Last year, before COVID, the Jacksonville Film Festival gathered a large audience for the event. (Jacksonville Film Festival)
Last year, before COVID, the Jacksonville Film Festival gathered a large audience for the event.

Jacksonville Film Festival

A New Age of Film: Jacksonville Film Festival Survives Pandemic

March 16, 2021

Each and every filmmaker holds the art in a special way to them. Tim Driscoll, the Film Programmer for the Jacksonville Film Festival, was introduced to filmmaking as a junior in high school after creating films for class. He describes the best thing about filmmaking as watching the film take shape, when all of the pieces finally fit together.

“I mean that’s a thrill even when I’m not directing,” said Driscoll.

Elizabeth Arceneaux ‘21 is a senior studying cinematic arts at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. She cannot trace her love of filmmaking back to one moment, but remembers having fun filming videos from a very young age.

Behind the Scenes of Elizabeth Arceneaux’s film, A Brother’s Love. (Elizabeth Arceneaux)

“I would just make a bunch of videos all the time with my dolls for my own amusement,” recalls Arceneaux.

Every year at the San Marco theater, a collection of the best filmmakers showcase their works to the audience of Jacksonville. Driscoll spoke about the ups and downs of the filmmaking industry, as well as what the effects of Covid left on the festival.

While the idea of filmmaking for the first time may seem intimidating, Driscoll explains that it doesn’t have to be a complex or challenging process. “The simplest way to do it is to use something like your phone or any other recording device you have, and do a whole film in one shot.”

Arceneaux describes her favorite part of filmmaking as directing and being on set. She loves the atmosphere of everyone working together towards a common goal. “I just really like seeing my vision that’s been in my head for so long unfold in front of me.”

Finding a spark of inspiration to create the perfect film may seem daunting, but every filmmaker finds it in a different way. Arceneaux finds inspiration through music, personal interests, and more.

Teen filmmaker Elizabeth Arceneaux

“As far as narratives go, that can be really from anything, like even a piece of music that might inspire me to do something,” said Arceneaux.

Though professional filmmaking proves to be rather time consuming, beginner filmmakers can still create amazing films. It’s a project that Driscoll says is definitely worth trying for first-time filmmakers. “It’s absolutely worth doing to just try it out and just see if you like it and see if there’s a part of it that sparks joy and excitement and curiosity for you.”

Arceneaux agrees that it’s completely possible for people to find filmmaking later in life. She recommends starting by filming with a phone and watching videos on Youtube to learn about editing.

“Just grab a camera, go and be creative, and it’ll take you far.” advised Arceneaux.

For people considering embarking on their first film, Driscoll urges that sound is one of the most crucial factors to storytelling. “I can forgive bad acting, I can forgive bad lighting, even some bad direction but bad sound, it’s hard to get past that.”

Arceneaux explained that each filmmaker has their own style in what kinds of films they make and how they make the audience feel. She describes her own style as films that have a positive message. “When you’re a filmmaker, you end up creating a creative world that you work in. So it’s kind of like your films all live in that same world.”

The 2021 Jacksonvile Film Festival from February 5th to February 7th will undoubtedly feel different, but attending the viewing will still remain an incredible experience. This year’s theme is “Turning Point”, a theme that encompasses the uncharted pandemic as well as films created by filmmakers who have been overlooked in the past.

“We wanted to really emphasize a turning point as far as focusing on minority filmmakers, female filmmakers, filmmakers who don’t as often get an opportunity, or aren’t as often exposed and brought to the masses.” Driscoll explained.

There are several categories that the festival features films in. One interesting genre that Driscoll enjoys is called Utterly Macabre. While it would typically have a scary or morbid connotation, this category is filled with all sorts of odd films that make for a fun watch.

“It’s usually our scarier or creepier block, but it’s also our block of films that just has sort of the non-traditional things, they sort of exist outside of drama, outside of comedy, they’re just kind of weird.”

With all the different types of films, there is something for everybody at the festival.

“So whether you like the content or not, that’s up to you, and I can’t say anything to that, but I can tell you that craft-wise, these films are all well made.” assured Driscoll.

The festival is also available for teens to submit to, as there is no minimum age for entry. This festival and many others are a great way to get involved in the filmmaking industry as a highschooler when other options might be limited.

A still from the Jacksonville Film Festival’s 2021 opening feature film, Beast Beast. (Jacksonville Film Festival)

“I try to enter film festivals as much as possible, especially Florida ones because you really never know which one’s going to pick something up of yours that they like,” said Arceneaux.

The organizers of the festival did contemplate holding it virtually, or even cancelling it altogether.Ultimately, they decided to push the festival from September to February. They found ways to work around the obstacles of Covid while still making the festival an enjoyable experience for all.

“Once we decided to push it, a lot of our filmmakers were really for it, they were happy that we were doing it in-person so we decided we would keep it in-person.” said Driscoll.

This year, several safety precautions have been taken in order to ensure the safety of those who attend the festival. The theaters have been reduced to half capacity and staff will be tested for the virus before the festival. Masks are required for all when not enjoying snacks from the limited concession available.

“Hopefully the audience will feel safe and want to come out.” said Driscoll.

As well as altering the festival, Covid has shaped Arceneaux’s plans for this year. “I wanted to do another big narrative film like I did with my thesis, but especially at the beginning of the year that just didn’t look like a possibility.”

The pandemic has caused filmmakers everywhere to rethink how they will film this year. Arceneaux describes the frustration that many are experiencing. “It’s honestly kind of disappointing especially since it’s my senior year.”

The art of creating a film is challenging yet rewarding. After this rough year and the effects it left on the industry as a whole, Driscoll shares a common phrase in the world of filmmaking:

“Whatever the question is, the answer is always it depends.”

Sara Wasserman, Writing Coach/Student Life Editor/Copy Editor
Junior Sara Wasserman is a third-year staffer and this year's Writing Coach, student life, and copy editor. She enjoys rowing, science, and writing. Her love of writing has led her to her goal of "writing more op-eds, enter some writing contests, and have a great year with the new staff!" She plays with her dog and binges Stranger Things in her free time.

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