Festival Spotlight: SIMI Film Fest

AWD is thrilled to partner with the Simi Film Festival for their inaugural festival! We invite you to join us for a block of films directed by AWD Members! The films programmed by the festival are:

Age of Dysphoria (Dir. Jessica Petelle)
Val-e-ree (Dir. Samantha Lavin)
Discovering Ella (Dir. Kathi Carey)
Moon (Dir. Toy Lei)
Why Me!? (Dir. Delores M. Flynn)

WHEN: Sunday Sept. 17, 6pm
WHERE: Studio Movie Grill Simi Valley; 1555 Simi Town Center Way, Simi Valley, CA 93065
HOW: Buy tickets HERE

AWD chatted with SIMIFF’s Festival Directors Joseph Metcalfe and Katie Garibaldi about their new festival. 

AWD: Congratulations on launching SIMIFF! What prompted you to start such a big endeavor? 

SIMIFF: We both come from a background in the music and film industries. Although we wear several creative hats, Joe is mainly a film composer and Katie a music supervisor and filmmaker. Our journeys have brought us to many film festivals, so we’ve witnessed the good and beauty, as well as the bad and ugly. Last year we attended a fantastic film/music event in Europe that blew us away, but it also made it very clear what we’ve been missing at other events. Although Hollywood has a lot of glitz and glam, we noticed there was a big gap between independent filmmakers/creatives and studio/industry executives. Celebrating your work on the big screen and walking the red carpet is fun, but we want to give filmmakers more than just that. We’re striving to connect them with others in the industry to really move them forward in their careers, and foster meaningful connections and knowledge.

AWD: What is SIMIFF’s “mission statement”?

SIMIFF: Empowering independent filmmakers to elevate their craft through expert insights, impactful networking, and essential resources, driving the advancement of quality film production and storytelling.

AWD: Please tell us about some of the special events you have planned for the festival.

SIMIFF: The City of Simi Valley is incredibly film friendly and we want to shine a spotlight on this. We’ve arranged to have exclusive field trips to some of the studios and locations out here that will open doors to filmmakers to explore what can be achieved when shooting in Simi Valley. Additionally, we have brought in some incredible panelists, who are Oscar and Emmy winners and nominees who know what it takes to get a movie right to the very highest level. They are going to be sharing inside wisdom and secrets to give tools to indie filmmakers to step up when making their next film. For our All Access Pass attendees, there will also be opportunities to meet 1-on-1 with the speakers. We also are big on getting publicity for our selected filmmakers, so we have brought in FAB TV to be our Red Carpet interviewer to shine a really bright light on the cast and crew of each film. 

AWD: What are you hoping will be some of the results for those who attend the festival?

SIMIFF: Screening a film is exciting, however we know a filmmaker’s aspirations usually go well beyond a single screening. We hope filmmakers who attend take full advantage of the opportunities we’re providing, such as attend industry panels and sign up for 1-on-1 meetings with the panelists. We want filmmakers to not only feel seen, heard, and respected for their creative work, but also feel like they learned something and planted the seeds to meaningful business relationships that will nurture their careers moving forward. We hope everyone enjoys the high quality indie films that we’re showing, and gets to know the filmmakers behind them! 

AWD: What are you looking for as you screen the film submission? Have there been any films that have just “blown you away”?

SIMIFF: We look for films that have excellent production quality, undeniable emotional connection, and attention to detail. We want to challenge and uplift the standards for independent film. Low budget doesn’t need to equal poor quality. There are some truly talented filmmakers doing jaw-dropping things in independent film. Some films absolutely blew us away, sometimes leaving us in tears or speechless. We are so incredibly proud and excited to provide a platform for these films to be showcased. Our panel of judges gave us a long list of selections/nominee suggestions, and we initially thought we would vet a short list in order to make the same amount of nominees per category. However, we decided against that after watching the films. We thought, if someone is deserving of a nomination, then they’re deserving of a nomination! It doesn’t matter if there are nine films in one category, and only two in another. We want to properly honor filmmakers for their outstanding achievements.

AWD: Do you have a process for determining what “themes” you will select for your blocks of films? 

SIMIFF: We’re very grateful to have partnered with the Alliance of Women Directors, as a lot of their members submitted very strong films. We have dedicated a block of films to AWD members. For all the blocks, we’ve done our best to be thoughtful about pairing up films that are complementary and cohesive, without limiting the themes to just genre alone. 

AWD: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the SIMI Film Fest?

SIMIFF: Although this endeavor began with the love of supporting independent filmmakers, as we delved into organizing the festival, another passion grew as well: our love for this wonderful town of Simi Valley. Simi is somewhat of a hidden gem in the film industry, housing some of the most phenomenal filming and sound studios, as well as providing breathtaking backdrops and beautiful film-friendly locations. Some well-known and classic films and TV shows have been shot right here in Simi, including Poltergeist, The Big Lebowski, Men In Black, Little House on the Prairie, and the recent Oscar winning film Everything Everywhere All at Once. We’ve found that a lot of filmmakers based in other parts of LA have the misperception that Simi Valley is far away, when really it’s just a short drive. We hope our festival shines a light on the city itself, as it has so many brilliant things to offer. 

AWD: How can people find out more about SIMIFF?

SIMIFF: Come join us at SIMIFF September 17-19 at the Studio Movie Grill in Simi Valley, CA. You can learn more and purchase tickets at www.simiff.com. Also, connect with us on social media at @simifilmfest on all platforms. We’re updating things daily so check back often! We hope to meet you there!

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