Boise Film Festival debuts with 35 screenings at alternative venues in Downtown Boise

Lana Westbrook loves movies. Comedy, drama, romance, documentary, sci-fi thriller and anything from Tom Hanks — doesn’t matter, she loves it all. Now, Westbrook is pouring that love into something that she hopes will help Boise’s film community grow. The Boise Film Festival will launch with screenings, panel discussions and filmmaker talk-backs held in alternative venues throughout Downtown Boise on Sept. 25-27.

But her goal is to do more than show good independent cinema, she says. She wants to give the struggling Idaho film industry a boost and build community.

“When I moved to Boise from Payette in 2007, I got involved in the film community and connected with filmmakers and have been interested in seeing it grow,” Westbrook says. “Festivals are one way that can happen.”

So, along with the films and networking parties, Westbrook organized panels on women in film and with Boise filmmakers sharing their stories, along with tutorials on the latest equipment and technology. She also is bringing in Los Angeles-based independent film distributor Mia Bruno to offer insights and tips on the biggest problem facing this new wave of filmmakers: getting your work seen. Bruno is on the forefront of the new distribution-on-demand arena and crowd funding.

Westbrook focused on micro- and low-budget films, those with budgets under $250,000. “That’s because that’s what we do here. It just made sense.”

It’s also an underserved part of the film world.

“Those filmmakers working at that level don’t always have a platform to spring their projects from,” she says. “I think that’s why the response from filmmakers was so high.”

The Boise Film Festival received 140 submissions from across the country and all film genres. Of those, 35 films will screen over three days, including 14 features, along with shorts and student films.

Filmmaker Jason DeBoer, of Santa Fe, N.M., will screen his film “Dead River,” a thriller about a biographer of a renowned crime writer who discovers real darkness behind his subject’s fiction.

“I think new festivals, such as the Boise Film Festival, have fresh energy, which is exciting to visiting filmmakers,” DeBoer says. “I can tell Lana and her staff are really trying to connect the festival to the community, which should be a cultural boon to Boise. I live in Santa Fe, a similarly sized city, and I’ve seen how a good film festival can invigorate filmmakers and film-goers.”

DeBoer is still working out whether he will be able to attend. So far, 19 filmmakers have committed to traveling to Idaho, including New York filmmaker Mattia Molini, who will bring several members of his crew and his dark romantic comedy “How To Be Cute and Break Hearts.”

“It’s a thrill to be part of the opening edition of a festival that shows great love towards true indie filmmaking,” Molini says. “From what I can see, the guys organizing the festival have a sort of passion-driven recklessness I can relate to, making me believe the Boise Film Festival could soon become the place-to-be for quality content and connections with the industry and the audience.”

Westbrook hopes these visiting filmmakers will look at Boise and Idaho as a future film venue. Idaho has struggled over the past five years to develop the infrastructure to create a film industry after Gov. Butch Otter cut funding to the Idaho Film Office, a state-run resource for marketing Idaho as a film destination, and let the tax incentives bill geared to entice film companies to Idaho to languish unfunded.

“I really think that the success of festivals like this will lead to more film here,” she says. “We can complain about the government not doing enough, but what are we doing? Maybe it’s time to privatize the film board.”

It’s a long way off, but Westbrook’s ambitions include getting nonprofit status for the festival, and to start a foundation that could help filmmakers launch their projects.

Watch the “Dead River,” “How to Be Cute and Break Hearts” and “Homeskillet” trailers.