The International Covellite Film Festival gears up this week with a whole new lineup, along with industry workshops, Q&As with filmmakers, and even a fashion show showcasing Covellite apparel and looks made from repurposed materials.
The festival will feature around 150 narrative features, documentaries and short films from throughout the U.S. and world. And that’s not to mention the after-parties and concerts the festival will showcase throughout the week.
The festival will also host a screenwriting competition at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Knights of Columbus.
Two of the entrants, Vincent Rannazzisi and James Chapman, will present their pilot for “Richest Hill on Earth,” which depicts the saga between the Butte Copper Kings.
New to the festival this year will be an increased utilization of jukebox locations, where festival-goers can watch films on demand after their initial screenings. Don Andrews, executive director of the festival, said some of the films will only be available on-demand.
Perhaps the most notable difference to this year’s festival is the date.
The festival has traditionally run in September, but festival organizers decided to move the festival to the third week of June, drastically cutting their time to prepare and raise money.
According to Andrews, it’s been an exercise in how to get little sleep. “It’s like we changed our birthday,” he said.
Despite the headaches involved, both he and Programming Director Brian Boyd believe changing the date will be healthy for the festival in the long run.
“There are some differences and some growing pains but at the same time I think it will be a lot more sustainable,” said Boyd.
They noted that the September date made traveling difficult for filmmakers because of winter weather conditions. September is also between two big events in the industry — the Toronto International Film Festival and The Emmys — which meant many filmmakers had prior engagements.
Last but not least, the two festival organizers hope the summer date will entice filmmakers to stick around for a bit and explore the state.
And you never know, they might get inspired by the scenery.
With the help of volunteers, Boyd has been able to concentrate his energy on programming this year.
But what will also be new for Boyd in the months ahead is his tax bracket: Boyd and Covellite Artistic Director Kristin Smith got engaged over the holidays.
“She said yes,” said Boyd.
Covellite 2019 marks Smith’s second year serving as the festival’s artistic director.
Originally from the Hamilton and Missoula areas, Smith has a background in fashion, event planning and costume design. She made her way to Butte in 2016 to work on the set of “Brown,” where she and Boyd began cultivating a relationship. She eventually decided to stay in Butte, becoming the festival’s artistic director.
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Smith designed the apparel for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
This year, she’s included a few “upcycled” items that incorporate unused T-shirts and other items from previous iterations of the festival. She’s turned old Covellite T-shirts into swag bags and skirts and has also created new designs by using previous years’ logos as appliques.
Saturday night Smith will host a fashion show to showcase Covellite apparel and garments made from repurposed materials. The event, dubbed the 4th Annual Covellite Ball, takes place 10:30 p.m. in the Copper Bowl ballroom of the Finlen Hotel and includes music by Danny Felix and his brass band.
As in previous years, the festival will also showcase several Montana films.
“Zulu Summer” of course will make a showing — at 6 p.m., Saturday at the Covellite Theatre — along with “Saving the Burg: a Story of Love, Sweat and Beers,” which screens 1 p.m., Friday, also at the Covellite.
Directed by Philipsburg-resident and award-winning filmmaker Jim Jenner, the film tells the story of how residents collaborated to revitalize the former mining town and bring it back from an economic brink.
“All it takes is faith and vision,” Boyd said of Philipsburg’s revitalization story.
Other Montana films include, among others, “Monster Gold,” “Precious Metal” and a film by recent Butte High School graduate Clint Connors. The film, called “The Puppet Master,” is part of the festival’s student showcase and will be available on demand.
The festival’s opener this year is the feature-length documentary “Flint: The Poisoning of an American City,” which depicts the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The film is directed by David Barnhart and edited by Covellite alumnus Scott Lansing.
Lots of filmmakers and journalists have tackled the subject, but Boyd said what makes this film unique is the filmmakers’ three-dimensional approach.
“It takes it beyond the news cycle. It takes it to the people,” said Boyd.
“We always like the underdog films that stand up and say something,” Andrews added.
“Flint,” screens at 8 p.m., Wednesday at the Covellite Theatre during an opening-night reception.
As for Smith, she says Andrews and Boyd “are some of the craziest guys” she’s ever met for starting a festival from scratch in Butte, America.
“I think how they’ve brought this thing to the community and have been building it is invaluable. And I’m excited to be a part of it,” she said.
“I think it’s going to keep getting better every year,” she added.
For more info on show times and other films, visit covellitefilmfest.org.