Screen time: Inaugural Fredericksburg Film Festival boasts impressive lineup

by | Apr 29, 2024 | ALLFFP, Arts and Entertainment, Fredericksburg

They hail from industry hotspots like Los Angeles and New York City, arriving for just a few days to schmooze and screen their award-winning independent films. 

No, this isn’t Sundance. It’s the Fredericksburg Film Festival.  

When Ryan Cudahy set into motion his idea for a local cinema showcase this past September, he thought beyond the constraints of the 22401 zip code, scrutinizing the lineup of every reputable independent film festival he could find. Then, he got to work.

“I didn’t want to start this festival off with just as many local films as we could,” said Cudahy, the festival’s programming director. “Don’t get me wrong, we have some great Virginia films in here. But I wanted to make sure we have a level of quality with both our Virginia films and our films outside of Virginia. That was very important to me.” 

The inaugural Fredericksburg Film Festival, which runs from May 2-5, features 33 films that will be screened across three downtown venues. Tickets start at $15.

The lineup includes Alex Lora’s “The Masterpiece” (La Gran Obra), which won the short film grand jury prize at Sundance in January. “Kim’s Video,” a documentary that screened at Sundance and at the Tribeca Film Festival last summer, is another enticing attraction.  

Cudahy, a filmmaker in his own right, has long endeavored to bring more film production to Virginia. He helped develop the Fredericksburg Film Incentives program, which provides financial reimbursement to filmmakers who film locally through the Economic Development Authority (EDA). 

“The reason for starting this festival was very simple,” Cudahy said. “I wanted to bring more film production, more film spotlight to the city of Fredericksburg. The nice thing about that is, because of that, we’ve ended up having one of the best lineups in Virginia.” 

When the initial venue Cudahy had considered for the festival fell through, he connected with Chris Allen, the executive director of Main Street Fredericksburg.  

Allen, who has previously attended the prestigious South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, thought Cudahy’s vision would mesh well with multiple local businesses for screenings. Ultimately, they settled on 718 Venue, Red Dragon Brewery and REIGN as venues for the festival.  

“I thought it was important for downtown,” said Allen, who also owns the stationary store Duly Noted on Caroline Street. “We’re always looking for something different that makes us attractive.” 

Another important piece fell into place when Cudahy convinced his friend Dalton Okolo to join the project as executive director along with his company, 1108 Media.  

In addition to screenings, the festival will feature several panels for filmmakers. One discussion will serve as a roundtable for first-time directors, while another covers various financial incentives for filming in Virginia. 

“We really wanted it to be a hub for creativity,” Cudahy said. “We wanted this festival to be enticing for filmmakers to not only come, but to communicate.” 

The initial feedback has been promising. Tyler Savage, who directed “Oddities,” the first of four films to be screened on opening night, told Cudahy that while he won’t be able to attend this year’s festival, “Next year, I’m working another short film and you can bet I’m submitting it.”

Cudahy cited the Middleburg Film Festival — held annually in October in the quaint Loudoun County town — as a model of what he hopes Fredericksburg’s event can eventually become.  

“Middleburg has one of the best film lineups in the country,” he said. “In 2016, they ‘La La Land,’ and not only did they have La La Land, but [two-time Oscar-winning actress] Emma Stone came to the festival… 

“If they can do that in Middleburg, why can’t we do it in Fredericksburg? They’re both burgs.” 

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