Words by Olivia Bauso
Photos provided by Fast Forward Film Festival
Storytelling is a powerful tool that has been used by humans since the beginning of time. We tell stories to inform each other, to entertain each other, to connect with each other, and when our stories are shared in the right places, we tell them to impact each other.
The Fast Forward Film Festival (FFFF) is one of the “right places” to share a story here in Rochester. The inaugural Fast Forward Film Festival took place in 2015 as the result of Andy Stern’s vision to bring environmental awareness to a local level. Using the short film format, Fast Forward allows makers to use visual storytelling to communicate environmental problems of the community in hopes of inspiring change. The idea is that by engaging the local community in friendly competition and art making surrounding a specific cause, participants will be empowered to stir action.
Festival Director and owner of Delaney Marketing & Event Services, Becca Delaney says the festival uniquely bridges art making, environmental advocacy and community action, making Fast Forward especially approachable. You don’t have to be a professional filmmaker to participate (though you can be, if you want), you just have to have a compelling story. Becca explains, “We want people with passion for the environment, first and foremost. This is local art maker driven, along with being film driven.” Some novice filmmakers have used simple smartphone footage and edited right from their devices."
The festival’s approachability isn’t just a ploy to solicit participants. Last year, FFFF opened a youth category to give young filmmakers an equal opportunity to show off their skills. Of over 100 submissions festival wide, about 35% of them were from youth, the youngest participant being only seven years old. Becca explains, “We really listened to feedback from the community, and agreed it wasn’t fair to have a young person compete against adults and sometimes professionals.” So in addition to the youth category itself, the organizers wrote and published The Green Story Guide, an educational book used in school programming to inform and involve students in greater Rochester (Find a digital copy here!). One of their staff members is solely dedicated to talking to area students and getting them excited-- not only for the festival, but also about the prospect of invoking environmental change.
FFFF listened to what the public wanted, and it turns out, they needed more information. So, in addition to expansion for youth friendliness the festival added several instructional gatherings to offer free information to interested and working filmmakers of all ages. These Inspiration Sessions were held at the George Eastman Museum (November) and right here at Rochester Brainery (February), and featured past filmmakers, tech wizards and clips of past films.
The festival itself consists of two nights: a film screening at The Little Theatre, optimal for students and families, and the festival gala, which includes a night at the George Eastman Museum followed by another screening in the Dryden Theatre and awards for participants. Becca says, “The gala is truly a very themed, very fun, very elegant affair.” This includes food, drinks, educational opportunities and a green carpet. Each year as the festival has grown, so has the gala. Becca’s prediction is that this year will be no different: “We are growing, and growing in Rochester. All I can say is year three will be bigger and better.” She also teases a big announcement from the festival on April 1st.
“If we see it in our community, right in front of us, we are more likely to change our behavior,” Becca explains. Sure, participants enjoy winning cash prizes, building relationships and having resume boosts, but the real joy of participating in FFFF truly comes through the social good component. As Becca says, FFFF is “connecting with the earth through storytelling and art."
Rochester Brainery is proud to be a friend of the festival. The Fast Forward Film Festival itself will be held March 31st through April 1st. For more information, visit FFFF’s website, or check them out on social media. The deadline to submit a film to the festival is coming up on February 27th! For some last minute inspiration, see past films here.
Words by Olivia Bauso