10 changes you'll see at the Beloit film fest
BELOIT—The curtain hasn't risen yet on the next Beloit International Film Festival, but it's safe to say big changes are waiting offstage.
“We're pretty excited for this year. We're trying new things,” said Rod Beaudoin, executive director of the festival affectionately known as BIFF.
Beaudoin is looking ahead to 2014, the festival's ninth year. Since it started in 2006, BIFF has exposed local audiences to hundreds of indie films and has brought in filmmakers from around the world to talk about them. After years of tweaking the formula, Beaudoin said, it's time for the festival to shed its skin.
Residents got a taste of change over the summer with a new outdoor film series. Audiences also became part of the selection process recently, as they watched and rated films at Bushel & Peck's Local Market.
The 2014 BIFF officially opens Feb. 14 in Beloit, but much is happening before then—especially in Janesville.
Here are 10 new things to know about the film fest:
1. A longer run. BIFF now spans 10 days—Feb. 14-23—rather than the usual four. Multiple screenings of popular films will be offered, giving more people a chance to see them.
2. Closer venues. All film venues will be located in a 3˝-block area of downtown Beloit, making them easier to reach on foot.
3. No Janesville sneak peek. Instead, a two-day event called “Taste of BIFF,” set for Jan. 17-18, will showcase all the top films that will be shown in February in Beloit. Venues include the Speakeasy, Rock County Historical Society and Janesville Woman's Club. Beaudoin said he is talking with Janesville's Armory about a dinner-movie night.
4. No Rockford sneak peek. BIFF fans in Rockford, Ill., will have their “Taste of BIFF” in May.
5. Earlier ticket sales. The festival website, beloitfilmfest.org, will start selling BIFF tickets Jan. 1. If some Janesville screenings sell out, more can be added, Beaudoin said.
6. The mood lightens. After a “fairly dark” theme last year, the 2014 festival will offer more comedies and romantic comedies, Beaudoin said. Staffers recruited student interns from Beloit College and UW-Rock County to help them obtain and sift through 700-plus films, narrowing the pool to about 130 documentaries, features and short films.
Creative director Kristin Peterson described the process as “grueling fun.”
7. Badger State vs. Land of Lincoln. A Wisconsin-Illinois Showdown, designed by Peterson, will be offered Feb. 14-16 on the festival's first weekend. Several regional films will be on tap, including student submissions to the Student Filmmaker Showcase. Audiences can vote for their favorites.
8. Additional screenings. Beloit's Rotary River Center will be the venue where films submitted at the last minute will be shown. Additional screenings of sold-out films also will be shown there.
9. BIFFY Awards. The awards ceremony, which lets filmmakers and film lovers bump elbows, usually takes place opening night. In 2014, it is set for Thursday, Feb. 20—about halfway through the festival.
10. BIFF + Music. The fest continues its tradition of showcasing new bands and singer-songwriters. Music will be offered from 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22, at four—not three—Beloit venues: Suds O'Hanahan's, Bushel & Peck's, Club Impulse and Merrill & Houston's Steak Joint. The itinerary has yet to be announced.