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.”

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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.

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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