Tucson is a city with a strong appreciation for film. Each year, there are countless film festivals hosted all over town showcasing everything from Jewish filmmakers to films about music, and all of these programs are hosted at a variety of different independent theaters. In this environment bursting with love for film, it’s no wonder there’s a new festival debuting this weekend.
Animated Arizona Film Festival is holding its premiere weekend this Friday and Saturday at the Screening Room in downtown Tucson. The festival is a celebration of all sorts of animation and will shine the spotlight on those dedicated and passionate enough to tell stories through this medium. All films are short and must be under 15 minutes long, thus allowing independent creators a place to show their work that isn’t right before a Disney Pixar film.
“We looked around and didn’t see really any festival or animated presentation, for short films especially, in Tucson,” said Clifton Holland, the director of Animated Arizona and several other Tucson film festivals. “We got together and wanted to do an animated festival.”
Holland teamed up with festival co-director Dan Stone and festival host Frank Powers, who also founded Constant Con, to create the event and bring animation to Tucson. Holland, a veteran festival director and programmer himself, explained most festivals do not find success until their second or third year. Knowing this going in, Holland simply wants to ensure the filmmakers and audience members have a positive experience at this initial screening.
“My primary concern is to make sure that filmmakers feel welcome if they are there and that they feel like their film is being taken care of if they don’t get to show up,” Holland said.
Out of the dozens of short films submitted to the festival, only 37 will be part of this weekend’s program, around half the number of films originally submitted. Despite this being the first year of Animated Arizona, the dedication and love of film needed to piece together the program is nothing short of that of a Sundance programmer.
Holland said he watched every film three times in order to truly get a sense of whether it belonged in the program, equaling out to around 70 hours for himself alone. Powers and Stone also watched most of the films in order to participate in the selection process.
One of the short films selected to be in the Animated Arizona program was created by UA studio art senior Jacob Breckenridge. Breckenridge made a music video for a friend’s rock band, Tight Fright, for their song “Hey Dad.” The music video, which goes by the same name, is one of several short animated projects Breckenridge has created in the past, and he decided to submit this one to Animated Arizona.
“I tend to think of it like an animated collage,” Breckenridge said when describing the style of his film. “I do some hand-drawn and then some digital animation and then used some live film clips.”
Between taking some classes at the UA and working a full-time job, Breckenridge said he does not usually have much time to work on animation projects like “Hey Dad.” The music video took him between four and five months to complete and has a runtime of just under three minutes.
While there are only a handful of films made by students in this year’s Animated Arizona program, Holland is excited to show them and said he believes student film is essential to film festival culture.
“Students give you things that you just never expect to see; that’s the whole benefit of the process of a film festival,” Holland said. “You get professionals and independent filmmakers who are submitting things, but you also get the students and amongst all of that you do find films that you’re like, ‘I did not see that coming.’”
The festival begins each night at the Screening Room at 5 p.m. Friday’s selection is all family-friendly, and while almost all the Saturday films are appropriate for children, they could contain some more serious themes. Tickets for the festival are $6 and will be available at the door and on the Screening Room website.
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