BY AMANDA A. TAYLOR
The South Texas International Film Festival kicks off its third year with specialty film premieres, a film pitch competition and hands-on workshops, all while promoting a relief fundraiser for the victims of hurricane Harvey in Houston.
Festivities kicked off Thursday with special presentations of local films “As I Walk Through the Valley” and “The Whole,” and will include workshops, Q&A sessions and plenty of panels through Saturday. Local patrons of the filmmaking industry and filmmakers from as far as Germany, Portugal and Mexico City will fill the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance to continue the festival entirely centered on the construction of film.
“This year we received 68 films representing 16 countries and out of those, 19 films were selected as official selections for this year’s festival,” said Letty Leija, City of Edinburg’s Director of Library and Cultural Arts. “We highly encourage the community to come enjoy the screenings of these films on Friday and Saturday.”
Today’s schedule includes workshops in editing for narrative films and special effects makeup sessions with film screenings starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday’s schedule includes film screenings throughout the day with special Q&A panels including a live session with celebrity guest host, Valente Rodriguez (“George Lopez” “500 Days of Summer”) at 10 a.m.
“This year, we have actor and producer Valente Rodriguez who will host a Q&A on acting on Saturday,” Leija said. “We are excited to have him as he is a great example to local aspiring actors, plus he is a great motivational speaker.”
Film submissions were accepted at the beginning of the year from
Feb. 1 through June 16. Over 130 submissions were sent in targeting categories such as best feature film, best short film and best regional film. Films to be screened include “The Meanest Man in Texas,” “Stay,” “Wander,” and “Glorious.”
Winners will be chosen by a panel of film industry professionals at the festival, and cash prizes and trophies will be awarded during the festival’s closing awards ceremony at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
This year’s feature film project competition “The Pitch” will award one independent filmmaker the opportunity to work with a production company based out of Houston.
“Three filmmakers will have an opportunity to pitch their film to a small panel of industry experts who will then select a winner,” Leija said. “The winner will get a $500 prize plus the opportunity to work on pre-production of their film with Duke & Sterling, an entertainment media production company.”
Filmmakers had to apply online for “The Pitch” with a full feature screenplay based in South Texas. Finalists and ultimate winner will be selected on Friday and announced at the awards ceremony Saturday.
Aside from the workshops, screenings and panels, attendees are being asked to help City of Edinburg collect food items to donate to the hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Every two food items donated will equal a raffle ticket for a chance to win four tickets to the closing awards ceremony on Saturday or dinner for four at Santa Fe Steakhouse in McAllen.
The more donations received, the higher the chance to win. Approved donation items include non-perishable foods such as bottled water, peanut butter and cereal, and paper products such as paper towels and toilet paper.
“As we continued to see the devastation of Harvey, we wanted to help in our own special way,” Leija said. “We are working with the City of Edinburg to collect and forward the donations to ensure they get where they are needed the most.”
As the popularity of the annual festival increases, the focus remains on creating networks and opportunities by inviting film industry professionals from all across the spectrum. Whether these professionals be feature film producers or independent production companies, the goal is for local filmmakers and community leaders to aid in the advancement of the film industry here in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Our attendance has been increasing slowly and we hope the community supports this festival as they do all the other Edinburg Arts festivals so we can continue to grow,” Leija said. “We encourage the community to come out and support the growing film community here and join us in celebrating the art of filmmaking in south Texas.”
All events to the festival are free of charge. Tickets to the awards ceremony on Saturday are $60 and can be purchased at stxff.us.
Visit the website for a complete list of times for workshops, panels and film screenings.