Madison community television station WYOU unveiled the winners of its inaugural 36-Hour On-Air Film Festival with a special screening on Sunday at Sundance Cinemas. Six films were chosen by an official jury and viewers voting online from among scores of selections that aired on the cable access channel over the last weekend of June, representing a breadth of works from the city's filmmaking community. "The film fest was a success," says Eric Allin, technical director for the station. "I think the submitted films were better than expected, and the films that won exceeded expectations too."
The festival is the latest in an ongoing series of events organized by WYOU designed to both raise money as well as build community awareness and support for its programming. The station is anticipating the loss of some $140,000 in its annual funding through cable access fees by February 2011 as a result of a new law that deregulates paid television franchising at the state level, and is actively seeking new sources of revenue to make up for what will be an 80% budget reduction, including via underwriting and pledge drives, among other sources.
WYOU faces another significant change next month, meanwhile, when it switches from Cable Channel 4 to Digital Cable Channel 991. This raises a host of issues for the station, including the elimination of access to cable customers who are not digital cable subscribers, digital TV owners, or unwilling to pay an extra monthly fee for a converter box, as well as a variety of rebranding challenges associated with its new channel number.
Hence events like the On-Air Film Festival, which was organized by the station to demonstrate its focus on local filmmaking and to build sponsor relationships. ""It definitely lays the groundwork for doing something similar next year," notes Allin. "We had so many sponsors that I think we're definitely going to try to build on those relationships. I don't think we made a ton of money, but it was a good start."
The screening was attended by viewers and local film fans along with the creators of all six winning entries. These were: The Yungling by JIBANGUS in the Feature category; The Medium by Ben Wydeven in the Mid-Length category; Clone Appetit by Eric J. Nelson, Kipp Norman, and K.C. Norman in the Artistic Short category; Snipe Hunt by John Feith in the Musical Short category; Fox by John Feith in the Nature Short category; and Death Is My Co-Pilot by Erik Gunneson and Blame Society Productions in the Comedy Short category. Emceeing the show was Angus MacAbre, the undead comic played by WPR producer Doug Gordon.
"We can now say that our movie was introduced by a Scottish stand-up comedian zombie!" declares Paul Fuchs, one of the trio of filmmakers behind JIBANGUS. Festival coordinator Sara Meredith, a station volunteer and secretary of its board of directors, emphasized to the audience that the event was important to keeping the community interested in its offerings in the digital broadcasting era. "I used to be co-director of WYOU and it would be great to rally more support around it," notes Fuchs, though he adds that it's hard to be optimistic about its challenges.
For WYOU viewers and local film fans who missed the final screening, there's quite a bit to be found online. Trailers for the two longer works, along with the complete versions of three of the four shorts winners are all available for viewing. These follow, along with more information about the films and their creators:
- Feature: The Yungling by JIBANGUS
- Mid-Length: The Medium by Ben Wydeven
- Artistic Short: Clone Appetit by Eric J. Nelson, Kipp Norman, and K.C. Norman
- Musical Short: Snipe Hunt by John Feith
- Nature Short: Fox by John Feith
- Comedy Short: Death Is My Co-Pilot by Erik Gunneson and Blame Society Productions
WYOU organizers plan for the festival to become a regular event for the station, intended to maintain visibility once its broadcasts go digital and it switches to Channel 991 come August 12. "We're looking to do this annually, perhaps semi-annually," says Meredith. "This was the first one to kick that off." Viewers wondering whether or not the station's annual awards show will be returning can look forward to a fourth annual edition, notes Meredith. "We'll still have that this year," she says, "but probably in the fall."