In 2009 Ian Clark and Mike Surber founded the Eastern Oregon Film Festival as a way to provide an outlet for local film productions and viewings. What was once a two-day event of movie screenings has turned into a weekend long festival including conversations with the artists, after-parties and live local music. EOFF 2019 will be hosted at three locations on Depot Street in La Grande Oct. 24-26, plus a screening at Eastern Oregon University on Friday night. This year’s festival includes 10 feature-length films and 24 short films by local, national and international artists.
The festival has grown in many ways, according to Festival Director Christopher Jennings. From the size of the audience to the number of movies being shown and submitted, Jennings said the festival continues to evolve with each year.
“Our region is packed full of creative individuals. We’ve been building and cultivating an audience over the 10 years,” Jennings said. “We’ve really worked on building a quality and intimate connection with the audience, the filmmakers and films.”
The films shown come from a mixture of curated content and submitted works. The movies submitted range in content and quality, according to Jennings, and those selected are chosen by a committee made up of EOFF members and the board of directors. This year’s committee was made of approximately 30 members who spent several days viewing more than 100 of the submissions.
“We think it’s important to have that mixed blend so people who come to the festival know they are going to see good films,” Jennings said.
According to Jennings, topical documentaries are what were the biggest in terms of submission and selections this year. Some of the documentaries chosen include “Pigeon Kings,” about a group from South Los Angeles who train pigeons for the sport of Aviation Acrobatics, and “I Am Human,” a female-produced and directed sci-fi documentary about the co-evolution of humans and technology. This film will be shown at EOU in the hopes of bringing the community and the college students together.
Festival-goers this year will “see really wonderful perspectives on many different things, some local or regional, some international,” Jennings said.
Unlike larger film festivals such as Sundance in Salt Lake City, Utah, EOFF doesn’t have distributors or buyers in attendance. Instead, Jennings said, EOFF is able to bring people together and cultivate conversation and networking opportunities.
“There is a side agenda in the festival that is sort of the artist’s adventure,” Jennings said. “We put a lot them together so they have time to talk and network and maybe explore the region and consider this place as a potential story to be made.”
Tickets can be purchased for $10 per screening, or a $65 weekend pass includes unlimited access to screenings and events.
At the end of each day after all of the screenings, there will be an after-party hosted at hq. Here people can come together and discuss the films they saw over food and drinks with live music performed by local artists.
“If you jump in feet first and ride the river, you get a really rich ride full of all kinds of information,” Jennings said. “Because it’s so rich, we do the after-parties and have the music (as) a chance to digest the films of the day.”
When asked to describe EOFF’s vibe, Jennings saaid, “Intimate, creative, bootstrap, supportive and positive. Locally, it is becoming a strong cultural event for the community that fills a slight gap, and it’s getting stronger and stronger.”