If you happen to be in the Salt Lake City area this upcoming and next weekend, there is a chance to participate in a very special film festival for families called the Tumbleweeds Film Festival. For the last 9 years, the festival has been a fun and engaging way to present all kinds of films to kids and get them interested in the art-form of movies from all over the world. Today we have a special interview for you with Patrick Hubley, the founder of the festival.
Rachel: We’re really excited to have another interview here at Rotoscopers.com. And it’s always great when we get to talk with people that are supporting animation and family films. Today, I have Patrick Hubley here. He is the director and founder of the Tumbleweeds Film Festival which is celebrating its ninth year here in Salt Lake, starting this weekend.
Patrick Hubley: Well, thanks for having me.
RW: How did you end up becoming involved with the festival?
PH: Well, I’m the executive director of the Utah Film Center where I’ve worked for the past 12 years. I have only recently become executive director, but, prior to that, I was our programming director. So I oversaw all of our public programs, all of our film presentations. And one of the programs I launched with my colleagues was this Tumbleweeds Film Festival for kids. I worked for Sundance for eight years before I got connected with the film center and one of the areas that I thought was missing in our community here in Salt Lake – which is very cinema-literate, cinema passionate with having Sundance in our backyard, there’s great support for independent foreign, non-mainstream films – was anything similar for younger audiences.
The only films that were being shown at the time on movie screens were mainstream films, which are great but I think that, like any good film diet, there needs to be different options presented to or available to younger audiences as well. And so, it was really a passion project to get this festival launched and connecting with the film center, and the amazing people I’ve worked with here have made it possible. And now we’re in our ninth year! So there we go!
RW: Have you always been passionate and involved in film?
PH: Well, at least for the last 20 plus years. I started my career as an intern working at the Toronto International Film Festival in the late ’90s. Then I moved to Utah to work for Sundance directly. And I’ve been involved in the film community here ever since, I ran the press office. So it was really, for me, I wanted to create a real, a community focused events that celebrated cinema. And one of the great experiences I had in Toronto was working on a kid’s film festival there, which at the time was called Sprockets. And the turning point for me or the moment was when I saw an audience of four to seven-year-olds watching a film in Swedish with subtitles and somebody reading the subtitles to them. And it was something that really clicked with me, thinking about how younger audiences can enjoy stories from around the world.
RW: It’s really smart because the impact film has on you when you’re young is something extra special.
PH: Especially considering how much the moving image is part of our lives today, ubiquitous on – it’s everywhere, right? It’s on our phones, it’s on our computers, kids see it all the time. They’re engaging in different ways. So I just think it’s part of a good media diet for kids and families to have these opportunities to see films from South Korea or Iran, Norway, France, kind of thing.
RW: Yeah. That’s one thing that I’ve thought about a lot is just the amount of content that we have now in any category of film is so much more than in the past including animation
PH: I agree completely, and a lot of that is I think has to do with the fact that people talk… The democratization of filmmaking. Before, animation was all hand drawn, and it took… It still takes a long time, but there’s tools and software and so much more… It’s much more accessible these days to create animated films. In much in a similar way that making a live action film is a lot easier than it used to be in the pre-digital area era. So I think that we’re kind of in an age of content where there’s just so much out there because it’s a lot less intensive to make.
RW: Yeah. So would you say that that’s kind of your mission statement or goal for the festival is to try to introduce these kids to something beyond the mainstream?
PH: Exactly. I mean, I remember growing up as a kid in Canada, and I watched a lot of movies and TV shows that were in French with subtitles and having worked at major international film festivals for almost a decade, I saw firsthand how much impact amazing, excellent storytelling can have on an individual. And I really wanted to expand the opportunities for young audiences here.
RW: So you decided to add an additional weekend this year? You just had enough interest?
PH: Yeah, I think that’s always been part of the long-term plan to go to a full two weekend event. Fortunately there’s been a lot of demand. Festivals for younger audiences are slightly different than other festivals, for older audiences because older audiences will go see a couple, three, four movies a day; whereas that might be a little more challenging with kids. Providing access on a second weekend gives people multiple opportunities to engage with the movies.
RW: Yeah. And you have more than just films at the festival, correct?
