Long before this year’s winners are announced, the New Orleans Film Festival celebrates some big wins of their own.
A year ago I wrote my first film column for in inaugural issue of Biz New Orleans. The topic was the 25th year of the New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF). At that time, New Orleans Film Society’s (NOFS) Executive Director, Jolene Pinder expressed her excitement that the festival was gaining “premier status,” having premiered a film the previous year that had gone on to with the Oscar for Best Picture.
This year Pinder is thrilled to announce that the festival’s relationship with the Academy Awards has officially hit a new level.
“We are one of the few not documentary only festivals in the country that was chosen this year to be a Oscar qualifying festival for documentary shorts,” Pinder says. “That means the winner of our jury award for documentary short this year will now qualify to be nominated for an Oscar.”
Spurred on by the good news, Pinder says next year plans are to apply for Oscar qualification for the category of Live Action and Animated Short.
For now, though, it looks like there’s going to be some strong competition in all of this year’s categories.
“We’ve received about 58 percent more submissions this year than last year,” Pinder says. The New Orleans Film Society has whittled down 3,400 submissions from more than 100 countries to a total of 188 films that will be shown during various screenings around New Orleans from October 14-22.
Opening night for the festival’s 26th year will take place at the newly restored Orpheum Theater and feature “Born to Be Blue.” Written and directed by Robert Budreau, the film stars Ethan Hawke as jazz legend Chet Baker who leads a troubled life in the 1960s.
The featured Centerpiece film will be “I Saw the Light,” a biography of country music star Hank Williams that filmed in Shreveport, and the closing film on October 22 will be “Brooklyn,” a dramatic romance film about a young woman in the 1950s set in Ireland and New York. The screenplay was written by Nick Hornby — who also wrote “About A Boy,” “High Fidelity” and the 2014 Oscar nominated film “Wild.”
Pinder says that more than just putting on a great festival each year, the NOFS works year-round to promote the film scene in Louisiana and support its burgeoning filmmakers.
“I’m also excited to report that the trade publication Variety will be doing a full eight page editorial on the film industry in Louisiana Entertainment,” Pinder says. “It is set to come out a day before the festival starts, so we’ll obviously have copies available.
Pinder says the coverage is a result of a successful push from the NOFS, along with Louisiana Entertainment and the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Economy.
Pinder also adds that the Society has been working to expand its filmmaker services — helping those starting out to make connections and find funding. In May they announced their partnership with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to offer a $50,000 grant — the 2015 Create Louisiana Filmmakers Grant — which will go to fund a short film for the winning filmmakers that will be screened at the 2016 NOFF.
I have to say, with how much NOFS has managed to accomplish in just this past year, I can’t even imagine what 2016 will look like. And the Oscar goes to…
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life and is thrilled to be covering its emersion in her newly adopted home.