FORT SMITH -- Submissions for the third Fort Smith International Film Festival start this Friday , with this years' theme being [re]Focused.
"When covid happened, a lot of productions were halted, postponed, some even completely got wiped out and never happened. So what you're kind of seeing in the world of film right now is a refocus, and everyone is trying to get back and get things going again. So we want to kind of tap into that reality of the filmmaking world," Brandon Chase Goldsmith, the festival's executive director, said about the theme.
The festival received 396 submissions from 43 countries in its inaugural year and grew to more than 50 countries and tribes last year.
Goldsmith said estimates from the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotions Commission show the festival having a global media reach of 254 million people in 2021 and 265 million in 2022.
"No other event in our region has the same international reach," he said.
"I was excited to see the growth from last year. What we've been talking about this year, the idea is to get bigger and to get better," said Clay Pruitt, the festival's program director.
This year's festival will be Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 at Temple Live, 200 N. 11th St.
"Temple Live makes for an absolutely incredible venue because it puts everyone in one location," Goldsmith said. "We're able to show movies in four rooms at one time. But most importantly, it puts all the filmmakers and the film fans together in one building so that they can have conversations and meet with each other. That to me is one of the most beautiful things."
Submissions are accepted through FilmFreeway.com and continue through May 25.
Directors will be notified their films have been chosen for competition June 25. This year's categories are people of color, indigenous, music videos, animation, high school and college student submissions, documentary, short films and feature films.
Goldsmith said they especially want to encourage student submissions.
"Name a business that doesn't need a content creator these days," he said. "What we're getting with this is we're encouraging all the young content creators, and that is our future of the creative economy in our region."
"More and more young people are getting involved," said Lorie Robertson, director of marketing for Chaffee Crossing. "More and more adults are looking at it as an opportunity to follow through on a hobby or a dream job or dream career. This festival is much more than just sitting in a theater watching films."
Pruitt and Goldsmith said the festival also needs volunteers this year to help screen submissions.
Volunteers can watch the films on their own time through a digital login or at live watch parties to be held monthly at 5 Star Productions in Fort Smith.
Films vary from a few minutes to feature length, with volunteers earning free tickets, festival merchandise or a trophy for reaching goals of hours watched. Those interested in volunteering can sign up at fortsmithfilm.com/volunteer/
"Our goal is always at least three different people watching and rating every submission that comes in, which we had 364 submissions, so 364 submissions times three. We had needed to watch over 1,000 films," Pruitt said, referring to himself and Goldsmith during the first festival. "So volunteers are highly sought after a really appreciated."