Audrey Love

The night of Sept. 1 proved a successful turnout for Chris Jennings and the rest of his Eastern Oregon Film Festival crew, as they previewed a barrage of film trailers and sold the first batch of 2018 festival passes at their Sneak Peek and Pass sale at hq.

“In the past, we’ve usually combined our fundraiser and the first day (of pass sales) and this is the first year we’ve split that,” Jennings said. “(This event) gave us a chance to release information a lot earlier and now we’ve got lots of time to market each film.”

Pizz a and beer were available in abundance as attendees took their seats to preview a sampling of the 12 feature films to be screened at this year’s festival, Oct. 18-20, as well as Jenning’s awaited announcement of EOFF’s special guest — actor and filmmaker Bruce Campbell.

“We’re honored that we were even considered,” Jennings said of snagging Campbell for the festival. “I reached out (to him) through his website kind of on a whim, and he got back to me. I hear he’s a pretty wild character on his own, so I’m not sure what we’re going to get.”

In conjunction with the event, EOFF also released trailers to accompany their previously released list of official film
selections, an online portal to watch 14 films via Filmmaker Magazine’s website during festival time, as well as the musical lineup for their after parties — from La Grande rock band Catskills to the “electro-soul” sound of Chanti Darling, Portland-based band Máscaras, Blood Sun Stories out of Boise and, finally, LA’s Healing Gems.

“Now that we’ve sold the first wave of passes, it’s all about getting the word out,” Jennings said. “Our job is conn ecting people with the films that are going to resonate with them the most. There’s definitely a film in there for everybody.”

Festival-goers can expect to view a number of the 16 short films before each of the feature films. Jennings plans to release a tentative day-to-day schedule for EOFF sometime this week, with finalized times and lineups issued closer to the festival dates. He’s also pushing to coordinate panels or conversation pieces after some of the films and a walking tour of the Liberty Theatre so attendees can get a sense of the space the festival hopes to occupy in the future.

EOFF will host “Brunch with Bruce” the Saturday morning of the festival, allowing members priority and passholders on a first-come, first-serve basis the chance to listen to Campbell share insight from his 40-year film career and how technology and distribution mechanisms have impacted the business and craft of independent film.

“It’s an opportunity to ideally just have fun with him,” Jennings said, “and that comes with a lot of built-in fun because of the nature of his characters and the roles he’s played. We want to make it a great, intimate experience.”

Campbell is best known for his 1981 low-budget horror film “Evil Dead,” in which he starred and co-executive produced, and its Starz network spin-off series “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” Campbell has a connection to Oregon — he bought ranch property in Ashland’s Applegate Valley in 1998.

Despite Campbell’s mainstream success, Jennings hopes to underplay his appearance at EOFF to maintain the intimate nature of the festival’s events and its low-key, “hometown feel,” as well as foster a conducive atmosphere for future guests.

“We want people to want to come here,” he said.

With EOFF just over a month away, Jennings’ anticipation is rising for the festival’s ninth year in the valley.

“I’m excited for another variation (of the festival). Every year there’s something unique that comes out of it,” Jennings said. “There’s usually one or two people who walk away with some sort of magical experience or impressionable moment, and to me that’s awesome. If (a few) people can walk away with moments that change their life, their behavior, their thoughts about something, opens their eyes to a new idea — that’s what it’s for.”

Passes can be purchased online or at the La Grande Farmers Market on Saturdays. For more information, head to eofilmfest.com.

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