GI Film Festival San Diego Announces New Leadership

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Organizers of the GI Film Festival San Diego, a military-themed film festival that presents films and events for, by and about military service members and veterans, announce KPBS as the sole producer of the national film festival. All activities will now originate in San Diego, California, including the awards competition, judging, and in-person film screenings.

The full festival is moved to May 18-23, 2021, allowing for additional time to plan screening events outside of current COVID-19 limitations. This also moves the national film festival to its original spring timeframe, when it was held in Washington D.C. from 2006 to 2017.

"KPBS is honored to have grown the GI Film Festival in San Diego. But to now have the blessing and trust from founders Brandon and Laura is truly an honor. KPBS is proud to continue the strong GI Film Festival traditions in San Diego and beyond," says Nancy Worlie, associate general manager of content and communications, KPBS. "In just five short years, we've demonstrated that the GI Film Festival was important to our community and that we can continue this tradition for filmmakers around the globe."

The national GI Film Festival was founded in 2006 by Army Veteran Laura Law-Millett and her husband Brandon Millett, to foster greater public understanding of the military experience through film, television and live special events. For over a decade, the award-winning GI Film Festival happened annually in Washington D.C., with additional events hosted on military bases around the country and in Los Angeles, California. In 2015, the GI Film Festival worked with KPBS to bring the "Sundance for the Troops" permanently to San Diego to help expand the festival's footprint. The shift to the West Coast was only natural as San Diego boasts one of the largest military populations in the U.S., with seven major military bases between the Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. San Diego County has the third largest veteran population in the U.S. with more than 240,500 veterans and more than 100,000 active duty members. In 2018, the GI Film Group announced San Diego would be the home for the national film festival for that year. This year, KPBS officially acquired the GI Film Festival making San Diego the home for the national festival now and for years to come. The Milletts will remain advisors to KPBS moving forward.

"As the first military film festival in the country, the GI Film Festival provided a voice for the military community in entertainment and we are so proud to have helped deliver hundreds of films into the marketplace showing the honor and courage of those who serve," says Brandon Millett. "And now, under the leadership of KPBS, we have no doubt that the festival will continue to grow and encourage filmmakers everywhere to share their stories."

When the global pandemic and official "shelter-in-place" orders were announced in mid-March, festival organizers accelerated their plan to reschedule the highly-anticipated GI Film Festival San Diego, which traditionally takes place annually each fall. To also continue its mission to engage audiences, inspire filmmakers, and celebrate authentic storytelling, the festival will present a virtual showcase on Oct. 1 and 2, 2020. Titles and filmmaker participation to be announced later this summer. The films to be featured in the virtual showcase will be hand-selected by festival organizers.

"Moving our screenings virtual in the fall presents an opportunity to reach even more people around the world," says Worlie. "We're excited to keep inspiring a love for military stories and start planning the virtual showcase, and the Spring 2021 festival with an all new lineup of films that inspire, engage, and reflect the military and veteran communities in the United States and internationally. It'll be fascinating to see how the quarantine has challenged filmmakers to dive deeper into their creative talent and submit something completely original, compelling, and transforming. We look forward to seeing submissions for the 2021 festival start rolling in very soon."

To prepare for the virtual screenings, festival organizers send out weekly emails to supporters sharing their recommendations for must-see military-related films and podcasts that can be enjoyed at home or on the go. Some of the films may have been featured at past festivals. These "binge-worthy" suggestions coincide with military awareness months like Military Caregiver Appreciation Month and Month of the Military Child, as well as other themes of resilience, strength, WWII and more.

Looking back on the history of the GI Film Festival San Diego
In its six year history, the GI Film Festival San Diego has presented 164 films and attracted thousands of attendees. Each film, whether it be a documentary, narrative, short or feature-length, tells a compelling and unique story that may challenge the festival-goers' notions about what it means to serve and goes beyond one-dimensional depictions of veterans, service members, their caregivers, and families. The festival tackles topics like healing post-traumatic stress, survivor's guilt, LGBTQIA+ military experiences, drug addiction post-service, and more during in-depth panel discussions after each film block to help reduce the military-civilian divide. There is also an opportunity for San Diego area filmmakers to share their work and celebrate the growing San Diego film community, through the festival's Local Film Showcase, organized in partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego.

Every year, the GI Film Festival San Diego continues to grow and draw audiences and filmmakers from around the world. The festival has also hosted several celebrities that took part in films selected for the festival, including documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Ric Burns; actor and activist George Takei; actor Matthew Marsden; actor/producer/director Jeffrey Wright; and actor/director Brenda Strong.

How to submit for the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego
Submissions for the Spring 2021 film festival will be handled exclusively through FilmFreeway. The following is the submission timeline:

  • Opening Date: May 25, 2020 (Memorial Day)
  • Early Bird Deadline: Oct. 7, 2020 ($35 fee, Students $20)
  • Regular Deadline: Dec. 2, 2020 ($45 fee, Students $30)
  • Late Deadline: Jan. 20, 2021 ($55 fee, Students $40)
  • Notification Date: March 10, 2021

All submissions must meet requirements, which will be posted on the GI Film Festival San Diego website and on FilmFreeway. Rules and terms to submit for the 2021 festival include:

GI FILM FESTIVAL SAN DIEGO REQUIREMENTS

  • To be selected for the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego, films must have been completed after January 1, 2018 and meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • A storyline or narrative arc that is about the military experience- past or current day-USA or international-during service or back home after service.
    • A film of any genre, military-themed or not, featuring above the line talent who is currently serving or has served in the U.S. military. Above the line talent includes: director, writer, producer, and/or principal actor/actress.


LOCAL FILM SHOWCASE REQUIREMENTS

  • To be selected for the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego's Local Film Showcase, films must have been completed after January 1, 2018, entered under the Local Film Showcase San Diego category, and meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • A storyline or narrative arc that is about the military experience within San Diego County or Imperial County.
    • A military themed film that is made by individual(s) who reside in San Diego County or Imperial County.
    • A military themed film that features more than 60% of cast and crew from San Diego County or Imperial County.
    • A military themed film that was shot or edited within San Diego County or Imperial County.
    • A film of any genre featuring local above the line talent who is currently serving or has served in the U.S. military. Local filmmaker should reside in San Diego County or Imperial County. Above the line talent includes: director, writer, producer, and/or principal actor/actress.


GI Film Festival San Diego Receives Grant from California Arts Council
Earlier this month, the California Arts Council announced that the GI Film Festival San Diego made its list of organizations they will support. A total of 1,534 grants have been awarded to nonprofit organizations and units of government for their work to strengthen arts, culture, and creative expression. The festival received its $13,421 grant under the Arts and Public Media category for its activities to engage Californians and California filmmakers and showcase creative expression. But the need for support continues. To sponsor the 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego, contact Claudine Casillas at ccasillas@kpbs.org.

Learn more about the GI Film Festival San Diego at GIFilmFestivalSD.org.


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