Breck Film is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its annual film festival in a unique way. The organization has a new venue in The Eclipse Theater, Amy Sides as the new executive director and a hybrid model to deliver content.
“We’re really excited to actually be in theaters,” Sides said, adding that the new venue gives added flexibility in year-round programming. “I think that’s just such a unique experience that is just an integral part of the film festival.”
The nonprofit learned a lot about adapting last year with drive-in movies and digital screenings. This year, its four main feature films — “CODA,” Buried,” “I Am Burt Reynolds” and “The River Runner” — will be shown only in person with some filmmakers visiting Breckenridge as other titles are made available online.
Sides said the hybrid format has been in the works roughly since January to make sure people could participate no matter the coronavirus pandemic situation. Logistical challenges are no stranger to Sides since she handled Breck Film’s events and operations before becoming the executive director. Janice Miller, the previous executive director, resigned in December 2020, and Sides became interim director before officially being offered the position in June.
“Stepping into the role of executive director, it’s been really great,” Sides said. “I’ve been challenged in ways I expected and then obviously some unexpected ways, as well. It’s just been really cool to be leading this organization through all of these changes.”
Summit County’s love of the outdoors and film is what brought Sides to the area in 2015. The native of Modesto, California, worked for Red Bull Media House and continued to manage partnerships and distribution for its films remotely when she moved to Colorado.
But the outdoor enthusiast wanted to better connect with the community, so she joined Breck Film in June 2019. Her cinema passions include sport films that cover things like skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking as well as documentaries.
“It’s really cool to be more entrenched in the more independent film side of things as opposed to just the adventure films,” Sides said.
As Breck Film works to promote education and inclusivity initiatives more — in addition to blockbuster hits — Sides will see the hard work pay off when the festival begins Thursday, Sept. 16. A series of music videos kicks it off at 2 p.m. at The Eclipse Theater, followed by “CODA” at 7 p.m. at the Riverwalk Center and other festivities.
Though there are around 100 films throughout the festival, Sides is excited for the children’s program at noon Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Riverwalk Center. There, kids can watch a block of 30 minutes of short, animated films for free.
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Sides said the animated programming this year is a step up from previous ones with lots of curation thanks in part to board member Howard Cook, a professor of animation at University of Colorado Denver. One block available exclusively online is called “Life in (and out of) Lockdown.” It is composed of 13 animated shorts dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
While Keystone Science School’s Girls in STEM event has been postponed again, the state high school program returns at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Breckenridge Theater with a screening of 14 short films. Afterward, the students participate in an invite-only workshop with professional filmmakers.
“The professional filmmakers review the high school films. They talk about them as a group. They get feedback and mentorship,” Sides said. “That’s a really great program.”
The festival isn’t just about watching films. There are also multiple panels hosted at Hopeful/Discovery rooms of Summit County Library’s south branch in Breckenridge. Friday’s “Strumming the Heart Strings” features Chris Gero from “The Sound of Us” and others discussing music while “Animated Voices” has Ellie LaCourt in person with more animators remotely talking on the subject of giving life to marginalized topics.
A third panel, called “Trust and Truth,” includes Adrian Buitenhuis, Steve Gordon and Michelle Carpenter exploring the relationship between documentary filmmakers and their subjects on Saturday.
Because all Breckenridge Arts District venues require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of attending an event starting Sept. 15, so too does Breck Film. Masks are encouraged, but not mandatory, for vaccinated patrons. Festival passholders also need to reserve seats at venues.