PH: Yeah, we have workshops, we have clubhouse activities, which is basically free hands-on experiences that happen during the weekend. We have school field trips where we’re bringing classes to see films and having post film Q&As. We have workshops for school classes. So not only do we have the public programming, but we have education focused programming as well.
RW: So what age of kid is your target in selecting programming [for the festival], would you say?
PH: We program for, we say kids four and up. So, we have films that are great for the young audiences, for preschool type age and up and we give age recommendations on each film, not just whether they’re PG or G, but we actually assign an age that we say this is recommended for ages four and up, or eight and up, or 10 and up, 12 and up.
RW: You have a lot of foreign films. Now, obviously, that must be a bit of a challenge because if they’re subtitled, then it has to be older kids who can read. Is it hard to sell the kids on those subtitled films?
PH: Yes, but after their first experience they will come in, because we provide a reader that reads the subtitles on a closed-circuit headphone system. Anyone who has this device can hear somebody reading the subtitles, and no one else in the audience will. And it’s surprising because adults often take these as well.
RW: I love that! And you find that they respond pretty well to it?
PH: Absolutely. Absolutely.
RW: Of the feature films I’ve only seen one of them, and that was Marona’s Fantastic Tale.
PH: Oh, what a movie!
RW: Yes. That’s really exciting! I love the animation in that film so much.
PH: Beautiful, I don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it, to be perfectly honest. I felt like I was watching something new and amazing when I saw it. I think the story is challenging. But it’s so well told, and the art in the movie is so beautiful and the colors are really vibrant. It’s a stunning movie.
RW: It reminded me of something like Feast and maybe even Lady and the Tramp. The life of this little doggie, who’s so cute.
PH: Yeah. It has such a mix of styles that it’s hard to define.
PH: So I think this is a movie, like you said, it’s not just for kids. This is a movie that animation lovers across the board will enjoy.
RW: Yes, and anybody who’s a dog lover, an animal lover, will love it. It’s really sweet.
PH: Yes. Yes.
PH: Our opening night film, The Prince’s Voyage, Le Voyage du Prince, is also a beautiful animated film from France. It’s from the same director that did a movie called Le Tableau. And his latest one was called Louise by the Shore.
RW: Oh I love that movie!
PH: So it’s through Jean-Francois Laguionie, and I’m excited to open with this. Again, it’s a little more… I don’t wanna say traditional animation, but it’s not quite nearly as experimental as Marona’s. But it’s still a really lovely film that plays across age brackets, age ranges.
RW: Well, that’s just increased my excitement ’cause I really like that director.
PH: Yeah. He does great work. We’re fans as well.
PH: For the youngest audiences, and then we’re also… I mentioned The Prince’s Voyage and then there’s another film for the very youngest like four-year-olds and up called The Elfkins which is a German film based on an elf myth from the city of Cologne. So again this is a computer animated film for the youngest audiences.
PH: Yeah. And a quick story is that they’ve been in hiding for 200 years, and one elf decide she wants to see the world of humans again, so they make their way back. A group, a small party of three makes their way back out into the world of humans and finds themselves in a range of hilarious situations.
RW: If people are interested in attending the festival, supporting the festival, where should they go?
PH: They should go to our website, which is utahfilmcenter.org. There’s a big banner on it that says, Tumbleweeds. Just click on that and that’ll take you to pages where you’ll see the whole lineup of films that we’re showing, of the workshops. Tickets are $7 for movies and $14 for workshops. And it’s a kids’ festival, but we’re trying to show good movies that people of all ages can appreciate. That’s our goal. So you don’t need to have a child to come and join us, if you’re just interested in seeing some of the films that we’re programming.
RW: And it’s the 6th, 7th, 8th and then 13, 14, 15?
PH: Yeah, those are the weekends but we’re also doing some screenings during the week in the evening that are free if people wanna show up. I don’t think we’re showing an animated film as part of those free screenings, but there’s still some really good ones. We have a mix of free and ticketed screenings. So even if you aren’t able to purchase a ticket, you can still come down and participate in the festival.
RW: Thank you so much Patrick. This has been really fun to get to talk with you, and I’m definitely excited to go to the festival and report back. We appreciate you supporting animated and family films with this festival. And we appreciate you coming and talking with us.
PH: I appreciate you having me, and I look forward to seeing you at the festival.
Have any of our readers attended the Tumbleweeds Film Festival? If not what are some other festivals you’ve attended? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments