Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More Than a Festival

April 10, 2012

By Andrea Steele

Freethought Film Festival Foundation was established in the spring of 2009, with the primary focus of hosting the annual International Freethought Film Festival in a different city each year. As a 501( c)(3) nonprofit, educational organization that promotes reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film, it has grown—and continues to grow—to be much more than a just a film festival. The work of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation is helping to advance the freethought movement by reaching a more general audience; and it is a resource for those who are looking for something to compliment traditional ways of promoting freethought ideas.

The organization has since presented freethought films at several international and national conferences, facilitated screenings for community groups, and has advised the San Francisco Atheist Film Festival, Portland Humanist Film Festival and others who have expressed interest in hosting similar film festival events in their local communities. Upcoming presentations include two nights of film screenings at the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Lake Hypatia Advance, on Independence Day weekend; and a freethought shorts marathon at the Atheist Alliance of America, “Ascent of Atheism” conference on Labor Day weekend 2012. These efforts are in addition to all of the work that goes into executing the annual International Freethought Film Festival. This year, the Freethought Film Festival Foundation is hosting a freethought celebrity poker tournament and casino night benefit, as a part of the IFFF 2012 festivities in Denver, Colorado on July 31st. The proceeds for this event will go to the nonprofit charity organization, Foundation Beyond Belief; and with its success, will be held in conjunction with the film festival each year.

With the goal of having a fully functional film production branch of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation by 2015, the organization has appointed filmmaker, Kelli Cooke, as director of production development. She is the producer and director of the film, Godless, which was a world premiere at the inaugural International Freethought Film Festival at the Tampa Theatre in May of 2011. Kelli’s experience and professional network in the film industry and freethought movement will help propel the organization toward its goals. Collaboration on the first film under the FFFF production arm has already begun; although the subject of the film is being kept under wraps. A screenwriting category is anticipated for IFFF 2013, where submitters will compete for the chance to have their work produced. Editing and graphic design tools have recently been donated to the Freethought Film Festival Foundation to assist with this objective. They are moving forward with underwriting efforts, and are offering donors the opportunity to earmark their contributions to go toward future film projects.

The tagline for the FFFF production branch is: “...where artistic and rationalistic are not mutually exclusive.”. The organization aims to serve as a reminder that the human experience is a mish-mash of emotion, creativity and discovery. They recognize that narrative films, which draw viewers into the humanity of a fictitious story and characters’ experiences are as important as documentaries. When they pre-screen film submissions for consideration in the film festival program, this is at the forefront of their selection process, alongside of seeking films that best reflect the mission statement of FFFF. This will also be reflected in films that the organization produces.

Monday, March 12, 2012

For Immediate Release: Poker in the Church

Printable version:

Poker in the Church
For Immediate Release

(Orlando, March 13, 2012) The Freethought Film Festival Foundation is hosting a charity event on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012. The first annual Freethought Celebrity Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament and Casino Night, themed, “Poker in The Church”, will be held at “The Church” nightclub in downtown Denver, Colorado. The fundraising event is to benefit the Foundation Beyond Belief, a humanist, charitable, nonprofit organization that raises and distributes funds to five different charities per quarter. Beneficiaries include charities in the categories of education, poverty and health, human rights and the natural world. The Foundation Beyond Belief Website states, “Carefully selected for impact and efficiency, our featured beneficiaries are secular organizations with the exception of Challenge the Gap, which features non-proselytizing organizations based in other worldviews.”

For a suggested donation, participants may register for the Texas Hold ‘Em Poker tournament, where there will be at least one freethought celebrity at each table. The tournament is limited to 135 players who will compete for non-cash prizes, donated to the Freethought Film Festival Foundation for this event. Information packets and online registration can be found at the Freethought Film Festival Foundation Website at Spectator passes are also available for a suggested donation. Spectators will receive non-cash value chips for playing casino games. “Winnings” will be exchanged for raffle tickets to enter various chance drawings during the event.

Committed freethought celebrities to date include writers, scientists, activists, leaders and entertainers, who are widely recognized in the secular movement. The last freethought celebrity player standing in the tournament will choose a single charity from Foundation Beyond Belief’s list of beneficiaries, which will receive half of the proceeds of the event from the Freethought Film Festival Foundation. The other half of the proceeds will go to Foundation Beyond Belief to be distributed equally among the five charities for that quarter.

Based in Orlando, Florida, the Freethought Film Festival Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, educational organization that promotes reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film. The organization hosts the annual International Freethought Film Festival, which is held in a different city each year. “Poker in The Church” is one of the events that are a part of the 2012 International Freethought Film Festival activities in Denver. Founder and executive director, Andrea Steele comments, “Looking forward, the tournament is anticipated to coincide with the annual film festival for years to come. But only if the world doesn’t end on December 21st, of course.”

