Making A Difference Through Film
By Laura DiCaprio | Photos by Stephen Reardon
While most of her friends were begging their parents to see the latest movies in the theatres or were watching the newest early 90’s sitcoms, young Becca Delaney was quite happy to watch The Wizard of Oz over and over again. She saw the film so many times that her mom started to limit her “Wizard-of-Oz-watching-time” to 15 minutes per day. Her love of the Emerald City and all of its inhabitants gave her an early appreciation for film as an art form and fine storytelling, a passion that stayed with her into adulthood. While her college courses and early career focused on marketing and public relations for corporate and higher education clients, she found a way to marry her interest in film and communication skills in her newest role as the Project Director for Rochester’s first annual Fast Forward Film Festival.
Originally from Liverpool, NY, Delaney never spent a significant amount of time in Rochester until she moved here to attend St. John Fisher College where she studied communications and journalism. Upon graduation she knew that she wanted to stay to pursue a career in this area. “The arts community, the festivals in the summer…I love the cultural experience here,” she beams, “I absolutely love Rochester.”
Her professional career began with a few positions at prominent Rochester businesses; public relations at Roberts Communications, advertising with Clark CSM, and a corporate marketing stint with ThirtySix Software. While building up a solid marketing and communications resume, it was a job she held while a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that forever changed her outlook on the direction she wanted to take her professional career. “As the Assistant Director of Marketing and Event Services at RIT, I felt like I was making a mark in students’ lives,” she explains, “From that point on I wanted to partner with things that mattered to me…work wasn’t just about a paycheck anymore.”
Wanting to explore different career options but unsure of where to turn, Delaney met with Dr. Andrew Stern at the Starbucks in Pittsford at the suggestion of a mentor. A local Rochesterian and recently retired neurologist, Stern is also the co-founder of The Lost Bird Project, a non-profit organization that initiates national projects to help raise environmental awareness through the arts. Stern wanted to use the medium of film as a tool to engage with the local community and further build interest in environmental issues. After a few more brainstorm sessions in local coffee shops the concept of a short form film festival and competition started to fall into place. In March 2014, a new addition to Rochester’s cultural scene launched and Delaney hit the ground running as Project Director of the Fast Forward Film Festival.
The Fast Forward Film Festival (FFFF) is a short film (5 minutes or less) competition that encourages novice, emerging, and established filmmakers from the greater Rochester area to submit works that use storytelling through film to convey the urgency of
today’s environmental problems. Stern’s passion for environmental initiatives and Delaney’s interests in movies and marketing experience made them an ideal team. Stern acts as the Executive Director of the festival and Delaney works as the Project Director. Stern acts as the Executive Director of the festival and Delaney works as the Project Director.
A call for submissions opened on October 8, 2014 and closed on February 27th, 2015 and dozens of entries were received. “The quality and range of the submissions has been amazing,” Delaney reports, “We had groups, classrooms, organizations, and individuals submit. We are thrilled with the level of interest.” No entry fees were required and the competition was open to anyone wanting to submit a short environmentally-focused film.
Selected entries will be shown at the Little Theatre and George Eastman House during Earth Week 2015, April 17th and 18th. Cash awards of $1,000 will be handed out at the event to winners in the following categories; most inspiring/compelling/engaging, most unique perspective, and strongest call to action. Cash awards of $250 will be given out to Honorable Mentions in each category as well.
The festival’s jury tasked with evaluating all the submissions is composed of four distinguished judges: Jack Garner, nationally renowned film critic and author of From My Seat on the Aisle: Movies and Memories, Deborah Dickson, Academy Award nominee, Todd McGrain, independent filmmaker and The Lost Bird Project co-founder and winner of the 2014 Audubon Award for Art Inspiring Conservation, and Enid Cardinal, RIT’s Senior Sustainability Advisor to the President.
Sponsorship this year for the Festival comes from RIT, the Pollution Prevention Institute, The Little Theatre, WXXI, and the George Eastman House. The entire Rochester community is invited to attend the screenings and all ticket proceeds go back to the venues, which is a unique premise for a film festival. “We have built wonderful relationships within our Rochester community and we would like this to continue every year,” Delaney states.
Something that sets this event apart from others in the festival community is the Friends of the Festival mentorship program, a network of organizations in the greater Rochester area that offers support and resources for aspiring filmmakers. Friends of the Festival is Delaney’s brainchild and an initiative that assists anyone needing help in creating a short film for submission. “Think of it as a fairy godmother for filmmakers,” she explains, “Whether you need equipment, lighting, actors, editing software… we’ve developed a robust list of community businesses willing to help.”
Friends of the Festival gives even the most novice of filmmakers the opportunity to have a voice and take part in creating a submission for evaluation. Delaney researched local businesses and organizations who might be interested in participating and went calling on them one by one to see if they’d like to become a community partner. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and she foresees even more companies volunteering their time and services for next year.
Over thirty businesses currently participate as Friends of the Festival and include prominent organizations like the Monroe County Central Library for camera and film editing equipment, RIT’s Film and Animation Department, the Rochester Movie Makers for access to actors and film knowledge, and Epic10 Films for filmmaking technical advice and consultation.
Without a centralized office and so many people in the community to meet and work with, Delaney jokes that her car and local coffee shops act as her office. “The idea for the festival was born in a coffee shop and I continue to work on it out of coffee shops!”
Along with building the festival from the ground up, Delaney is simultaneously tasked with creating a blueprint model to help other interested cities launch similar festivals in the following years. Expanding the festival into other metropolitan areas would provide a platform to help spread environment conservation topics while simultaneously supporting the arts community. “Our dream has always been to carry this model to other cities” she explains, “Rochester is the pilot and we’re developing an application process and will invite cities to apply to bring the FFFF to their cities, which will be available this summer.”
Organizing the festival from the ground up has been a rewarding challenge for Delaney and she looks forward to continue growing the FFFF for many years to come. When asked what her favorite experience has been so far, she thoughtfully states, “ My favorite piece about working on Fast Forward Rochester and its Film Festival has been seeing the Rochester community come together to create a successful platform for folks to start a conversation about something they care about. It has been extremely rewarding to work with such passionate groups and individuals who are trying to make a difference, right here in our community.”
For more information on the Fast Forward Film Festival, including where to buy tickets and how to become a Friend of the Festival, visit www.fastforwardroc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.