Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Thoughts on the 12th Annual Alexandria Film Festival

Thoughts on the 12th Annual Alexandria Film Festival

By Dennis D. McDonald

I’ve been a volunteer with the Alexandria Film Festival, a festival devoted to independent films, for the past 3 or 4 years. Located in Alexandria, Virginia the Festival, run by a very small army of volunteers, focuses primarily on selecting and exhibiting independently produced films.

This year we showed 70 films of all kinds and all lengths. Many of the film showings were accompanied by Q&A sessions hosted by the filmmakers themselves.

As a volunteer I’ve done a variety of things — reviewed and helped to select films, written grant proposals (successful!), worked on special web sites and fundraising campaigns, set up our credit card software for Festival weekends (which includes crawling on the floor to tape extension cords to the AMC Theater carpeting where we show most of our films), and taken photographs over Festival weekends.

This past weekend I was at the Festival from Saturday ay 9AM till Midnight and then again from Sunday 9AM till 9PM, all the while taking photographs, editing them, and uploading them to my Flickr site.

My main goal was to get pictures of as many Q&A sessions as possible. For the most part I was successful.

I came away with a much improved understanding of what goes into an independent film. I’ve long been a movie buff and I’m an amateur movie reviewer, but after attending nearly all this past weekend’s Q&A sessions I’ve decided that I really have not understood nor appreciated all the work that goes into making films.

Even shorter films require a massive amount of work, planning, flexibility, and above all, creativity. As I told one of the actors Sunday night at the Awards Ceremony, listening to a director like Christopher Nolan describe the work involved in making a movie like Interstellar or Dunkirk is one thing. He has an army working for him to help him realize his creative vision.

Listening to a concentrated dose of independent filmmakers over the course of a weekend gives you a much more nuanced and gritty sense of the work involved by a team that often is operating with little or no funding or under a ridiculously compressed shooting schedule.

What’s often amazing about the independent films we exhibited over the weekend was that most looked and sounded terrific. You could tell an amazing amount of work had gone into the tasks performed in front of and behind the camera.

Another thing notable about the Festival: many of the filmmakers seldom have an opportunity to see their films projected on a big screen with a professional sound system. Their pleasure — and pride — was palpable. You could see that from their faces.

My recommendation is: support your local film festival!

Copyright (c) 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald

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