# # #

Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit, educational organization, exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Federal tax code. Established in August, 2009, the major focus of the organization is to host an annual, International Freethought Film Festival. Its mission is to promote reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film.

# # #

For more information contact:

Andrea Steele
Executive Director
Freethought Film Festival Foundation

Sunday, January 8, 2012

From the Director

Exciting things are underway in our second season. The Freethought Film Festival Foundation is at the forefront of the secular movement in introducing the general public to freethought ideals. From July 31st through August 5th, 2012, in Denver, Colorado, FFFF will host not only the second annual International Freethought Film Festival, to include indie film screenings, Q&As and parties, but a major charity event as well! There are multiple opportunities for organizations, businesses and individuals to play a supporting role in our efforts this season. What you may not know, is that FFFF is also here to lend support to secular clubs & groups who are interested in promoting reason through film in their own communities. We are continually scouting for new films that reflect our mission statement, and the list of freethought programming content to share with others keeps growing.

In October, I represented FFFF at our information table at the Texas Freethought/Atheist Alliance of America Convention, where the convention organizers added to their program a "mini film festival". They showed back to back films in one of the convention rooms that sat approximately 30 people. All nine of the films that they screened were full-length feature films. Six out of those nine films were official selections at IFFF. (We screened seven features, and the only reason that the convention did not include all seven in their program, was that one of the directors did not reply to them to grant screening permission.) That weekend, attendees approached our table asking what was being screened, because they assumed that we were the ones putting on the mini-film festival. I explained to them that we weren't affiliated with it, but before pointed to the convention information table where they could get a schedule, I introduced to them our mission. After the introduction, not only were people excited about our efforts, but at least a half dozen filmmakers came up to me later to tell me that they were inspired create a film to submit to IFFF!

Community group leaders regularly reach out to me and express interest in presenting films that were screened at our first event back in May, 2011. I tell them that we are happy to help with content, promoting and advice on how to execute such an event; and I explain our stipulations for FFFF to extend such support. Here are they are:

1. The event must be held in a public theater venue, in a non-academic environment. Not on a school campus. No library meeting rooms. No hotel conference rooms. Why not the afforementioned? Boring. Boring. Boring.

2. The event must be free to the public. There are a few reasons for this requirement. One reason is the logistics of screening permissions. Another is to make attending the screenings as attractive to the general public as possible. Free = Average person thinking, "Even though this sounds super interesting, I wouldn't attend if I had to pay an admission, but since it's free...why the hell not?". Yet another reason is to challenge groups to make their presence known by giving something to their community...the gift of educating the public by exercising their own mission statements using a medium attractive to a general audience.

3. A one day event is most reasonable for a community group to organize. (This one is really a strong suggestion.) The Freethought Film Festival Foundation's concentration is promoting reason through film. The focus of freethought/secular community groups/clubs is to promote reason in general; and a small film festival is a great way to do this without committing to hosting a major, annual event like IFFF.

Following these requirements maximizes the chance for a good turnout to a community group hosted film festival. The residual benefits will mostly be non-tangible things, like, understanding, encouraging dialogue (resulting in even more understanding), creating an environment for camaraderie, inspiration and diluting ignorance. While presenting a free event, which costs more than sending an email alert and creating a Facebook Page, may not grow the treasury of a freethought community group, it will help advance reason overall. FFFF wants to help, because the big picture is important to us. We want to work with those who can see it.

Andrea Steele
Executive Director
Freethought Film Festival Foundation

Saturday, February 27, 2010

FFFF Advisory Committee

The Freethought Film Festival Foundation is in the process of forming an advisory committee for the International Freethought Film Festival. As our focus is on the creative and artistic expression of freethought ideas through film, the committee will comprise of individuals with experience in the film industry and an understanding of the vision behind the International Freethought Film Festival. At this time, we have two members on the FFFF Advisory Committee; with more to be announced in the coming weeks.

We are pleased to announce that Brian Keith Dalton, of Lazy Eye Productions—whose popular Web series, Mr. Deity, is widely known throughout the freethought community— has volunteered to be on the committee. James Harris, of Shameless Films, is also on our FFFF Advisory Committee. He is based in the UK, and some of James’s films have been shown on BBC, ITV, Sky TV and at film festivals world-wide. He is also a comedian and has written for the BBC. Also on the committee is LaRae Meadows, a movie reviewer; and Tracy King, who runs a busy marketing company in London, UK, works for skeptic organizations, writes for Skepchick, and is the producer of the much anticipated Tim Minchin "Storm" movie.

