Ridgefield Independent Film Festival: An Interview With Festival Co-Director, Sean Murphy
Sophia Cowley spoke with Sean Murphy, co-director of the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Last weekend, Ridgefield, Connecticut hosted its second annual independent film festival. To the delight of local film buffs and filmmakers alike, the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival (RIFF) brings in a wide array of domestic and foreign films by some of today’s most promising talent.
Held over the course of three days and in a total of five different venues, the RIFF is one of the area’s most exciting cultural events. The festival will feature several premieres, spanning from documentaries to narrative and music films, and will showcase talent from both near and far.
One of the weekend’s most exciting events include a special screening of Let Me Get What I Want, a new long-form music film from collaborators James Franco and musician/artist Tim O’Keefe. The two of them formed the band Daddy, performing songs written by Franco, and made Let Me Get What I Want alongside students of Palo Alto High School. O’Keefe and others answered questions after the screening.
Other highlights include a screening of Written Off , a film about opiod addiction, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker and community leaders. Connecticut-based director, Megan Smith-Harris, will introduce her new documentary, The Buddy System, on Saturday May 21. The festival also hosted a horror night on Friday evening, screening gems like the zombie flick, Dead Sunrise, along with a couple narrative shorts.
I had the chance to speak the festival’s co-director, Sean Murphy, who gave me the ins and outs of this three-day event. Below is our conversation via email.
Sophia Cowley for Film Inquiry: Your background is in film production and I understand that you are currently working at Blue Sky Studios! Can you tell us a bit about your position there and how you got involved with RIFF?
Sean Murphy: Yes, I am the production manager for Blue Sky’s next film Ferdinand coming to theaters this Christmas. I have worked at Blue Sky for 14 years and I now work directly with the producers and directors of the film to ensure that we get everything they need on screen within the time and resources that we have.
I heard about RIFF when I moved to Ridgefield in 2015. I met with RIFF’s founder Joanne Hudson early-on to help her launch the 1st edition. I wanted to offer up as much knowledge as I could since I worked with the L.A. Shorts Festival in 2001 and had a knack for planning events and bringing productions to fruition at Blue Sky. This year, she asked me to be co-director alongside Jill Mango.
Now that RIFF is in its second year, what can we expect will be different from last year?
Sean Murphy: We expanded upon everything we learned last year. We added more Q&A’s and spread the programs out more throughout the 3 days. We learned from some mistakes (like starting screenings too early last year) and hope that this year’s festival will be just as successful as last year’s.
What makes Ridgefield, Connecticut the right fit for an independent, international film festival?
Sean Murphy: I’ve found that there is a huge community of arts professionals in Ridgefield – writers, filmmakers, artists – and a very welcoming community of venues (The Playhouse, Aldrich Museum) that make this the perfect spot for independent films. People are interested in the art form of filmmaking and have welcomed us into the community.
This year showcases a host of new talent as well as marginalized voices. Can you tell us a bit about your process when it came to selecting these films?
Sean Murphy: We combed through over 250 films to narrow it down to our 55 selections this year. When watching the films, most of our screeners commented on how much the top films stood out when watching all the submissions. Within a few minutes, you could see the quality and skill put into the projects. Once we all rated the films, we took a look at the top-rated selections, regardless of what genre or country of origin they were. Luckily, the votes showcased a variety of films from all around the world with very different stories being told.
What sorts of resources will be available to filmmakers and film buffs alike at Ridgefield Independent Film Festival?
Sean Murphy: We will have film professionals in attendance – not only during the Q&As and Master classes, but also in attendance at the films and parties. It’s a great chance for filmmakers to come together to share their stories and network with other professionals. They always say “it’s all about who you know” and a film festival is a great resource for filmmakers and film buffs.
What film or event are you most looking forward to?
Sean Murphy: I cannot wait for everyone to see What Children Do on Saturday night at the Ridgefield Playhouse. From the minute I saw this film, I knew it was special. And after talking to the filmmaker (writer/director Dean Petersen), I just knew we had to get him and his crew up here to discuss their process of getting this film on the big screen.
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