This September, the Nevada City Film Festival (NCFF) embarks on its 17th year with a seven-day voyage to explore the human experience through the best in independent cinema. Beginning with the birth of filmmaking and the rise of black and white silent films, leading into modern day talkies and ending with the future of filmmaking with Virtual Reality, festival-goers will find that the technology of how we see and experience films will change, but a beautifully crafted story will always remain timeless.
NCFF has been called the “Sundance of the Sierra” for its emphasis on fiercely independent cinema by showcasing innovative, progressive and exciting new voices in film. Each year, NCFF attends major film festivals, collaborates with film schools around the world, reads countless film blogs, and watches the hundreds of films submitted, to narrow it all down to the very best in independent film. From feature-length documentaries to world premiere animated shorts, NCFF brings in the buzzed-about festival winners, as well as some of independent cinema’s best-kept secrets.
NCFF’s Kick Off Bash on Thursday, September 7, at the Stone House, encompasses this year’s theme of exploration with a special complimentary presentation of the 1902 French silent film A Trip to the Moon directed by Georges Méliès. Widely regarded as the earliest example of the science fiction film genre and, more generally, as one of the most influential films in cinema history, this 12 minute short film not only featured lavish set designs and innovative special effects but at the time an unparalleled emphasis on storytelling. NCFF will present this film with a never before heard score written and performed by an all-star line up of some of Nevada County’s most innovative and talented musicians including Randy McKean, Callum McKean, Murray Campbell and Wes Steed.
“Our submissions nearly tripled this year and to accommodate the many amazing films we received, we doubled our programming,” says Jesse Locks, NCFF Festival Director. “We also have a three very special guests who could only make it on a certain day, so we increased the festival from four to seven days.”
Locks is speaking of Bill Nye, the Emmy Award-winning host of the popular late-nineties PBS series “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” and now host of the Netflix series “Bill Nye Saves the World, who will be in attendance at the screening of the documentary film Bill Nye: Science Guy along with co-directors Nevada City native Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado.
In the film, Nye embarks on a quest to change the world through science advocacy and education. With intimate and exclusive access, this is a behind-the-scenes portrait of “the Science Guy,” as he inspires Millennials to participate in STEM. With wonder and whimsy, the film follows Bill’s journey to change the world… with science. Bill Nye: Science Guy screens, Monday, September 11 at 5:30pm & 8.30pm at the Miners Foundry.
“We are so proud of Jason and all that he has achieved as a filmmaker,” says Locks. “We’ve screened nearly every one of his films, from little shorts he made while at Nevada Union High School to his masters thesis from Stanford. So for us to screen this film which premiered at South by Southwest, and bring Bill Nye, the man himself, to the festival, we’ve come full circle. It’s a real treat and honor!”
Other highlights of this year’s festival include the nearly 100 award-winning shorts and feature length films, with over 35 of the film’s filmmakers traveling from around the world to attend and participate in Question & Answer’s following the films.
“As both the festival’s director and as a movie-lover, it is always fascinating to see how filmmakers are inspired by what’s happening in the world, and how these stories are told in various ways and genres – animated narratives, fictional dramas, funny and compelling documentaries or in Virtual Reality,” says Locks.
Last year, to rave reviews, NCFF launched a world-class VR Festival within the Film Festival. People traveled across the state to see the very best in VR. This year they have raised the bar and are bringing VR to all of Nevada County (well, most of it!).
They have partnered with Exit Reality VR to have their VR trucks stopping throughout Nevada County before and during the festival for individuals to experience VR for the first time. The free VR experiences last anywhere between 2-5 minutes and a location list and time will be the festival’s website for those interested to follow along.
Exit Reality VR will also take part in the VR Pavilion located at the Miners Foundry during the festival. The VR Pavilion features VR experiences from the world’s top VR creators on Facebook/Oculus VR and HTC Vive, plus live Tilt Brush demonstrations on the HTC Vive by visual artists, workshops and panel discussions, DJs and a common area for creatives to meet up, hang out, and talk about their next project.
NCFF will present a special free student workshop on Saturday, September 9, at 11am at the Miners Foundry with leading VR artist Wesley Allsbrook, one of the creators behind Dear Angelica.
From Emmy Award-winning Oculus Story Studio comes Dear Angelica, a journey through the magical and dreamlike ways we remember our loved ones. Entirely painted by hand inside of VR, Dear Angelica plays out in a series of memories that unfold around you. The immersive, illustrative short story stars Geena Davis and Mae Whitman.
“NCFF has always been committed to creative storytelling and as a staff we are naturally curious in finding ways to use technology to aid in the storytelling process,” says Locks. “We saw the premiere of Dear Angelica at Sundance and were completely amazed; it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen and experienced before.”
Speaking of students, NCFF will host nearly 400 students from Nevada City schools on Friday, September 8 for a special film presentation from Pixar Studios. NCFF will also host a free screening for children of international shorts on Saturday, September 9 at 1pm at the Miners Foundry.
NCFF has also teamed up with Music in the Mountains and InConcert Sierra to present Score: The Film Music Documentary, Saturday, September 9, 7pm at the Nevada Theatre, which brings Hollywood’s elite composers together to give viewers a privileged look inside the musical challenges and creative secrecy of the world’s most international music genre: the film score. A film composer is a musical scientist of sorts, and the influence they have to complement a film and garner powerful reactions from global audiences can be a daunting task to take on. The documentary contains interviews with dozens of film composers who discuss their craft and the magic of film music while exploring the making of the most iconic and beloved scores in history: “James Bond”, “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Titanic,” “The Social Network,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “Psycho.”
New to the festival is its After Dark series of live music and film experiences, visual artists, live comedy and more. Gimme Danger: A Film + Music Tribute to Iggy Pop, Friday, September 8, 7pm, at the Stone House, pays homage to one of rock’s ultimate provocateurs, Iggy Pop, with a screening of director Jim Jarmusch’s film Gimme Danger followed by music from local rock bands including Beautiful Dudes, Chat Room, My Dallas Teens, and Blake Severn + Broken Spoke.
All the Feels! An Evening for the Senses on Saturday, September 9, 6-9pm at the Osborn Woods Gallery at the Miners Foundry, is a sensory event featuring visual artists Juli Elin, Rene Medina, Rahlene Weeden + Stardust Station, Jacob Goodrich, plus live VR artists, DJs and more.
Eric Wareheim returns to NCFF, Thursday, September 14, 8pm at the Stone House. The writer, comedian, director and musician is bringing his friends with him for an evening of comedy shorts, a brand new episode of Bedtime Stories, and more. Best known as one half of the comedy duo Tim & Eric, alongside Tim Heidecker, Wareheim is responsible for producing such comedy cult favorites as the Adult Swim sketch show “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule starring John C. Reilly, Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Eric Andre Show, and Nathan For You. He currently stars with Aziz Ansari in Netflix’s Master of None.
The festival wraps Friday, September 15 with an outdoor “Best of the Fest” screening in Pioneer Park at 6pm. Attendees can enjoy delicious eats from local and regional food trucks, live music from Strictly Business, award-winning beer from Ol’ Republic and the winners of this year’s festival including the highly coveted Audience Choice Award.
“There is so much happening at the festival this year! You’re best bet is to pick up the Early Bird pass and try it ALL,” says Locks. “We’ve really tried to curate an experience that would entertain and excite all movie-lovers.”