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Interview with Festival Director Janice Kurbjun (Breckenridge Film Festival)

Since its opening event in 1981,

 the Breckenridge Film Festival has celebrated the art of filmmaking. Each year a unique and varied array of independent films, premieres, receptions, educational programs and retrospectives honoring featured guests takes place high in the Colorado Rockies. 

Currently celebrating its 36th year,

the Festival has hosted such guests as Alan Arkin, James Earl Jones, Robert Loggia, Marsha Mason, Sydney Pollack, Mary Steenburgen, Donald Sutherland, Eva Marie Saint, Jon Voight, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jon Favreau, Michael York , Jo Beth Williams, Connie Nielsen, Irvin Kershner, Thomas Haden Church, AnnaSophia Robb and DB Sweeney. Educational outreach programs, children’s films, celebrity guests, independent filmmaker forums and other events celebrating the art of film, contribute to the Festival’s diverse program. The University of Colorado at Boulder has presented classic and foreign films with faculty members leading interrelated discussions.


Interview with Janice Kurbjun

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

We host roughly 30 filmmakers at our festival each year. These are filmmakers who submit their films and are accepted through our review process. In attending the Breckenridge Film Festival, they are presented the opportunity to mix and mingle with each other as well as with distributors scouting talent, the Colorado Film Commission, staff of which regularly attends the festival, and with high-level industry talent attending the festival in support of our featured films. We pride ourselves on offering an excellent visit for filmmakers both in terms of quality of experience as well as quality of industry relations.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

Filmmakers attending each festival can expect the excellent opportunity to take advantage of first-come, first-served complimentary lodging, which helps facilitate filmmakers’ ability to attend festivals to promote their films, interact with audiences and discover new and interesting partnerships, distribution ideas and other creative direction while enjoying the fabulous scenery of the Rocky Mountains. The festival provides support in promoting films, offering unique and interesting opportunities to mix with industry professionals and generally, to enjoy fall and all the wonderful activities offered in the mountains at that time.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Films must fall into one of eight categories: Drama, Short Drama, Comedy, Short Comedy, Documentary, Animation, Spiritual and Adventure. Films also must have been completed in March 2015 to May 2016 to be considered.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals?

The Breckenridge Film Festival believes in allowing all filmmakers to submit films for consideration, making the playing field as level and fair as possible. We curate only a handful of films every year, and so we pride ourselves on our high acceptance rate of approximately 15%. Filmmakers take notice. We receive excellent films each year, showcasing that not only are there drastic striations in the industry, but that there are excellent films just waiting to be seen. Our audiences marvel at the variety of films we screen annually and leave the festival with a deeper understanding of the depth and breadth of the independent film community.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

We believe in the power of film and media to inspire, educate and entertain. The best films for our festival will touch on issues in new and interesting ways that resonate with our audiences. The best films will leave audiences feeling inspired. And of course, the best films will entertain audiences as they accomplish the first two goals.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

In 1981, the Breckenridge Film Festival showcased Hollywood front runner films. As the industry has changed, so too has the Breckenridge Film Festival, as it has opted to focus on the broadening world of independent film and up and coming filmmakers. Today, we are primarily an independent film festival featuring unique talent from across the globe.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

We intend to be a vibrant, interactive festival focused on the power of storytelling and featuring excellent pictures that resonate with our audiences. We intend to continue to be a place for filmmakers to mix and mingle with each other and find inspiration of their own.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Either Star Wars or Amelie. Might be a toss up…

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

To quote a great man, “the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” – Roger Ebert.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

Rich. Our residents are more in tune with art house films than they are with first-run Hollywood features. They seek and crave the inspirational, empathetic experience art house films can provide.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go for more information and to submit your work to the festival.