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A still taken from the submission "In the name of the Ultra, the Bear, and the Holy Go." // Photo courtesy of Weston Lyle Snider.

U of C alumni launch Quarantine International Film Festival

By Troy Hasselman, March 26 2020 —

Two University of Calgary Alumni have launched an online film festival for people quarantined through the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian Comedy Award nominee and multiple-time Best of Calgary Finalist Spencer Streichert has teamed up with award-winning filmmaker Siobhan Cooney to launch the inaugural Quarantine International Film Festival (QIFF). The festival will select 10 short films from around the world to be uploaded onto the QIFF YouTube channel on April 8. All works must stick to the festival’s loose theme of ‘Bear or Bare.’

The idea for the festival came together quickly after Streichert’s Telus Storyhive project had its production cancelled in the midst of the mass escalation of social distancing measures earlier this month. 

“At the end of the day they got a message from Telus Storyhive telling them that they had to shut down filming and production had to cease,” Cooney explains. “Getting home we were like ‘’What is going on?’ We were joking and using our anxiety and being like ‘It’s okay if we’re quarantined. Let’s just do something about it.’ We just thought it would be a cool idea and the next day is where we got everything up and running for it.”

After the festival launched on March 14, it quickly began gaining traction with the festival already receiving submission from as far away as South America and Asia from a variety of film genres.

“We started the Facebook page and that’s when things started to take off because people were sharing it like crazy and we posted it into a couple of film groups from around the world and even more people started sharing it and suddenly we had interest from all parts of the globe,” Streichert says. “We already have a submission from Argentina, we’ve had parts of Asia and animators from around the world too. It’s not just short live-action films. We’re also accepting documentaries and animation. There’s a lot of people that are interested in the animated part of it which is really cool because that’s something people can do by themselves at home.”

The festival acts as an artistic outlet for creatives that have been put out of work by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a means to pass the time through the long days of self-quarantine.

“Everything that I had for work up until the end of the month is either not happening or happening at a later date,” Streichert says. “I know a lot of people that are in that same boat and that’s partially why we figured this would be a good thing to do. It might not fulfill people monetarily because we don’t offer a prize but we’re also not charging people for it so anybody can do it and can fulfill themselves artistically.”

While the festival is open to all genres of filmmaking an important catch is that all films must be completely made with equipment and materials that are readily available to the filmmakers during quarantine.

“A big thing we really wanted to stress is that people have to use what they have access to,” Streichert says. “People can film stuff on their smartphones, on their webcam or if they live in a house with a bunch of filmmakers they can create a short film altogether, but we’re mostly going to be judging people based on how they use what they have access to. Not necessarily the quality of camera, but more so how they incorporated that into their production.”

While the festival was originally planned as one-off, the strong response has caused the organizers to consider doing the festival again next year but with a theme attached to all of the works submitted.

When we were getting started we didn’t really think past this year but we got such an overwhelming response,” Cooney explains. “We’d want to maybe do it again if people weren’t necessarily quarantined, ideally. If that’s not the case we’d make it thematic. We’d do a theme like isolation for submissions.”

Above all, Cooney and Streichert want admissions to the festival to be creative and original, and not reuse ideas that have been submitted to other festivals.

“We’re looking for people to be creative,” Cooney says. “We don’t mind what genre it is but we aren’t looking for films that have already been made or submitted to different festivals. We’re looking for stuff that’s made in the context of the quarantine that’s happening right now and following the bylaws and precautions set out by the government as well.” 

Submissions to QIFF are open until April 1 at 11:59 p.m.. For more information about the festival, check out their Facebook page.

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