MISSION & OBJECTIVE
The New Hampshire Film Festival is a non-profit organization that celebrates the art of filmmaking. The festival strives to advance the quality, and innovation of independent film internationally while simultaneously influencing educational, cultural, and economic impact on the local community.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The New Hampshire Film Festival made its debut in 2001 in Derry, NH, but moved to its permanent home of Portsmouth, NH in 2004. Portsmouth was settled in 1623 and the layout of the downtown district could not be better suited for a film festival with everything: screening venues, party venues, headquarters, galleries, conference centers, shops, waterfront dining, hotels, and inns, all within walking distance. The event takes place in the autumn when the foliage is at its peak.
Through 2011, the four screening venues and headquarters locations have moved around the city, exploring different partnerships and accommodating the growth of the festival, but in 2012 NHFF proudly announced multi-year, long-term partnerships with each venue. The Festival’s main stage theater, The Music Hall, is the region’s premiere performing arts center, this historic theater is beautifully restored, features the most up-to-date technology, and a seating capacity of 800. One block away, the newly completed Music Hall Loft brings the prestige and technical standards of the main stage to a more intimate setting. At the entrance of the downtown district The Moffatt Ladd House is a National Historic Landmark retrofitted with projection equipment sitting on the property of a prominent Georgian mansion built in the 1760’s. Along the waterfront, the Seacoast Repertory Theater hosts the Seacoast’s finest live theater productions, effortlessly transforming into a cinema house.
Festival Headquarters has found its match in the Discover Portsmouth Center, a non-profit cultural center that combines a multi-level gallery, conference hall, gift shop, and community showcase on the corner of downtown’s main street. NHFF headquarters offers complimentary meals and refreshments for filmmakers and festival attendees all day long. It is also the staging area for press conferences, photo shoots, and interviews. All venues are proximal and conveniently accessed, no one traveling further than a five-minute walk along the winding brick sidewalks even amidst the farthest points.
Since the creation of the NH Day & Night Program in 2006, NHFF has begun on the Thursday after Columbus Day each year. New Hampshire has a vibrant filmmaking community, and the NH Day & Night program is dedicated to presenting films that are filmed on location in NH, or which have filmmakers, producers, or actors from the Granite State. This one-day mini-festival has historically taken place only at The Music Hall main stage, but in 2012, the program grew to need an additional venue, and expanded into The Music Hall Loft. The program culminates with an awards ceremony on that Thursday evening presenting distinctive ten-pound granite awards, “Grannys,” for: NH Filmmaker of the year, NH Documentary of the Year, and NH Performance of the Year. The most prestigious NH award, NH Film of the Year, is voted on by the NH Jury, made up of 5-6 NH industry professionals. The Van McLeod award is also given during the ceremony. This award is named after the current commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources whose successful effort to save and grow the NH Film and Television Office has made an enormous impact on the film industry in the state. The Van McLeod award honors an NH native who has made a significant career contribution to the film industry, or someone who has advanced the film industry in NH. Notable Van McLeod winners have included: Paul Lazarus (2014), Lisa Muskat (2013), Mike O’Malley (2012), and Ken Burns (2010).
The international portion of the film festival opens on Friday morning with screenings at three venues and continuing until Opening Night Ceremonies that evening. Opening Night ceremonies take place at The Music Hall main stage and is an event featuring anything from comedy routines, to musical acts, to video productions, to live action acrobatics, to special awards presentations. Notable opening night ceremonies presentations have included stand-up acts from acclaimed comedians Juston McKinney and Tommy Chong, a video presentation from Adam Sandler, and a live performance of “Granite State of Mind”. The executive director makes a statement, along with messages from headlining sponsors. The ceremonies conclude with the introduction of the opening night film. Notable Opening Night Films have included: MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN (2014), LABOR DAY (2013), CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER (2012), THE EXTRA MAN (2010).
The Friday of the festival also kicks off the NHFF industry panels program. Panels occur in the mornings and afternoons Friday through Sunday. They are held in two hour blocks throughout the weekend in the conference center at festival headquarters, each panel presents five to seven industry professionals and is mediated by a local relevant experience representative. Panels are free to any person that can produce a pass or a ticket from the festival from that year, with a $5 suggested donation to the rest of the public. Recordings of the panel are also posted online for those that can’t be in attendance. The panels offer insight, knowledge, and inside information into the fundamentals and advanced aspects of filmmaking. Some topics covered in previous years include: creating a compelling story, funding sources, transitioning into production, equipment essentials, editing programs, novel to screenplay adaptations, and both traditional and non-traditional distribution avenues. Since the development of the panel program in 2008, the festival has brought panelists from IFC, Tribeca Enterprises, Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment, Film Threat, Berkeley School of Music, Emerging Pictures, Magnolia Pictures, Oscilloscope Laboratories, and Shorts International.
