For 10 years, STIFF has been held in several venues across the University District. This year they’re scaling up to the Factory Luxe.
Not many film festivals include virtual-reality fairy tales and choose-your-own-adventure music videos, but that’s what sets the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival apart.
When the Seattle True Independent Film Festival began back in 2005, it was conceived as an alternative to the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). In the years since, it has evolved into the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF), with a focus on transmedia — storytelling beyond film, such as virtual reality and interactive apps.
About a third of the works featured at this year’s festival, which starts Thursday, July 28, are transmedia projects, presented in a gallery within the venue. Festival director Tim Vernor said that such projects were “not really meant to be seen in a theater.”
Film Festival Preview
Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival
Thursday-Sunday, July 28-July 31, $30 for opening-night party (7 p.m. July 28); $12 for each film (usually includes shorts); free admission to transmedia gallery; $60 for all-access pass, Factory Luxe Event Venue, 3100 Airport Way S, Seattle (206-650-7470 or http://trueindependent.org/stiff/about).
“A lot of filmmakers start in film and then move toward some of these other aspects, like virtual reality, gaming, apps — things like that,” Vernor said. “It’s a really good way to build your audience and promote your film before you create the feature.”
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It has also been a good way to build STIFF’s audience. While the festival has previously been held in various venues in the University District, this year it all takes place inside the Factory Luxe. The festival will include 126 projects — short and feature films, video art, interactive experiences — and organizers are anticipating about 3,000 to 5,000 attendees.
But feature films are still a big draw for the festival. The fest will open with “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” a locally produced documentary that addresses the rise of screen technology — smartphones, social media, and video games — and its potentially addictive role in the lives of the teenagers who grow up with it.
“Screenagers” has already received national attention from The New York Times, Forbes and “Good Morning America.” The film was directed by Delaney Ruston, a physician and filmmaker, who has made several documentaries about mental health. It’s Ruston’s third film to be shown at STIFF.
Vernor also said that STIFF chose “Screenagers” as its opening film to tie in with plans for a new, spinoff film festival, the Technology Documentary Festival, slated for December. But for now, Vernor hopes that STIFF will continue to merge traditional and experimental storytelling.
“What we’d like to be doing in the future is featuring filmmakers that are also doing transmedia — a video game that’s related to the film, or a digital comic book, or an interactive app — so you experience the film in the theater and then go experience the transmedia part of the storyline in that space,” Vernor said.