Showtime in Naptown

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Wanna start your own film festival? It’s not as easy as just showing a bunch of movies, that’s for sure.

The first Annapolis Film Festival, which began Thursday and runs through the weekend, is showcasing 96 films, most of which have not found wide distribution. Festival co-founders Patti White and Lee Anderson (partners at Filmsters, a production company in Annapolis) let us in on what it takes to throw one of the biggest parties Naptown has ever seen.

Step 1: Location, Location, Location

“I think [Annapolis] wanted a festival without even knowing they wanted it,” White says. To make it local-friendly (and feasible in a city where parking is often at a premium), White and Anderson situated the festival entirely within Annapolis’ walkable arts district. “There’s a festive environment when you’re walking,” Anderson says, “when you can ask people, ‘Hey, what did you just see? Let’s have some dinner right here and see the next one together.’ It’s different if it’s spread out.”

Step 2: Amass an Army

The festival is all-volunteer, with hundreds of people working — for free — to make it happen. And these aren’t grunts: “We have graphic designers, filmmakers, event planners who do this for a living,” White says. “The quality and skill level is just extraordinary.”

Step 3: Set the Screen

Many of the films were chosen because they fit well in the waterfront city, the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. “We’ve tried to determine our identity as a festival with the things we think or hope [Annapolitans] will enjoy watching,” Anderson says. “So there’s a little bit of military, Navy stuff …” Adds White: “We have a sailing movie. We also have a great African-American showcase, because the culture of this town is steeped in African-American culture.” It’s not all middies and spinnakers: Friday night brings Splatterfest, which White describes as a collection of films “that make you see red,” and the festival features many international selections.

Step 4: Build Buzz

To get the word out, the festival sponsored two special events recently: a Shorts Crawl last September — with filmgoers trekking from bar to bar for food, drinks and short films — and an Oscars party in February.

Step 5: Buy Stock in Post-Its

In White and Anderson’s office, one wall is overtaken by a Staples store’s worth of stickies that plot the flow of the festival.

Step 6: Brace Yourself for The Future

“We’re not expecting it all right out of the gate,” White says. “But we want people to say, ‘I’m coming down from New Hampshire to go to the Annapolis Film Festival’ the way we go to Nantucket or another small festival.” As for locals, she says, “We want people to say, ‘We have to go to this! This is the hottest thing this year!’ ” Anderson breaks in: “Not this year. EVERY year.”

Selections From the Schedule

‘The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini’ is a documentary about a 1982 bout between Mancini and Korean boxer Kim Duk-koo, who died from injuries suffered in the ring. Thirty years after Kim’s death, Mancini meets his opponent’s son. Sat., 8 p.m.

A small, dying town finds its heart in skate parks, where teenagers Garrison, Kevin and Skye do most of their hanging out. ‘Only the Young,’ which also played at Silverdocs last year, follows the teens as they live out their simple yet extraordinary lives. Fri., 6:15 p.m.

There’s More to See

Going to festivals can be addictive. Luckily, you can get your fix throughout the whole year without going too far.

Korean Film Festival: Various venues, led by the Freer and Sackler Galleries, host screenings of Korean films both new and old; this year’s fest features a retrospective of the work of director Park Chan-wook (“Stoker”). Through April 21; 202-633-1000, Asia.si.edu.

Filmfest DC: More than 80 films are on the slate for the festival’s 27th year. Special categories include films about espionage, international comedies and films on social justice. April 11-21; 202-274-5782, Filmfestdc.org.

Silverdocs: Now a nationally known festival for documentary films, both short and feature-length, Silverdocs takes Silver Spring by storm every summer. June 19-13; Silverdocs.com

DC Shorts Film Festival: This one features indie shorts of every genre and a screenplay competition. Sept. 19-29; 202-393-4266, Festival.dcshorts.com.

Annapolis Film Festival; through Sun., various times, prices and locations; 866-973-9612.
Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby | March 22, 2013