By Indiewire | Indiewire November 19, 1999 at 2:0AM
FESTIVALS: RESFEST 1999 -- Fest Wraps U.S. Tour Before Heading to Japan
by Eugene Hernandez
Given the explosion of digital production and the heightened awareness of digital content in 1999, it is no surprise that the RESFEST Digital Film Festival had its biggest year yet. A festival that caters primarily to people who make movies or those who want to make movies, RES received over 650 entries for this year's tour, nearly doubling last year's total.
Likewise, attendance was up considerably. In San Francisco, the festival sold out a 1,000-seat venue nightly, New York shows were full all weekend, and in LA last week, RES played to jammed theaters on five consecutive nights. The LA success was significant given the much smaller response from Southern California audiences in previous years.
"It was a real milestone for us," explained Festival Director Jonathan Wells in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "I think we are on a lot of people's radar, especially after LA." When asked about the increased attendance, Wells added, "I think it's a combination of awareness of our festival and, of course, the rising profile of digital filmmaking."
The RES name has been synonymous with digital filmmaking since the LowRes Film Festival, which pre-dated the current RESFEST. Wells ran LowRes with Bart Cheever who created D.FILM, another digital film festival, after the two went their separate ways. The RES team now includes Wells, Johnny Scalise and John Turk, who also work together to publish the quarterly, RES Magazine -- The Magazine of Digital Filmmaking.
While large crowds gathered at every tour stop, crowd reactions were different, depending upon the locale. Wells acknowledged a noticeable difference in the response to the tour's signature Shorts Program in Los Angeles, versus the New York and San Francisco screenings of the collection. "Some of the (Los Angeles) audience was vocally frustrated that there was so much animation in this years shorts program," Wells explained. "They were very much interested in live action narrative -- experimental was received better in NYC and SF." Reactions from indieWIRE readers who attended the LA event are consistent with Wells's comments. One reader wrote, "I was there, and have to concur with the notion that the storytelling factor was inhibited in a few of the shorts' overuse of 'tools'. I only hope that as this new medium blossoms, it isn't stigmatized as a result."
Wells countered, "The shorts program was very much reflective of the compelling submissions that we got this year -- a lot of the live action [submissions weren't] very strong."
For the first time, the Festival presented an audience choice award, selected by attendees at every stop on the tour. The winner was Mark Osborne's "More," a stop-motion claymation movie filmed in 70mm IMAX and edited on an Apple Macintosh G3 using Adobe's Premiere and After Effects. The director, who created work specifically to submit to the tour, used music from New Order for his six-minute short.
While some of the movies in the program did showcase tools, some may also be criticizing the non-traditional style of some of these shorts, perhaps overlooking the emerging "new aesthetics" being defined by the work on the tour. This is an aspect of the festival that Wells and company are committed to. In fact, they feel that it is what sets them apart from other festivals that are now going digital. "Those types of films take center stage at RESFEST, rather than being put into a sidebar somewhere."
This idea of presenting a new aesthetic is a core aspect of the Festival. Its website mission statement indicates, "Increasingly accessible DV cameras and desktop editing systems are enabling storytellers of diverse backgrounds to put their ideas into motion by transforming the 'visual language' of the moving image." It continues, "RESFEST Digital Film Festival was established to provide a forum and environment to showcase this changing language, the empowering new digital tools, and an emerging style of storytelling."
Next week, RESFEST heads to Asia for the first time, making a stop in the hip Shibuya neighborhood of Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan. While RES has presented its festival in London, and sidebars in Berlin and Rotterdam, Wells is excited about breaking into Japan. The RES crew will be joined by a collection of tour filmmakers, including Jesper Jargil ("The Humiliated"), Sophie Fiennes ("Lars from 1 - 10"), Richard Kenworthy ("The Littlest Robo," "Guns Blazing"), Bob Sabiston and Tommy Pallotta ("Snack and Drink"), and Scott Stewart (RESFEST Trailer).
[For more information on RESFEST, visit their website at: http://www.resfest.com.]
[EDITOR's NOTE: RES Magazine is published by indieWIRE Publisher Karol Martesko.]