The Block Island Times

A new film festival with a purpose

By Lars Trodson | Jun 13, 2014
Photo by: Kari Curtis Drama 911 founder André Boudreau, at left, and Island Library Director Kristin Baumann have joined forces to create the “Take Your Shorts Offshore” film festival which will take place at the OceanWest Theatre on Saturday, June 14.

“Take Your Shorts Offshore” is a quirky name for a film festival, but there’s a message behind it.

Island resident André Boudreau (who gave the festival its name) and Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann have created a festival that they hope will not only entertain, but will raise awareness for what Baumann is calling “digital literacy.”

It’s always a bit tricky to attach a “purpose” to something that otherwise should be simply an entertaining night of film, but Boudreau and Baumann said the purpose of one won’t overshadow the other.

“Take Your Shorts Offshore” takes place on Saturday, June 14 at OceanWest Theatre at 7 p.m. The donation is $5.

Baumann already kicked off the season with a night of three short films at the Library just a couple of weeks ago. (Baumann said the night was a “huge success.”) As they began to collaborate, Baumann and Boudreau both realized they wanted to change the scope of the next night of films. While the first night featured three films with some connection to Block Island, the “Take Your Shorts Offshore” would be more eclectic — so much so that it will include a range that will encompass three one-minute films made by Block Island students to international shorts.

It was the inclusion of the student films that got both Baumann and Boudreau thinking. The shorts were the result of a workshop the students took at the University of Rhode Island Film Lab, and introduced the students to technology that they — unlike most students living on the mainland — do not have access to. It occurred to Baumann that island students need to be “digitally literate” in order to be successful in the 21st century.

“I think of the library as a community center dedicated to cultural enrichment and educational opportunities,” said Baumann. Digital literacy — of which the art of making films is part — offers an opportunity to “use the technology and what comes out of it.”

Boudreau, on the other hand, is the founder of Drama 911, the island’s theater program for kids, and is also an actor who has appeared in a number of locally produced films.

“Kristin and I have always talked about films and how nice it would be to have a film festival, but I had a bigger vision” than showing the films at the library, Boudreau said. His original idea was to put a screen up at the Southeast Lighthouse, but he realized that he had to scale back.

Boudreau said that Joe Grillo, owner of the OceanWest Theatre, located at Champlin’s Marina, offered up his space to give the film festival a home. “That was critical,” said Boudreau.

Boudreau said that he wanted to give regional filmmakers an opportunity to have their films shown, which, with the number of films being made, and the expense of submitting to film festivals, has only gotten more difficult. “We want to expose the community to quality independent films,” said Boudreau. Out of that, he said, may come the desire to make them here on the island.

That dovetails into Baumann’s vision. She pointed to a report that was released last February called “Going Digital: Developing Business and Education Strategies for a 21st Century Rhode Island,” by the Digital Rhode Island initiative. The report states that “much of Rhode Island’s workforce is simply not well prepared for work in a digital environment.” What makes this doubly difficult on Block Island is its well-known bandwidth challenges, but as solutions to that issue are being sought, Baumann is also turning the library into a digital center where young and old alike can use the library’s resources, even after hours.

“They can get a key,” she said. At present Baumann is looking into grants and other funding sources to purchase editing suites and other equipment needed to achieve digital literacy. “We need the equipment — the hardware, the software and the knowledge,” Baumann said.

“Bring Your Shorts Offshore” takes place on Saturday, June 14, at OceanWest Theatre at 7 p.m. The suggested donation is $5.

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