It is exciting to have these creative (and witty) minds to give their input on the planning of the International Freethought Film Festival. We look forward to adding to our committee and collaborating with others who also have a passion for independent films.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Growing Enthusiasm for the International Freethought Film Festival

With the International Freethought Film Festival targeted for November, we are excited about the journey we have ahead of us in the planning process and execution of the event. Last year, in August, we launched our efforts to make this film festival a reality. 2009 proved to be a great beginning!

-Our Facebook Page went up.

-Our Website was built.

-Our non-profit incorporation was established.

-We welcomed the American Humanist Association and Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay as our first committed film sponsors.

-Enthusiastic endorsements confirmed the support of other freethinking organizations/groups/Websites.

-We opened up our Call for Submissions in October.

-We shared our mission at the Atheist Alliance International Convention in Los Angeles.

-We set up a partnership with Withoutabox for film submissions.

-We became participating partners in the Tampa Bay Coalition of Reason.

-We filed for 501(c)3 non-profit exemption to make donations tax deductible. (pending...we should know in less than 60 days if we have been approved)

-We had a great turnout of submissions for those who took advantage of our Early Bird Deadline.

-The number of Facebook fans reached 150...not bad!

It is likely that there were other milestones that have escaped my memory (there have been so many). The point is, with so much of the groundwork already laid out, we are off to a great start in 2010!

If you are excited about our mission of promoting reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film; and excited about the International Freethought Film Festival as the expression of that mission; share with others your enthusiasm. You can do this by sharing our Notes and Updates, suggesting our Page to your Facebook friends, write about us in your blogs or in discussion groups, and inform any local groups in which you may be involved.

Best in reason,

Andrea Steele
Executive Director
Freethought Film Festival Foundation

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inspiring Films Can Ignite Individual Action

Today I saw the film Pirate Radio. It is based on a true story of a pirate radio station that played rock music, which was banned from the airwaves in Great Britain. (Plus, the disc jockeys were on the raunchy side to boot.) The station was set up on a ship that was anchored off the coast of England in the late 60’s. Despite discouragement from authorities, they had over 20 million listeners. Ultimately, the British Government went to some lengths in an attempt to shut them down. Regardless of such attempts, the pirate radio station persisted because of their passion for rock music.

Stories of people, who have the courage of their convictions to stand up to authorities whose policies defy common sense, have always been an inspiration to me. There are many films that reflect this freethought concept, which have the potential to stir a viewer to action toward her or his own personal convictions. Too many people feel as if their opinions, ideals and passions are insignificant; and that any action on their part would be ineffectual, and an utter waste of time. Such films remind us that it is not impossible for one person to be a catalyst for change.

Here is a list of a few films that may spark some inspiration:

• Inherit the Wind
• Iron Jawed Angels
• Schindler’s List
• Gandhi
• Milk
• Julia/Julia
• Norma Rae
• Braveheart
• People vs. Larry Flynt
• Salt of the Earth
• Matewan
• Erin Brockovich
• Ansel Adams: American Experience (documentary)
• Eleanor Roosevelt: American Experience (documentary)
• Walt: The Man Behind the Myth (documentary)
• Tesla: Master of Lightning (documentary)
• Mark Twain (documentary)
• U.S. vs John Lennon (documentary)

Andrea Steele
Freethought Film Festival Foundation

Friday, October 30, 2009

Melding Mediums for Movement

A printable version of this article is available here:

Searching online for short films that are already posted on the Web and are freethought related has been a lot of fun for me. It certainly does not feel like work! Because there are so many different subject possibilities for this niche, the film links that I have so far selected to put on the Freethought Film Festival Foundation Discussion Forum are as diverse and unique as freethinkers themselves.

Promoting the core ideas of freethought such as reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry, has been primarily accomplished through print, lectures and debates. While many freethinkers enjoy reading and attending conferences, many—quite frankly—are uninterested in Ingersoll and ID debates. They are not necessarily any less cerebral than the aforementioned, but their brand of freethought may be entirely personal and reflected in their everyday choices…sans Darwin fish and Hitchens books. It is likely that many have never even heard the term “freethinker”.

As much as Academics may cringe, it must be acknowledged that freethought ideas will reach a much, much broader audience through arts and entertainment. Freethinkers who are currently active participants in the freethought movement should embrace a melding of the past and the present and support the creative and artistic expression of reason as well as the publications and seminars.

Visiting some of the links to the short films that have been posted in the FFFF Discussion Forum and the FFFF Facebook page, will result in a better understanding of the artistic expression to which I am referring. Often this expression can be subtle and symbolic, and for those who prefer their philosophy in black and white, this angle may not always be appreciated. Fortunately there are freethinkers of all sorts who can not only appreciate equations, atoms and primordial ooze; but also appreciate the more whimsical, artistic and diverse creativity of the human mind.

Andrea Steele