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Film & DVD

Orlando Film Festival

Central Florida's second-biggest film festival turns seven years old

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Andie MacDowell and her daughter, Rainey Qualley, star in Mighty Fine, screening at the Orlando Film Festival Oct. 18 and 19.

Photo: , License: N/A

Everybody's favorite ginger, Seth Green, stars in the Story of Luke, which screens Oct. 20 and 21.

A famous capitalist once conjectured that competition is healthy, and the creators of the Orlando Film Festival have put that theory to a successful test over the last seven years, building their event into the second biggest film fest in Central Florida. The Florida Film Festival is still tops, but the presence of another major show has helped boost the reputation of Orlando's film community.

"We started [in 2006]. We had a film out there … and went around to festivals all over the country," chairman and co-founder M. Brett Jaffee says.

During his travels, people asked Jaffee about the Orlando festival scene. "We have the Florida Film Festival, which is huge and wonderful and awesome," he told them, "and actually I had a film in the Florida Film Festival, [but] we decided to plant our flag, have a film festival [of our own]. We knew [the Cobb Theatres Plaza Cinema Café] was coming [and would make a great home for the event]."

Until the Plaza Cinema Café was built, however, the festival spent a couple of years at CityArts Factory, with what Jaffee describes as just one-and-a-half screens, thanks to the obstructed view of one screen. From those humble beginnings, the festival has grown to a 12-screen, 142-film event that spans five days.

Jaffee and executive director Daniel Springen, whose first role with the festival was participating filmmaker, point to four factors that make their festival unique: the convenient downtown location on Orange Avenue, their treatment of the filmmakers, Q&As after most of the films and cheap tickets ($10 a day, $30 for the whole festival and $100 for a top-notch VIP pass that includes party access, priority seating and even free Stella Artois).

"I felt when I was a filmmaker in the festival that I was well taken care of," Springen says. "I know that my main focus coming in [as director] was, because I'm a filmmaker as well, was just making sure that when the filmmakers come in, that they are treated like royalty, because they created a piece of art that will live on forever and ever and ever, and they just – nobody will ever see their films, except at film festivals. Some of them, yes, will get distribution, but these short-film makers [won't]."

And for those who don't find distribution, Jaffee adds, "This is their Oscar, this is their world premiere. … What we found is we could treat filmmakers, because of our connections, to a style that they weren't accustomed to. … We also removed all barriers to entry. We made it free to attend … and we brought in really big films.

"We've evolved since then," he continues. "We can't be a free festival, … but what we can do is practically give away the seats. … And we have had over 100-percent growth every year we've had the festival."

So what can festival-goers expect, other than the rock-bottom ticket prices?

"The best part is we know that 99.9 percent of Central Florida has never seen any of these films because they are not mainstream-released," Jaffee says, theorizing that the number of national and Southeast premieres (though the festival does have some) isn't as important as the quality. "So it doesn't matter if they've played here or there. If they're a good film, we're gonna hold them up.

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