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Film festival a major success

Ely’s Historic State Theater packed for most showings

Catie Clark
Posted 2/15/23

ELY- “I didn’t know what to expect,” said End of the Road Film Festival director Jacob White, “but the turnout was amazing!”Ely’s very first film festival, running …

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Film festival a major success

Ely’s Historic State Theater packed for most showings


ELY- “I didn’t know what to expect,” said End of the Road Film Festival director Jacob White, “but the turnout was amazing!”
Ely’s very first film festival, running concurrently with the Ely Winter Festival and the Ely ArtWalk, was a huge success. “We sold out a ton of screenings,” White enthused, “and all the screenings had good attendance.”
“The community support was awesome,” said White. “All the filmmakers who could attend want to come back. They loved Ely for its welcome, its graciousness, and its excitement that this kind of event could come to town.”
The final numbers for ticket sales and attendance aren’t available yet, but the film fest’s initial compilation of its feedback survey indicates that approximately 40 percent of the movie-goers were from outside the 55731 zip code area.
“The comments on our feedback showed that many of these folks from out of town had never been to Ely before or had never visited in the winter,” said White.
Looking forward
White would like to see the film fest grow to where it will be self-sustaining. “All of our costs this year were covered by grants and sponsorships, so in that respect, we set ourselves up for (financial) success,” he added. “Our ticket sales will go to support next year’s event.”
The balance sheet from the event wasn’t done when the Timberjay talked with White earlier this week, so the numbers on the festival’s revenues aren’t available yet, but White said he’ll make them public once they’re finalized. “I want complete transparency on the finances,” he said.
While the event was supported by over 45 volunteers, the film fest also had a paid staff of 15, not including the staff of the State Theater. “It’s important to Ely for people to remember that arts jobs are real jobs,” White explained, “and that we need our arts economy to be vibrant and reliable to help diversify the jobs available in our town. It’s thanks to our sponsors and our grant donors like the Blandin Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board that we could support these jobs for the festival.”
Filming the film fest
Throughout the film fest, White was in the pass-holder lounge continuously interviewing filmmakers, his own staff, festival volunteers, festival sponsors and festival attendees. The ongoing interviews gave the public a rare look at the actual filmmaking process. White said that he wasn’t the only person collecting footage and that two other festival staff members were roaming the festival shooting stills and video and conducting “person on the street” style interviews.
“We’ll use the material to promote the work of our filmmakers using our platforms,” said White. “We’ll use our platforms to reach our audience wherever they are so we can uplift the event and participating filmmakers.”
Festival awards
The film fest gave out 13 awards, including categories for best regional, Minnesota, and indigenous films. The awards were presented at an intimate private dinner at the Grand Ely Lodge for filmmakers, the festival team, and the event’s sponsors.
Short films
• Best Indigenous Short: “Kicking the Clouds” - Sky Hopinka.
• Best Comedy Short: “Kaijuburbia!” (Filmmakers in attendance).
• Best Northland Voices Short: “Ice Ball.”
• Best Memento Vivere Short: “The Poachers” (Filmmaker in attendance).
• Best Creative Spirits Short: “You are not alone” (Filmmaker in attendance).
• Best Humanity Short: “A Voice for the Wild.”
Feature-length films
• Best Picture: “The Race to Alaska.”
• Best Cinematography: “Spirit of the Peaks.”
• Best Regional Film: “Iron Opera” (Filmmakers in attendance).
• Best Minnesota Film: “Northern Nights, Starry Skies” (Filmmakers in attendance).
• Best Director: “After Antarctica” (Will Steger in attendance).
• Best Documentary: “Bring Her Home” (Filmmakers in attendance).
• Best Story: “Daughter of a Lost Bird.”


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