Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

Lights… camera… action!

From Friday, April 28 to Sunday, April 30, people of all ages, races and genders will come together in the heart of West Chester for the 13th Annual West Chester International Short Film Festival—more commonly known as the West Chester Film Festival.

According to Carol Quigley, president of the West Chester Film Festival Executive Board, the idea for the festival developed after the last movie theater in West Chester was demolished in 1983.

In the early 2000s, a group of people formed the Theater Attraction Committee in hopes of building a new theater. The committee later dissolved after the Ritz Theatres in Philadelphia showed no desire in opening a theater, believing there would not be enough interest in independent films and thus not enough profit.

Following this, Laura Barton came up with the concept of a film festival. In October of 2003, she, along with Brett Walker and Judy Fitzpatrick, launched the first annual event.

According to Quigley, they decided to take a 16-month hiatus after the first few years after recognizing the audience had “not grown exponentially” due to all the other events that go on in West Chester around the same time, notably the Chili Cook-Off and Restaurant Festival.

Although they eventually came to the conclusion that “they are always competing with other events” in West Chester no matter the time of year, they now stick with the last weekend of April.

As Quigley noted, the film festival is run by an executive board that is composed of nine volunteer members.

“Everyone has jobs. None of us make films for a living,” said Quigley. “We do this in our free time.”

Quigley quipped, “I work two and a half jobs. I have my full-time job, and then one and a half jobs running the festival.”

With no staff, Quigley said that they do work all year round. The festival begins taking video ideas in August, while they call for submissions in the beginning of September. According to Quigley, the early bird deadline is in mid-October, with the regular deadline being two months after that, and the final deadline can be either the end of December or beginning of January.

There were about 250 videos submitted for this year’s festival, which had to be viewed by a committee comprised of eight to 10 members by the third week of February. With 14 hours of screening time for the entire weekend, the committee was forced to select only 60 short films.

The festival will kick off with an opening party at The Social at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 28.

All films are played in two-hour block, and there will be four blocks shown that night at various venues, including Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center and Chester County Historical Society.

On Saturday, April 29, there will be eight blocks, with the first starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Boxcar Brewpub. This will be part of the West Chester Family Film Festival, which is aimed toward families who are “too busy to go out at night,” according to Quigley, and contains films friendly for all ages.

There will also be two workshops at the Sprout Music Collective, with the first at 1:15 p.m. and the second at 4:15 p.m.

Finally, on Sunday, April 30, there will again be four blocks, with the first starting at 11:30 a.m. at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center. The festival will conclude at the same venue at 6 p.m. with a closing party.

Amy Theorin and her son Kurtis will be participating in the West Chester Film Festival for the second time, with their first go-round resulting in them winning the Best Experimental Film award in 2015 for their short film “Gumball.”

This year, two of their films were accepted: “The Gift of the Woods,” an animated film, and “Encore,” a live-action, coming-of-age drama.

While Amy used to be an advertising manager for the Bank of Delaware, creating commercials for companies such as Lego has allowed her to focus on filmmaking full-time as of two to three years ago.

She, along with Kurtis and her other son Kris, run their own small production company, Something’s Awry, in Landenberg, Pa. Amy is the producer, Kurtis writes the scripts, and Kris is in charge of all the editing.

The family dabbles in a variety of genres, including stop-motion, live action and animation.

According to Kurtis, who has a bachelor’s degree in film production from Emerson College, getting involved with filmmaking “was a slow process.” He and Kris would make home videos in their backyard for fun when they were children, and eventually Kris became more and more talented with stop motion—specifically, with Legos. This led to posting videos on YouTube, which soon became a hit.

The family has entered into festivals all across the globe.

According to Amy, one of their films was even accepted into a film festival in Romania, which entailed sending the festival all of the film’s dialogue so it could be properly translated.

Amy described West Chester’s event as a “really nice regional film festival.”

“They have a good selection of films,” added Kurtis.

Tickets for this year’s West Chester Film Festival are $9 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and students and $5 for West Chester Film Festival members. There are also two package deals: You can pay $55 for an all-film block pass or $105 for an all-festival pass.

So if you’re looking for a fun and unique way to spend your weekend, check out a couple hours worth of short films. For more details, you can visit westchesterfilmfestival.com.

Casey Tobias is a third-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at CT822683@ wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @Casey__Tobias.

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