Woodstock Film Festival
The Woodstock Film Festival is an American film festival that was launched in 2000 by filmmakers Meira Blaustein and Laurent Rejto with the goal to bring high quality independent film to the Hudson Valley region. The festival takes place each fall in the towns of Woodstock, Rosendale, Rhinebeck, Saugerties and Kingston, in the height of fall foliage.
The Woodstock Film Festival is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to present an annual program and year-round schedule of film, music, and art-related activities that promotes artists, culture, inspired learning, and diversity.
Their sister organization, the Hudson Valley Film Commission promotes sustainable economic development by attracting and supporting film, video, and media production.
With offices located in the heart of Woodstock, NY, the first fiercely independent inaugural festival ran September 21–24, 2000. It included workshops, documentaries, concerts and films from all over the world. Speakers at the inaugural festival's workshops included actor Aidan Quinn, documentary filmmakers Albert Maysles, Barbara Kopple and D. A. Pennebaker, filmmaker Les Blank and Ron Nyswaner, who wrote the screenplay for Philadelphia.
The second annual event was held despite falling only nine days after the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, despite some initial concerns. The festival's co-founder, Meira Blaustein said of the decision not to postpone the festival, "This is such an incredible event, so many dreams are realized here – it must continue," and noted that the event was dedicated to "the men, women and children who lost their lives in the September 11 tragedies."
Now in its 14th year, the Woodstock Film Festival has garnered the praise of the film industry and is noted as being "one of the top 50 film festivals in the world." Programming between 130-150 films, concerts, panels and parties each year, WFF draws films from the far reaches of Siberia to locally shot films right in the Hudson Valley, NY. With categories of programming such as; shorts, animation, music videos, focus on music, exposure, world cinema and Hudson Valley films.
The festival has featured many high-powered members of the film community. These have included industry executives, network and cable executives, record label executives, writers, entertainment lawyers, producers, and critics. Some notable attendees have included Kevin Bacon, Keanu Reeves, Steve Buscemi, Matt Dillon, Olympia Dukakis, Woody Harrelson, Ethan Hawke, Daniel Day-Lewis, Laura Linney, Parker Posey, Aidan Quinn, Kevin Smith, Tim Robbins, Tim Blake Nelson, Ellen Barkin, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vera Farmiga, Jonathan Demme, Timothy Hutton, Lori Singer and Mark Ruffalo.
The Woodstock Film Festival advisory board is made up of top industry representatives including Judy Arthur, Eamonn Bowles, Robin Bronk, Ellen Chenoweth, Claude Dal Farra, Vincent D'Onofrio, Griffin Dunne, Martha Frankel, Leon Gast, Jonathan Gray, Ethan Hawke, Sabine Hoffman, Gill Holland, Ted Hope, Michael Lang, Melissa Leo, Jeremiah Newton, Stephen Nemeth, Annie Nocenti, Ron Nyswaner, Bill Plympton, Aidan Quinn, Peter Saraf, Steve Savage, Liev Schreiber, Zachary Sklar, John Sloss, Fisher Stevens, David Strathairn, and Lemore Syvan.
The Woodstock Film Festival is a competitive festival that offers cash and in-kind prizes in a variety of categories. The festival's "Maverick Awards," held the Saturday night of the festival are given for:
- Best Feature Narrative
- Best Feature Documentary
- Best Short Documentary
- Best Short Film
- Best Student Film
- Best Cinematography–The Haskell Wexler Award
- Best Editing
- Best Animation
- Audience Award for Best Feature Narrative
- Audience Award for Best Feature Documentary
- Honorary Maverick Award
- Honorary Trailblazer Award
- The Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award
Maverick Award Honorees
The Honorary Maverick Award is given each year to a fixture in the world of film, typically veteran directors, actors or industry professionals who have left their permanent mark on entertainment. Past recipients have included:
Director Jonathan Demme (2012), Director Tony Kaye (2011), Director Bruce Beresford (2010), Director Richard Linklater (2009), Comedian, Director Kevin Smith (2008), Producer Christine Vachon (2007), Filmmaker Barbara Kopple (2006), Actor Steve Buscemi (2005), Director Mira Nair (2004), Actor Woody Harrelson (2003), Actor Tim Robbins (2002), D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (2001), Filmmaker Les Blank (2000)
The Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award was initiated in 2011. The award honors those who fight to give back to the world and have championed a cause or charity throughout their careers. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, The Kids Are All Right, Shutter Island) received the first annual Giving Back Award in 2011 for his anti-fracking efforts in New York State. The 2012 award went to actor Tim Blake Nelson (Lincoln, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Leaves of Grass). The monetary element of the award was given to the 52nd Street Project, a theater program for the children of the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood allowing them to experience acting, orchestrating their own performances and expressing their creativity in a healthy manner.
Trailblazer recipients have included professionals in the entertainment industry who have made an impact in their craft. Past recipients have included Robin Bronk CEO of the Creative Coalition (2011), marketing and distribution guru Bob Berney (2010), Ted Hope (2009), James Schamus (2008), Ted Sarandos (2007), Jonathan Sehring (2006), John Sloss (2005).
The Woodstock Film Festival continues the spread of independent film after the fall festival has ended. In conjunction with the Hudson Valley Programmer's Group, the Woodstock Film Festival holds year-round tours of select films all throughout the Hudson Valley.
The festival also holds a yearly Career Day, focused on bringing direct insight from the film world to aspiring students. Since its inception as an educational not-for-profit organization, the Woodstock Film Festival has been committed to youth and education as a means to positive development, conflict resolution and growth opportunity.
In addition to providing classes and internships for local schools, the Woodstock Film Festival has presented special workshops and seminars designed to stimulate and to provide resources not readily available in the local area. Additionally, local film production opportunities, made available through the Hudson Valley Film Commission have provided career opportunities.