Founder Teddy Grennan and director Candice Pate want the event to be a place for filmmakers and film lovers to kick back, ski and have a serious discussion about movies.
"Teddy started this festival out of his love of film and Sun Valley," Pate said. "He wants to bring filmmakers together in a place that's naturally inspiring."
In just its second year, the festival is a natural fit with the area's rustic history and easy-going vibe.
And it's creating a new tradition - with an economic bump - for Sun Valley in an in-between season.
"I wasn't around when Sundance started, but I imagine this is what it must have been like," said Peg Owens of the Idaho Film Office, who's watched the movie business grow in the state for nearly a decade. "We look forward to this being an Idaho-grown festival."
Over four days starting on March 14, the festival will screen more than 60 features, documentaries, short films, digital projects and TV shows - including four world premieres with themes such as wildlife, family drama and Shakespearean comedy.
More than 60 filmmakers are expected to show up to introduce their work, talk with the audience, and mix and mingle.
The festival also is expanding, adding two theaters - the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum and the Liberty Theatre in Hailey - to its venues.
It has even drawn a big name this year. Director and Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster - a friend of Grennan's - will lend support by giving a Coffee Talk on March 17 and handing out the Vision Award to a producer at the closing party.
'A NEW PLACE'
Grennan said he wants to build this festival around the filmmaking process.
"We took a page out of the (Sun Valley) Writers' Conference playbook. We have a built-in, very sophisticated audience for film here," he said. "It's going to be a great place for filmmakers to connect with film fans and have a real discussion about the art."
To push that agenda, he and Pate created Work-in-Progress screenings where audiences can give the filmmakers feedback. The Screenwriters' Lab drew about 125 script submissions from across the country. And the Coffee Talk events are intimate discussions with industry insiders about filmmaking.
Another goal is to highlight local filmmaking with screenings, awards and a culture geared to nurture Idaho's movie community.
That benefits Idaho filmmakers such as Zach Voss.
He attended last year as an audience member. This year, he's looking to create an audience for his work. The festival will screen his comedy short "Mandrake Estate" and an online series he produced about the Treefort Music Fest.
"Most of my work gets seen on the Internet. My audience is on social media," Voss said. "The chance to play it in a setting that lets it be seen in its full resolution and sound, and to engage with an audience that isn't following me on Facebook, takes me to a new place."
A HIT FROM THE START
The festival made a splash in 2012. It drew a slate of strong indie films, including Idaho producer Heather Rae and writer/director Jaffe Zinn's "Magic Valley" and Jay Pickett's "Soda Springs." Both were filmed in Idaho and won awards.
Last year's festival also included sought-after documentaries such as "Bully" and National Geographic's "War Elephants." Theaters, restaurants and parties were full.
The festival was an immediate economic success, said Harry Griffith, executive director of Sustain Blaine, a public and private partnership that nurtures the area's economy and studies the effect of Sun Valley events.
"What's interesting is that right out of the gate, the film festival has nearly the same impact as these other events - some that have been going on for 30 years," he says.
The total economic bump for 2012 was $1.5 million, and that's money that stayed in Blaine County, Griffith said.
It also fills a gap in the community's calendar. Ski season is winding down in March but summer is still weeks from heating up, making it a great time for the new event.
Ticket sales are strong this year and there has been more buzz in the industry about Sun Valley. The festival has drawn national attention from USA Today and invited writers from Filmmaker Magazine, Indiewire and Fandor to cover the activities.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland