This weekend in Provo we'll be seeing the launch of a brand new film festival where literally anyone with a smart phone could become the next great filmmaker. The Pocket Film Fest will kick off on October 18, featuring over 30 films created by locals using nothing more than the video programs on their mobile devices, with films ranging from less than ten seconds to short film length you'd find at international festivals. With film screenings being held across various venues throughout downtown Provo, the festival will be giving away $15,000 in prizes to creators and hopefully will spark interest in a new generation of filmmaker. Today we chat with the trio of founders about the festival and what they hope to achieve with it. (All pictures courtesy of the Pocket Film Festival.
Austin Craig, Conrad Nebeker & Joe Wilson
Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
We're just a few guys living in Provo who really like technology and movies.
Gavin: How did each of you get involved with local arts and entertainment?
I studied broadcasting at BYU, and have always been interested in film and tech. I've been working in commercial production for over five years. Last year my wife and I Kickstarted and created a documentary about Bitcoin, the increasingly popular online currency.
I'm a graphic designer and co-founder of a couple a couple app companies. Mobile media creation is important to me. It's what our app Studio Design is all about.
I've been a visual artist for years. The way people communicate has always interested me. The way technology changes how we communicate is something I'm always trying to understand more. Devices are smaller and more portable all the time. I’m interested in working that into my art.
Gavin: Joe, you're the creator of apps like SloPro and Garafa, how did you break into the app making business?
I got the iPhone when it was first released and all I wanted to do was design for the platform. I got hooked up with the right partners and off we went. Getting to build products like SloPro and now Studio is a dream job.
Gavin: What's it been like for you creating new digital content and helping influence people's digital lives?
Video production and design were both a huge part of my youth. I lived through the first consumer video revolution and I’m thrilled that we’re in the midst of the mobile video revolution. Anyone can get creative and make something fun/valuable. I think design is the next big consumer frontier and our singular goal at Studio is helping anyone create amazing content. Again, it’s a dream job.
Gavin: Conrad, you are primarily a professional artist, what was it like breaking into the business and getting your artwork into exhibitions?
It’s been an interesting process, that’s for sure. I definitely haven’t taken the traditional route. For me, it has been about finding my artistic voice and connecting with people that share it. It’s an ongoing conversation.
Gavin: What are some of the things you've been working on most recently?
Getting married earlier this month has taken up most of my time, but art-wise, I’ve been pretty engaged in maps and the ways they’re used to describe a landscape.
Gavin: Austin, you've recently been one of the faces for Life On Bitcoin. How has that series been going and how has the challenge itself impacted you?
My wife and I lived 101 days on Bitcoin, and there was a film crew along to document the whole thing. We started filming the day we got back from our honeymoon in late July of last year, and the experiment itself lasted till the beginning of November. It was challenging, but that was the whole point. The film is almost complete. Since we finished filming, the film crew has been editing (over 200 hours of just my wife and I), getting follow-up interviews with relevant bitcoin experts around the globe, composing an original score, creating motion graphics, etc. It's been a long process, but we're just weeks away from completion.
Gavin: You've also been the pitchman for Orabrush. How has that been going for you as an infomercial celeb?
Orabrush has been fantastic. It's the foundation of my career. Working at Orabrush, with such a wildly talented, creative, ambitious team has taught me about video marketing, crowdfunding, the creative process, and a thousand other intangibles. It's been an education unlike any I could have gotten in school formally (as life generally is) and I continue to work with the company and learn from what we do there.
Gavin: How did the three of you meet each other and become friends?
Joe and I have known each other for years, since we were both students at BYU. We used to get together regularly for dinner and talk about whatever we were each working on at the time. It was a great way to keep the creative juices flowing, bounce ideas around, and stay motivated.
Conrad and I met a couple years ago when I started to date my now wife Beccy. She and Conrad had known each other through the art scene, where Conrad had been deeply involved. He helped organize the Sego Arts Fest that attracted a few thousand people in it's last year before the partners left to pursue other projects.
Gavin: When did the idea for the Pocket Film Festival come about?
The idea came when I missed SXSW earlier this year. I was very busy and trying to save money, and going to SXSW just didn't make sense. I told my wife how much I'd learned the two years before when I'd gone, how much she would love Austin Texas, and how I wished we could have gone. She asked a pretty simple question. Why can't we have something like that here? That question stuck. Maybe we could. I've worked with YouTube video producers for the past five years, and I love mobile technology. Every event I love didn't start out as a major event. They all start small, whether it's Sundance or SXSW or TED. I sent an email to a few friends (like Joe and Conrad) and got an overwhelmingly positive response. Everybody wanted to be involved. Ironically, after skipping SXSW because I didn't have time or money, we started the Pocket Film Fest, which then ate up all my time and money.
Gavin: For those unaware, how does this particular festival work as far as submissions and content?
It's pretty simple. This is the fest of mobile made films. That means filmed on a smartphone, tablet or action camera. In many cases the submissions are even edited on mobile. We want to encourage people to stretch their creativity and their devices to the limit. Smartphones can do a lot more than just selfies.
Gavin: Considering the format, what rules did you develop to make sure you got the best content possible?
This is our first year, and in a lot of ways, it's an experiment. We each asked people we personally know to create submissions for this, and we've gathered a lot of sponsors to contribute cash and gear. We figure by creating a honey pot, we could persuade talented and aspiring filmmakers to put some effort into what seems like unorthodox filmmaking. We also want this to stay family friendly. We're in Happy Valley, and few things could prove a bigger downer than alienating the community we call home.
We've pushed this online too, mostly on Facebook, and we've gathered submissions from all over the world, including Venezuela, Japan, Iran and more.
Gavin: What made you decide to hold the festival in Provo rather than utilize a theater in SLC or Park City?
Provo is where we each live and where we've lived for a long time. For the size, Provo has a lot going on. Corey Fox and Velour have made it possible for the music scene to thrive, producing not a few amazing, world-class bands. We have two universities within just a few miles, with new talent always arriving. Provo is consistently ranked as one of the best places to start a new business, with several billion dollar companies founded here, and a growing tech and startup scene. We have a startling number of successful YouTube video producers here. There's even a growing food scene, and a supportive local government. Plus, you can't argue with the scenery, from Mount Timpanogos to Utah Lake. The only thing missing is an anchor event for the creative world, especially film. We want to build that here.
Gavin: You've got a pretty decent sized prize pack for the winners. What will they be able to take home?
We've had huge support from sponsors, many of them right here in Utah. Goal Zero has contributed Rock Out speakers, Nomad 7 solar chargers, and Switch 8 battery packs. We also have battery packs and chargers from PhoneSoap, Zagg, and Dark Energy Tech to keep your gear alive while you're on the go. Contour cameras have contributed some of their best action cam gear. We've even already given some away on our Facebook page.
In addition to local companies, we have thousands in cash and prizes from companies outside the state, as far away as Germany. Ballpod makes a perfect camera stabilizer for smartphones. We'll be giving away dozens at the Fest. All told, there's well over $15,000 in cash and gear we'll be handing out.
Gavin: What are you hoping to achieve with this festival, both with the local film community and patrons?
We want to show that people can do more with their gear than they might think. An expensive camera doesn't make a great film. A creative storyteller does. Nice tools are great, but they matter a lot less than the person using them, and anybody can pick up an iPod and start to make something great.
Gavin: Is this festival a one-time deal or are you hoping to bring it back and make it an annual event?
This will be an annual event. We're in for the long haul. Smart devices are only going to diversify and get better, and we want to see where this can go. We'll be back next year, and the year after, and hopefully for decades to come. See you at the 20th Annual Pocket Film Fest in 2034!
Gavin: Once it’s over, what can we expect from all of you over the rest of the year?
We will share winning entries on social media like Facebook
and others. We also want to stay up with emerging platforms, but we're a small team, and new platforms pop up often. We'll see how much we can juggle.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Come. Bring your friend and family. We've been busting our butts to make this a fun event, and that's literally our only goal. See you there!