Richmond International Film Festival returns this weekend

The fifth annual Richmond International Film Festival, founded by filmmaker Heather Waters, will take place March 3-6. With 137 official selection films being showcased, over 25 countries will be represented in the 2016 lineup, including Japan, Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Iran, Germany, France, Ethiopia and the U.S.

Film and music video screenings will take place at The Byrd Theater, Bow Tie Movieland theatre, Bow Tie Criterion and The Broadberry throughout the four day festival.

Waters, who began her career in entertainment as a singer when she was 15, has had a long lasting relationship with the film world. Waters moved to California at a young age and got into modeling and acting. One day, on a beach in Malibu, Waters grew inspired by the scenery and began writing. This moment is what sparked her love for filmmaking.

“I just started creative writing and that led to a desire that I really didn’t know that I had. Which then led to directing, producing and being more interested in the behind the scenes aspect of things,” said Waters. “That creative side of things.”

After moving to Atlanta, Waters started her own production company in an effort to help filmmakers advance their scripts to big screen productions. As a result, Waters watched many scripts fail to make it and thus decided to take matters into her owns.

Waters next moved to Richmond where she noticed a void in the city’s arts scene – particularly in film. At the time, there was no submission based film platform similar to the likes of Sundance Film Festival.

“It just came to me one day. I thought to myself, let me start a film festival. Let me doing something different where I can also do production underneath the festival, give our writers at CWA an opportunity that they haven’t had before and help Richmond grow films across America,” Waters said.

Five years later, the festival has now become well known nationally and in the Richmond area.

The independently funded festival has definitely paid off for Waters.

“This is a labor of love. I really see it as something that can be big. It can be great for Richmond. It could be great for Virginia,” Waters said. “You hear a lot of people in filmmaking say to never invest in your own films, but I disagree. If you believe in something, you invest in it. You put your time in it and don’t back down until it is a success.”

The festival, which provides a submission based system for all films, entails a multifaceted application process. After being selected, a film is judged by a panel and is given a score based on various criterias. If it passes the first round, the film is screened again before making it to the final selection stage.

The films that receive the highest ratings go on to a grand jury of esteemed judges. At this stage, such films are given various awards. Those films, created by both first time artists and established filmmakers, have a shot to make it to the big screen. Such films include this year’s Wildlike and last year’s Remittance.

This year’s festival is expected to be the largest one yet. In addition to showcasing films and videos, the festival also includes various Q&A sessions before and after films, mixers between guests and filmmakers and the Flow Collective Creative Conference.

The conference, which will take place at the Martin Agency in Richmond, will feature discussions from several panelists about creating and distributing films, filmmaking and development.

“Part of what I’ve realized is that we don’t have the training we need to sustain productions, the growth that we need to play up against some of the top production states so training is very important. We’re not getting that here,” Waters said.

RIFF offers internship opportunities for students who are interested in the film industry. In addition, many VCU students have had their work featured in the festival, including senior Angela Judson.

“I love working for Heather. It’s been such an amazing experience. You are really thrown into the work,” said Judson. “I got an internship for last season with Heather by emailing around and talking to her and her assistant. She eventually hired me for the 2016 season which has been crazy, but a good crazy.”

In the future, Waters hopes to extend the festival’s duration to a week long affair, as well as adding music to the event.

“I want the viewers to experience something different and leave feeling connected with the people that they’re attending the event with. That they walk away, feeling impacted or moved in some way. That their lives are somehow better by way of laughter or thinking about something that they have never thought about before,” Waters said.

Tickets for the festival start at $10 and range all the way up to $35 with VIP tickets starting at $235.

Staff Writer, Muktaru Jalloh

Muktaru Jalloh, photo by Brooke MarshMuktaru is a senior double majoring in English and political science with a minor in media studies. Topic areas Muktaru enjoys covering include music, sports, pop culture and politics. // Twitter | Facebook

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