Movie Review Nick Spake

The 2014 Phoenix Film Festival is having its opening night premiere on April 3 at Harkins Scottsdale 101. In addition to screening films, the festival will include Geek Day, Kid’s Day, and numerous other events. This seven-day-long festival is being helmed by Jason Carney, executive director of the Phoenix Film Foundation. Carney recently spoke with the Ahwatukee Foothills News to discuss the significance of this annual celebration embracing the art of film.

AFN: What’s your greatest responsibility as festival director?

Carney: Basically it’s the overall oversight of the festival and the organization. Anything that happens at the festival is up to me.

AFN: What kind of items will be available at the silent auction?

Carney: We got a few things lined up so far like a mini iPad, free airport parking for a year, a really cool yoga package, and a “Boss” poster signed by Kelsey Grammer. We’re still waiting on a lot of the memorabilia items.

AFN: What can you tell me about Kid’s Day?

Carney: It’s a really cool, free event geared at kids from 3 to 12. We have all these different film-related activity stations like a green screen station and a red carpet, where they get their picture taken.

AFN: What distinguishes the Phoenix Film Festival from other film festivals?

Carney: There’s no other festival our size that takes place in one location. Everything happens on site at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 center. That’s a really nice benefit that creates a community feel for the festival.

AFN: How many of the films being screened at the festival have you seen?

Carney: I have seen probably about 40 percent of them. We have over 150 films and to watch all of them in such a short amount of time is impossible. That’s why we have different program directors for each of the categories.

AFN: Which film do you think is your personal favorite?

Carney: There’s a really cool documentary, called “Missfire: The Rise and Fall of the Shooting Gallery.” It’s about this group of folks that turned into a movie company that made “Sling Blade” and several other independent films. It’s just a great story that I never heard before.

AFN: Will there be any big names attending the festival?

Carney: We’re still working on that. So far we got Dee Wallace, aka the mom from “E.T.,” and Leah Thompson, from “Back to the Future.”

AFN: What can you tell us about the seminars and middle/high school programs offered by the festival?

Carney: Those are really great. It’s on four different days. On the first day, it’s all about the filmmakers we’ve brought in from around the world talking in panels. The second day is when we start the production process. There’s a screenwriting day where students break out into groups and they have a mentor who works with them to create a short script. The next day they start preproduction of the winning script. Then on the last day, they actually shoot that short film.

AFN: And what can you tell us about Geek Day?

Carney: That’s going to happen on Sunday and we got some really cool folks coming out like the Arizona Ghostbusters, the Phoenix Cupcake Company, local video game developers, and various other comic-related people.

AFN: Why do you think it’s important for people to attend the Phoenix Film Festival?

Carney: It’s just a great opportunity to see films you might not see otherwise. Film lovers can soak in what these films are all about and learn the back stories of them.

AFN: Do you consider yourself a real moviegoer?

Carney: Oh yeah. I’m usually at the theater at least once a week. But this time of year I avoid the theater like the plague.

AFN: Any final thoughts on the festival?

Carney: It’s just a great event and when people come out they’ll get hooked. We look forward to having another great year.

The Phoenix Film Festival is April 3-10 at Harkins Scottsdale 101, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd. in Phoenix. For more information, visit

• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, Reach him at

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