The road to creating the Las Vegas Film Festival is a long one. Two weeks after the end of 2010 festival, which hosted more than 4,000 attendees, director of operations Milo Kostelecky and his team began accepting submissions for this year. Since then, they have been screening films and preparing for 2011. Here’s what’s new this year.
The festival received 1,100 submissions for 2011, about 200 more than last year. In order to give each submission the attention it deserves, Kostelecky enlists the help of film buffs and experts from College of Southern Nevada and UNLV. Each screener takes home a packet of 14 films, which they rate on a 50-point scoring system. After the results are tallied, 200 films fall into a category of recognition and the top 50 are shown at the festival. The selection of films cross the spectrum of genres, including animated films, documentaries and even music videos.
After trying out different venues, Kostelecky is holding the festival at the Hilton for the second year in a row. “It’s a very strong venue because their main theater, the old Elvis theater, is one of the larger theaters in the city,” Kostelecky says. “They also have a separate Shimmer Showroom, which is a little more intimate and the perfect theater for indie films.”
A film festival is more than movies shown in a theater. It’s a curated experience. This year, that experience kicks off with a red carpet premiere of The Story, a skiing documentary narrated by Hilary Swank and featuring U.S. Olympic skiers. Kostelecky is thrilled to have this documentary open the festival. “It’s just a beautiful film with phenomenal cinematography,” he says.
The Las Vegas Film Fest supports local filmmakers by offering 90-minute showcases of films by CSN and UNLV students. It’s Kostelecky’s favorite part, and it seems to be equally popular with viewers. “When it was time for the CSN and UNLV students’ 90-minute blocks last year, the lines filled up,” Kostelecky says, and he expects the same thing this year.
Adding to the social experience, the film festival offers panel discussions and parties. This year he’s expanding the number from one to three in order for audience members to “get inside the minds of the movies’ writers and directors.” Already there are signs that the festival’s local presence has expanded. Sales for VIP and high-roller passes are already up from last year, and the festival has more volunteers than it can use. There’s even a new networking dinner, which Kostelecky hopes can serve as a fun way to keep the festival growing.
But the Las Vegas Film Festival doesn’t end after the weekend. Kostelecky has added some new initiatives—creating monthly mixers and replaying films at smaller venues—that keep the festival rolling throughout the year.