New Paltz Film Festival moves to larger venue this year, still free to attend

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Pictured are Film Fest founders Allyson Ferrara and Danny Asis. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The New Paltz Film Festival (NPFF) that debuted last year as “New Paltz Shorts” during the outdoor summer movie series at Water Street Market, will present a one-night, two-hour screening event on Saturday, September 28 at 7:30 p.m., featuring short films created by Hudson Valley-based filmmakers. But don’t go to the marketplace expecting to find the action this time around: the festival is moving to the 620-seat Studley Theatre on the SUNY New Paltz campus.

The change of venue will allow more people to view the films, and seeing them on the big screen in an actual theater will create a more cinematic experience for the audience, says NPFF creative director and founder of the festival, Allyson Ferrara. Danny Asis, fellow New Paltz-based filmmaker and music composer, is the assistant creative director for NPFF.

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The festival is a passion project for the two, who say their mission is to establish a platform for local filmmakers to showcase their talent and to inspire creativity and collaboration in the community. “New Paltz is such an artistic hub,” says Ferrara. “And everyone supports each other; it’s people who are interested in doing the same thing and they want to keep creating. I want to see that collaboration continuing not only with the artists but with the community that’s supporting them, to see that circle grow bigger, where you’re always invited and you’re always welcomed, whether that’s as someone watching the movies or someone making the movies.”

The festival screenings on September 28 are free to attend. People are welcome to just show up at the event without pre-registering, notes Ferrara, but given that seating is limited and interest is high, it’s a good idea to register beforehand at Eventbrite.com, which not only guarantees attendees the best seating in the venue but makes the ticketholder eligible to win prizes in raffles. A number of local businesses have contributed gift certificates and items to be given away.

With the film submission deadline having just passed, it’s too soon to offer a preview of the films to be shown. As of press time, a panel of six independent filmmakers, visual artists and musicians, along with Ferrara and Asis, were in the process of reviewing the films sent in for consideration. Last year’s “New Paltz Shorts” garnered entries from 36 New Paltz-based filmmakers, but with this year’s festival opened up to the entire Hudson Valley, 90 filmmakers submitted 120 films.

The number of films that will end up being screened at the two-hour — or maybe a bit longer — event will depend on the length of what the official selections turn out to be. The 2018 festival featured 15 films, but many of those were shorter than a lot of the films submitted for consideration this year, says Ferrara, even though each year had the same requirement that the films be 20 minutes or less in length. The decision-making process is difficult, she adds, as “a lot of them are incredibly successful. We’re really impressed by the quality of the work.”

The films must contain original content and are required to have been shot at least partially in the Hudson Valley. Documentaries, music videos and experimental shorts are in the mix, but the majority of the films submitted this year turned out to be fictional narrative works. Filmmakers from all stages of their career are represented.

The official selections will be announced soon on the event’s Facebook page and Instagram, along with information about the evening’s red carpet-style event happening outside the theater before the films are shown and an after-party at an as-yet-unnamed local bar.

The costs of putting on the festival – which include renting a projector, hiring theater technicians, and printing playbills – are being underwritten by local business sponsorship. “We absolutely could not have done this without the community and the businesses we reached out to,” says Ferrara. “This project is something that we’re only able to sustain because of the community being interested and wanting to support it. I hope that this year is successful, even more than last year, to keep the interest in it growing.”

Future goals include presenting companion events throughout the year in which NPFF will team up with local businesses to offer themed screenings dedicated to one segment of what the festival covers; a night of music videos, for example, or documentaries. “And I always want New Paltz to be the hub for all of this,” Ferrara says. “That way we have something going on all year long that keeps us on your radar. I’m very determined to make this something that is sustainable and lasts, and is going to be a community effort.”

A large part of the mission going forward for the New Paltz Film Festival, she adds, “is that it’s always going to be free to the artists that contribute films and the audience that supports them. If possible, I would like all of our funding coming from sponsors who believe in this vision. And we’re shooting to become a nonprofit by next year.”

For more information, visit New Paltz Film Festival on Facebook or Instagram. To register for a free ticket to the Studley Theatre screenings, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-new-paltz-film-festival-tickets-70067476709.

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