for families to come. Our opening weekend includes a pancake breakfast and java party with a live band for kids. And children come in their pajamas each year. Kids have the opportunity to make films in our lobby and there’s a drop-in animation clinic.
The festival is a great way to be with your family. It’s a true family event. It takes place in a cold and rainy month here in Seattle, which makes it the best time of the year to come inside and get cozy in our theater.
Q: How is the community involvement with the festival?
A: We’re located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle, which is filled with art and people. It’s a bustling part of the city. We have two theaters, home to the North West Film Forum. They’re filled all through January with school groups. It’s a great field trip. There is something for all age groups. There are sweet and beautiful films for young preschool children and more meaty programs for middle school kids.
We also have a children’s jury. They jury members range from 8 to 15 years old. They’re divided into two groups: one jury for feature films and the other for shorts. The juries work really hard, have great discussions and take their work very seriously. It’s a lot of fun for them, but they also make really important decisions and learn a lot about cinema along the way.
We want the kids to learn how to think critically. Our tagline is “See the world. Feed your mind.” We want the festival to open windows to the world and really heighten children’s awareness as global citizens. The festival is important in that it is something that motivates kids to love film and love the act of creation, also to enjoy being a part of the audience.
Children’s Film Festival Seattle is still accepting submissions for next year’s festival. The next festival runs from January 22 – February 1 at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.