As it celebrates its seventh year, the Omaha Film Festival is developing an identity as a place filmmakers and fans like to go to meet each other and talk about movie-making.
While the number of film submissions has leveled off at about 450, and the annual number of filmgoers seems to have hit a plateau around 3,500, the festival is seeing increasing numbers of producers, directors and writers of films accepted for screening showing up to talk about their work. Marc Longbrake, the festival's program director, said shortening the festival from nine days to five last year made all the difference.
"In the past we held our Filmmaker Conference the weekend before the screenings started," he said. "That meant our expert panelists from Hollywood had already left before many of the filmmakers arrived."
This year the conference again overlaps the screenings on Saturday and Sunday. Both the conference and all screenings are at Great Escape Cinema.
"It's a better opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers to interact with the writers, directors and producers already in the business," Longbrake said.
On any given evening, up to four films are screening at the same time, limiting interaction. The solution has been post-screening parties held nightly during the festival, each in a new place.
"The parties give filmmakers, film fans and our VIP guests the perfect chance to interact," Longbrake said. Festival fans can choose to buy passes for films only or all-event passes that include admission to the parties.
Among this year's special guests are Oscar-nominated screenwriter Hawk Ostby ("Iron Man," "Children of Men"); screenwriter-producer Jay Lavender ("The Break-Up"); actress Jaime King ("Sin City"), an Omaha native; director Kyle Newman ("Fanboys"), King's husband; producer Kim Dawson ("Letters to God"); and actor Chad Michael Murray ("Cinderella Story," "One Tree Hill").
Longbrake said 27 filmmakers representing documentaries, shorts and feature-length movies being shown at the festival will be here, along with nearly all the 26 Nebraska shorts filmmakers.
The Nebraska shorts, which are either filmed in Nebraska or made by Nebraskans, are the festival's most popular draw, sometimes selling out.
This year more than nine hours of Nebraska short films were submitted, from which the festival chose 26 that total about five hours. Divided into three viewing segments, they will be screened tonight at 8:30 p.m., Friday at 8:50 p.m. and Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
This year 18 feature-length films, nine documentaries and 70 short films are in competition, plus a number of screenplays. Winners will receive trophies and a total of $20,000 worth of filmmaking merchandise during the Sunday-night post-screening party at North Sea Films.
Those who attend festival screenings will get the chance to vote for the audience-choice feature and short-film awards.
Contact the writer: