‘With the thousands of festivals around the world every year, how do we attract filmmakers?” Kerrie Long muses. It’s a question that assuredly keeps most film-fest producers tossing and turning at night, because there’s no answer, really, though a few key perks have become established: being counted among MovieMaker Magazine’s list of 50 Festivals Worth The Entry Fee is one way, which the Edmonton International Film Festival was this year.
“But ultimately,” Long, EIFF’s producer, continues, “you want to be an Academy-qualifying festival.”
Which EIFF now, officially, is. The festival’s 2016 iteration will count itself among the 80-odd festivals in the world that can qualify a short film for the Oscars: whatever films win the Live Action and Animation categories will be forwarded along for official consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For context: there are only three other Canadian fests with the designation.
Five years ago, Long started investigating the path to that designation. What she discovered was how little information was out there—the Academy is willfully opaque when it comes to its requirements. She started talking to festivals that already have the distinction to glean more info. There’s an invitation to apply that comes, but, again, through murky stipulations: having guest filmmakers connected to the Academy praise its merits is one way, but the list of Academy members isn’t easy to track down.
“I also knew that—and this is from talking to other festivals that had applied and were not successful—that if you’re not successful, you have to wait four years, and hope that you’re invited again. Usually they don’t invite again—you get one shot.”
Eventually Long got a break: she met Tom Oyer, an awards manager for AMPAS, at a film event. It turns out the Edmonton festival has earned some buzz from filmmakers over the years.
“He actually sought me out” she recalls. “[Oyer] said, ‘Kerrie, this Edmonton International Film Festival, I keep hearing about it.'”
He gave Long some pointers, and she submitted the festival application. The response arrived in her inbox just before Christmas.
“I got the email on the 20th. I didn’t open it for three days,” she says. “We only had one shot at this, really. And then I fell down on the floor and cried like I was Miss Universe.”
The 2016 Edmonton International Film Festival runs September 26 – October 8. The call for entries opens on February 1. V