Launching on the Friday evening of the festival is the Young Filmmakers Workshop (YFW), a comprehensive, multi-day journey through filmmaking for 14-18 year olds. The workshop begins Friday evening at the opening night ceremony (until 8:30pm), Saturday (9am to 8:30pm), Sunday (9am to 7:30pm). The workshop is part film school, part film race. Participants are put in teams to write, produce, act in, direct and edit an original short film that is completed and screened at The Music Hall mainstage during closing night ceremonies. The students learn as they go, utilizing state of the art equipment, and sitting in intimate educational sessions with local filmmakers, and attending industry professionals. YFW alumni have gone on to become writers, directors, and producers of successful independent films, and major motion pictures. The workshop is directed by communications media specialist and local filmmaker John Herman. The cost for participation in this workshop is $150.
The Screenplay Competition begins its special events at the festival on Friday as well. Leading up to the festival, submitted screenplays are narrowed down to four finalists and the grand prize industry judge selects the winner. The grand prize industry judge portion of the festival was added in 2009. The winning scribe of the competition receives two VIP level passes to the festival and provided accommodations, as well as a prize package of a two-week writer's residency on Star Island off New Hampshire's Atlantic coast. On Friday early evening a catered reception takes place for screenplay competition staff and participants, festival attendees, and writing enthusiasts. The reception includes a reading or special presentation of recent work from the grand prize industry judge. Notable grand prize industry judges have included Ernest Thompson, and Joyce Maynard.
On the Saturday of the festival, the fourth screening venue opens and films and panels continue morning until night through Sunday. Throughout the weekend film representatives, and well-known independent film enthusiasts and supporters connect with audiences during Q&A sessions and at celebrations and networking events. Notable film representatives and attendees have been Michael "Flea" Balzary, Michelle McLaren, Steve Bognar, Julia Reichert, Anne Cusack, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Adrien Grenier, Patrick Creadon, TJ Miller, Austin Chick, Morena Baccarin, Tommy Chong, Dale Launer, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Mike O’Malley, Christopher Abbott, and Tom Bergeron.
Sunday evening concludes the festival with Closing Night Ceremonies. The ceremony entails a screening of the YFW films, and “Granny” award presentations for: Best Screenplay, Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Short Drama, Best Short Comedy, Best Short Documentary, and Best Animation. The festival’s most prestigious award, the Grand Jury Award, is voted on by the Grand Jury comprised of regional and national industry professionals. An NHFF produced collage film from the festival weekend closes the ceremony, and an encore presentation of the opening night film closes the festival weekend.
There are five NHFF parties held throughout the weekend: NH Day & Night Party (Thursday night), Opening Night Celebration (Friday Night), Harbour Place Tent Party (Saturday afternoon) Piscataqua Gala (Saturday Night), VIP Brunch (Sunday Morning). These events take place at Portsmouth’s finest clubs, bars, and restaurants highlighting the beauty of the city, and promoting filmmaker to audience connections in a relaxed yet lively environment.
The 13th annual NHFF brought about national recognition by being named one of the “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” by MovieMaker magazine, and receiving a grant from the Seacoast division of Rotary International. The festival weekend brought about national press from the Huffington Post, and The Boston Globe, and secured a capacity building grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The festival has grown exponentially since its inception and this growth has neither leveled nor slowed down which allows festival staff, sponsors, and attendees to expect great things in the years to come.
Awards & Prizes
The program culminates with an awards ceremony on that Thursday evening presenting distinctive ten-pound granite awards, “Grannys,” for: NH Filmmaker of the year, NH Documentary of the Year, and NH Performance of the Year. The most prestigious NH award, NH Film of the Year, is voted on by the NH Jury, made up of 5-6 NH industry professionals. The Van McLeod award is also given during the ceremony. This award is named after the current commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources whose successful effort to save and grow the NH Film and Television Office has made an enormous impact on the film industry in the state. The Van McLeod award honors an NH native who has made a significant career contribution to the film industry, or someone who has advanced the film industry in NH. Notable Van McLeod winners have included: Paul Lazarus (2014), Lisa Muskat (2013), Mike O’Malley (2012), and Ken Burns (2010).
Th Closing Night Ceremony includes “Granny” award presentations for: Best Screenplay, Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Short Drama, Best Short Comedy, Best Short Documentary, and Best Animation. The festival’s most prestigious awards, the Grand Jury Award - Narrative and the Grand Jury Award - Documentary, are voted on by the Grand Jury comprised of regional and national industry professionals.
New this year, a prize package for an all-expenses paid trip for the director or producer to New York City for an industry meeting with Oscilloscope Laboratories (Narrative winner) and A&E Indie Films (Documentary winner) has been added to the esteemed awards.