CHAMPAIGN - Spring just seems to bring artistic-minded Champaign residents out of the woodwork.
The Boneyard Art Festival runs April 15 to 18 throughout Champaign-Urbana, closely followed by the annual Roger Ebert Film Festival, scheduled April 21 to 25.
Jason Pankoke and Sanford Hess looked at this schedule and thought, "There's room for one more festival in there."
This new event is the inaugural New Art Film Festival, the result of a close collaboration between Pankoke, the creator of Champaign-area blogs C-U Blogfidential and Micro-Film, and Hess, the new owner of The Art Theater in downtown Champaign, formerly known as Boardman's Art Theatre. The focus of the festival is locally produced and created films.
"Two-thirds of these films were shot in the immediate downstate area," said Pankoke, who did a small test run of the concept of a local fest by showing his own films last year in an Urbana coffeehouse. "A few are from St. Louis, Minneapolis and Chicago, but all the films are from the greater Midwest."
The festival will take place from Thursday through April 20, effectively stretching from the beginning of the Boneyard Art Fest until the start of Ebertfest. It isn't the organizers' intention or plan to usurp attention from the more established festivals; they simply hope to benefit from a mobilized audience that will be especially open to new art.
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The five-day festival will take place exclusively at The Art Theater, which will cease its regular film schedule in order to showcase these local films. For feature films, tickets will be sold in blocks for the matinee price of $6.50, regardless of time of day. The first night, April 15, will be free and will feature short films, music videos and trailers for films to be screened later in the festival.
"We wanted the first night to have an ‘open house' feel, so people could stop by and see the short films," Pankoke said. "It's set on the first day of the Boneyard Arts Fest because we want to show all the multimedia makers present in town that week that locals are producing films and feature films in the area with great success."
Hess, as The Art Theater owner, is doing his best to charge a reduced ticket price to compensate for the five days of not showing his usual fare. Other theater amenities such as the concession stand will be active as usual.
"We are thrilled to host the New Art Film Festival," Hess said. "Our audience loves movies and is very involved in our community, so we're excited to showcase some of the great films that are being made in the area."
In addition to short films and music videos, the four days from April 16-20 will contain around a dozen full-length features, most of which were created within the last few years. In fact, with few exceptions, the New Art Film Festival is focused on very recent films created by active, local filmmakers.
"These films come from a local perspective and are what people want to see when they watch movies," Pankoke said. "It's happening right here in the Midwest. In my opinion, this festival has been a long time in coming."