NARROWSBURG, NY — Produced by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA), the Big Eddy Film Festival “aims to advance the traditional art of storytelling by showing the newest and best …
NARROWSBURG, NY — Produced by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA), the Big Eddy Film Festival “aims to advance the traditional art of storytelling by showing the newest and best independent films from around the world and our own backyard.”
Now in its ninth year, and faced with cancellation due to COVID-19, the DVAA and Festival Director Tina Spangler went back to the drawing board to come up with creative solutions that could allow filmmakers and audiences to interact in newfound ways, integrating technology and imagination in order to ensure that the festival will go on. I reached out to Tina for details regarding the reboot, starting with the press release.
“This September, the DVAA will expand the Big Eddy Film Festival (BEFF) beyond the movie theater for one-of-a-kind experiences, both outdoors and online. Screenings will take place at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, at the Big Eddy Film Festival’s online streaming platform and at a pop-up drive-in outside Narrowsburg.”
JCF: Let’s begin with COVID-19 and how that has affected the festival.
TS: We looked at three of the other major film festivals [Sundance, Tribeca and South by Southwest] and two of the three were canceled. [The DVAA] got together and made the decision that we needed to find a way. We were all in agreement that Narrowsburg did not need another cancellation. There was some talk about drive-ins being allowed, so that was my first thought: how to create one in Narrowsburg.
That’s where it started. We’ll be screening two feature films [outdoors] at Bethel Woods and have one night as a pop-up drive-in on a private farm outside of Narrowsburg, combined with online content as well. It’s sort of a hybrid of things we’ve never done before. We’ve always talked about doing outdoor movies but never had the bandwidth to do it because we were busy doing what we always did. So, there is a silver lining in the whole COVID[-19] situation in that we’re forced to do creative things. Because we’re prevented from doing what we’ve always done, we have the luxury of being able to focus on doing things in an alternative way.
JCF: Will this “new way” have a lasting effect beyond 2020?
TS: I’m hoping that when the world rights itself and we’re able to start having movies indoors again, we will continue to have outdoor events and offer online screenings for people who, for whatever reason, need [or want] to watch at home.
JCF: Past festivals have showcased up to 18 films, with all but one shown at the Tusten Theater. How many will be featured this year?
TS: We’ve scaled back on the number of films being shown in order to create a unique experience. People are craving something stimulating to do. We’re showing seven films—six features and one short. We live in such a gorgeous area and we wanted to provide some special locations for people to go out and celebrate film.
JCF: And two of those films will be shown at Bethel Woods?
TS: Yes, the first is a documentary titled “Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President” about his relationship to music throughout his life, and the second is “Gossamer Folds,” a story that takes place in 1986 about a 10-year-old named Tate who is uprooted and unwillingly moved to the suburbs of Kansas City. As his parent’s marriage unravels, Tate finds solace in the unlikely friendships of his next-door neighbors: a retired college professor and his transgender daughter, Gossamer.
JCF: That can’t be indoors, right? How will that work?
TS: They have a large outdoor space called “The Terrace Stage” behind the museum that, under normal circumstances, can accommodate 1,000 people. It’s possible that things could change, but as of [September 12], we are only allowed to have 50, including the filmmakers. It’s tightly, tightly limited. After the films screen at Bethel Woods, we’ll be offering them online [on] our Big Eddy Film Festival virtual platform through [Sunday], October 4. The filmmaker [Lisa Donato, “Gossamer Folds”] Q & A will happen live online. People will be able to post their questions and be a part of the experience.
JCF: That’s a lot of changes. Logistically, it must have been challenging.
TS: It has been a steep learning curve. It’s like [figuring out] how to do a film festival all over again. Like everything we learned over the past eight years doesn’t apply. Now it’s virtual streaming and trying to figure out new ways of bringing the films to the audience. We had been already planning [pre-pandemic] to partner up with Bethel Woods and were so excited to have an expanded venue for hundreds of people. The irony is that we’re at this huge venue and have to [severely] restrict the number of people who can attend.
JCF: Each year, the BEFF shows a film from the archives of popular cinema. What feature film are you presenting this time?
TS: We wanted to show a classic film that everyone loves, so we chose [1978 American musical romantic comedy] “Grease” for our pop-up drive-in movie experience. We wanted to present something that’s just going to be fun to give people an opportunity to [safely] go out, have a good time and maybe even sing and dance.
JCF: Grease is the word... I’m in! How many tickets are available for that?
TS: A very limited audience will be able to attend, but those who do will be able to pop the tailgate and cozy up under a blanket or bring lawn chairs to sit around a personal campfire in the field. Bring your own brown bag dinner, or enjoy snacks and beverages from our concession stand.
JCF: Now that’s what I call reinventing the wheel.
Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, there are no “all access” festival passes this year and seating for outdoor events is extremely limited. Tickets for the pop-up drive-in presentation of “Grease” are for up to four people per car with advance ticket purchase required. No tickets will be sold at the event.
For more information, a schedule of screenings and how to purchase tickets, visit www.bigeddyfilmfest.com.