Running a film festival requires almost as much crisis management skill as it does love for movies. Alex Satterlee is tailor-made for the job. For the past four years, he has been a U.S. Forest Service firefighter—he spent last summer jumping into danger in California, Montana, Nevada and Utah hotspots. Then, just when snow starts to fly, he jumps into Filmfort, where alongside colleagues Ian Clark, Ben Morgan and Matt Wade, he curates a diverse slate of movies to showcase during Treefort.
Allie Morgan, office manager at Boise Rock School, is another integral part of Filmfort. She'll be overseeing a three-day student filmmaker workshop during the festival, where kids will film live music performances, craft the raw footage into music videos and ultimately see their finished work on the big screen.
How important was it this year to move Filmfort back to an established venue: The Flicks?
Satterlee: Screening our films in previous years at the Owyhee was great, but The Flicks is awesome. It's a perfect partnership. It's a great location, definitely within walking distance from the music venues, and [we] try to schedule films at times when there's not too much conflict with the music.
I'm intrigued by a number of your films this year, beginning with a short film called Volcanoes! from Idaho's own Zach Voss. I've been lucky enough to see some of his volcano footage, and it's jaw-dropping.
Satterlee: It's beautiful. What's interesting is that the feel of Zach's film is inspired by old-timey public service announcements.
Would you agree we seem to be in a golden era for short films?
Satterlee: Absolutely. The advantage of a short film is that, surprisingly, you're able to do a lot more with a limited budget. I'm really excited that we'll be showing a block of short films from something called the Borscht Film Festival, a really eclectic group of filmmakers out of Miami, Florida. They really push the boundaries. For example, Great Choice is a film about a woman trapped in a Red Lobster commercial.
You have a film called Clara's Ghost, which got a lot of buzz at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Satterlee: It's written and directed by Bridey Elliott. She comes from a pretty big family of comedy talent.
That's right. Her sister is Abby Elliott from Saturday Night Live. Her dad is Chris Elliott [Schitt's Creek, Late Show with David Letterman] and her grandfather was the late Bob Elliott, part of the legendary comedy team of Bob and Ray.
Satterlee: We reached out to Bridey in Sundance, told her about Treefort and said, 'You should really think about showing your movie in Boise.' I want to tell you about one more film, Everything Beautiful is Far Away. It's about a guy, a young woman, a robot...
You already have my full attention.
Satterlee: I know, right? ... The three of them are in search of a mythic lake in the middle of a huge desert. The film won cinematography awards at the Los Angeles and Tacoma film festivals and it won the Best Feature award at the Eastern Oregon Film Festival.
Allie, what can you tell us about the music video lab?
Morgan: It's perfect for kids because it will be during spring break. On the first day, we're learning camera angles and everything necessary in pre-production. We ask the kids where they want to shoot and then we set up full crews to shoot the footage in unique settings all around downtown. On the third day, it's solid editing. It gets pretty crazy.
How good are the finished products?
Morgan: Even the kids who are brand new to shooting videos have some kind of access to technology already. And most of them already are somewhat familiar with iMovie, which is what they use to edit their music videos. They can pick up all the rest pretty quick.
And all of this folds into Treefort.
Morgan: It's amazing because the final screening will be on the final day of the festival. Then, the kids come out and talk to the audience about their experiences. It's a very Treefort thing to do.
Satterlee: We're pushing for Filmfort to have the same kind of ethos as Treefort in highlighting emerging artists who are doing new, interesting things. It's really all about discovery.
Can I assume this is all really hard work, but you really enjoy it?
Morgan: For one, Alex is amazing. He literally fights fires and then puts on a film festival. I don't know anyone with such a wide range of responsibilities.
Satterlee: And Allie is incredibly supportive and willing to do so many different, cool things. And she's so passionate. She's a pillar to the Treefort group.
Morgan: And to think that Alex and I started out as Treefort interns a few years ago. It's still really cool.