Emerging one warm summer weekend in 2001 as an absolutely DIY, “why-the-hell-not?” event, the Nevada City Film Festival was the brainchild of filmmaker Jason Graham; and for its first few years its programs were created almost entirely by Graham and a handful of his Twenty-Something friends.
Festival #1 was viewed by a wildly enthused, bemused (and occasionally confused) audience who crammed into Nevada City’s tiny Magic Theatre (owned by Jeffrey Clark) to experience handmade epics like “A Motorcycle Documentary About the Paranormal” and “Jobby the Awesome Surfer”.
And so it went for the first couple of years: imaginative no-holds-barred, local indy films made by youthful, hometown filmmakers, screened in a 65 seat theatre to a handful of hard-core true believers, more or less as an excuse to have a good time.
Then, in 2005, Nevada City native David Nicholson returned home after graduating from the film program at Pratt Institute in New York, having helped produce the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival. With Nicholson’s encouragement and experience that year’s festival widened its horizons to include works by filmmakers from around the US and the world. Lines grew around the theatre and from that point forward new, larger venues and programs were rapidly added to accommodate sell-out crowds and filmmakers visiting from far and wide.
Jesse Locks, a high-school friend of Graham and Nicholson’s joined the team in 2007. Locks had moved home to Nevada City to focus on her work with the ground-breaking music publication Arthur Magazine. Her background in sponsorship, fundraising and event marketing proved invaluable and helped to bring in the necessary dollars to help the festival realize its potential and sustain its growth. In 2010, Locks took over as Festival Director.
The NCFF still retains the charm of it’s freewheeling, small-town roots but it has since blown up into a major attraction in the Sierra foothills. Highlights of recent years such as filmmaker spotlights on Mike Mills (Thumbsucker, The Beginners, etc), multimedia performance artist Miwa Matreyek, Jonathan Krisel (Director of Portlandia) and Don Hertzfeld (Everything Will be OK, Rejected), panels discussions featuring web-based video phenomena Lonelygirl15, Current TV and music supervisor Brian Reitzell (Lost In Translation), and special guests such as Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! and comedians Marc Maron, Tig Notaro, Maria Bamford, Nick Kroll, Natasha Leggero and Eric Andre have landed NCFF on the map in the indie fest world as one of of the most innovative, fun and artist-friendly events in the country.