Member Spotlight: Ashland Independent Film Festival

The Ashland Independent Film Festival has been long known as a destination festival for its beautiful region and generous hospitality. For the past 20 years, AIFF has lifted underrepresented voices and highlighted the best of American independent cinema during its five-day live event in April. Since the spring of 2020, AIFF has been offering virtual screening opportunities.

What are some things that set your festival apart?

What normally sets AIFF apart is the surrounding beauty of the region, the hospitality of the community, the highly engaged audiences, and an emphasis on multi-arts programming (“live cinema” events blending theater, music, and visual art with film). In the spring of 2020, AIFF became one of the first film festivals to move into the virtual space. Online, we keep as much of our usual atmosphere alive as possible by including filmmaker Q&A’s after every screening and hosting live virtual parties – during which filmmakers and community members interact face-to-face. The 2021 festival is a hybrid “double feature” — virtual April 15-29 and live and outdoors June 24-28, and future festivals will retain a hybrid approach.

How has being a Film Festival Alliance member impacted your organization?

AIFF’s leadership has found FFA to be an incredible resource over the years while navigating the unique and nuanced challenges of our industry, especially during the pandemic. Opportunities to connect with similar organizations, both online and at regional festivals, have proven to provide great insight and inspiration.

What should every filmmaker know about your festival/organization?

AIFF celebrates all artists and honors them by offering complete transparency throughout the submission process and by paying screening fees for every film in the festival (including revenue shares during the virtual festival) as well as cash awards for juried and audience-selected prizes. During live festivals, filmmakers from every film, short and feature-length, are offered accommodations in Ashland and are invited to several exclusive events.

What kind of programming can someone expect at your festival?

The festival structures its film programming in thematic tracks, often including “Arts” and “Activism” as emphases, along with special annual themes like “Rising From the Ashes” and “Screening Cuba” in 2021. Upcoming theatrical film releases are mixed with exciting discoveries by emerging independent filmmakers, both short and feature-length. Leading figures in independent films (such as Al Maysles, Barbara Kopple, David Oyelowo, Barbara Hammer, Christine Vachon, and James Ivory) are honored with the Rogue and Pride Awards and participate in screenings and TalkBacks.