$100 Film Festival: 25 years of small gauge filmmaking and catalyzing community

Wednesday 15th, March 2017 / 17:54


By Colin Gallant

What’s in a name? The $100 Film Festival is less about dollars and cents than accessibility.
Photo: Ross Meckfessel

CALGARY – Calgary’s oldest film festival turns 25 this March. The anachronistically named $100 Film Festival is perhaps the biggest event put on by the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF), and this milestone intends to put the festival’s historic significance into focus while remaining vitally contemporary.

The festival got its name from the approximate cost of putting together a celluloid (this term denotes physical film like Super 8 and 16mm, distinguishing it from digital media) work back in 1992. While the cost of production at the time of the festival’s origin was meant to define its spirit, it was never about the money at all.

Felicia Glatz oversaw the retrospective component of this landmark year for the $100FF, saying her job was like that of a “detective.” Through interviews with founders like Gordon Pepper and James Morrison (among countless others), she deduced that the dollar amount was simply the most literal way to articulate the accessible spirit of CSIF, the $100FF, and adventurous filmmaking as an outlet for the creative community in Calgary. In the world’s (and especially Alberta’s) economy we know that $100 won’t buy you today what it did in 1992. The point is that if someone really wanted to, they could find the means to put together a film. Beyond that, the CSIF and $100FF actively encouraged it and offered a platform to show the results to an audience.

Glatz boils it down to a club that anyone can join, so long as an interest is there. She heard about the opportunity to oversee the retrospective aspect of the festival (featuring 18 films from its history, an archival installation at the venue and attendance by legacy CSIF members) from a film professor at the University of Calgary who inspired a love for “small gauge filmmaking” in her. Put simply, the term refers to film works created without the intent to be consumed by a broad audience – most commonly arthouse works or semi-private recordings, like home movies – as an “alternate history” to the one told by costly mass-distribution film.

Select filmmakers included in the retrospective include founders Pepper and Morrison, locals Noel Begin, Joe Kelly, Donna Brunsdale, and Don Best, plus international artists Lawrence Jordan and Paul Clipson.

Glatz also helped clarify the festival’s relationship with music during our interview. The most pertinent example is the Film/Music Explosion!, which pairs filmmakers with bands to create an original Super 8 film set to a song, spurring on cross-media collaboration among artists. Best formalized for the 2009 edition, the FME now kicks off each night of the fest with a set by a local band, their closer rehearsed to sync up to a film.

This year’s FME includes bands that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to BeatRoute readers: DRI HIEV, Torture Team and The Shiverettes (this month’s Calgary Beat lead) are paired with cinematists Eric Durnford, Alexis Moar and Rory O’Dwyer.

Also on this year’s program are returning vets Ross Meckfessel, Stefan Moeckel, Kyle Whiteheads and legions of other small format filmmakers. Fittingly, Pepper will show a new work to coincide with his inclusion in the retrospective.

The $100FF, an extension of the ideology of empowerment held by the CSIF, is one of just a few small format, low budget film festivals in the world. Missing out on it during this historic year would disservice one’s knowledge of the cooperative nature of Calgary’s arts community.

The $100 Film Festival runs March 23rd to 25th at the Engineered Air Theatre located inside Arts Commons. The festival, put on by the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers, features a 25-year retrospective alongside new celluloid works from around the world and at home. DRI HIEV, Torture Team and The Shiverettes are musical performers as part of the Film/Music Explosion!

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