Interview with Festival Director Olivia Carmel (COPPER MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL)

The Copper Mountain Film Festival is hosted at the Copper Mountain Resort and sponsored by 10 Barrel Brewing Company and the Denver Filmmakers Collective. The film festival coincides with the Attack of the Big Beers on the weekend of June 22 – 24, 2018. Beer and food sampling starts at 11:00 AM and concludes at 5:00 PM. All accepted filmmakers will be granted tickets to attend the Attack of the Big Beers festival. Throughout the day there will be screenplay workshops, featured speaking panels,

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Olivia Carmel: We are in our infancy as a film festival since this is only our second year. That said, it is truly an independently-run festival by filmmakers and film-lovers. I think what sets us apart is that anyone involved now is directly helping to shape the future of this festival. It is a film festival by and for independent, low-budget filmmakers. Since we are working industry professionals ourselves, we understand what our submitters go through in making their films and what it means to have an audience for your project. We also understand what sort of benefits are appealing to filmmakers and our award winners, for example, will receive subscriptions and tools filmmakers use each and every day. We selected these as awards specifically because we use them ourselves. We hope to continue to grow in order to provide even more benefits as years go on.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)?

We are partnered with the Attack of the Big Beers’ festival, which takes place during the day and transitions to our films in the evening. All accepted filmmakers and screenwriters will be given tickets to sample the craft beers. Those tickets not only get you beer and food at the festival itself, but at select restaurants and vendors in the area. We are also offering networking opportunities in the form of an Opening Night Party and a Filmmaker Happy Hour. Additionally, all screenwriters who have submitted to the Screenplay Contest will receive written feedback as well as the opportunity to meet one-on-one with our writing coaches. We are also following up with screenings in Denver of the award-winners so select filmmakers will not only get an audience in Copper but also in Denver. Finally, our festival is in beautiful Colorado in the center of a ski resort town. It may take place during the summer, but the beauty of the mountain landscape is everlasting. There are hiking trails and hot springs to enjoy nearby.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

At this time, we have categories for short films, feature films, and screenplays. We look at the writing, performances, cinematography, sound design, editing, pacing, and overall craft and uniqueness of every film. Frankly, we are looking to program the best and most enjoyable films. That said, since our festival is still young, we only have a weekend to showcase two shorts blocks and two to three feature films so the number of accepted films is limited and thus, competitive.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I’ve attended a lot of larger festivals and frequent the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It’s a wonderful festival and an experience like no other due to its sheer size and notoriety; however, it has changed over the years. There’s no question about that. Many independent, not-yet-discovered filmmakers working on low-to-no budget projects (out of necessity) have trouble standing apart from the mass amount of submissions. In a lot of ways, you have to already be on their radar. That said, with the straight-to-Netflix model of content consumption and more platforms jumping on original content – including YouTube and most recently, MoviePass – most, if not all, movies to screen at these larger festivals get the opportunity to sell and seen in wide release. This is an exciting time! I can’t stress that enough. But there are smaller festivals and platforms stepping up to fill the gap and most of these festivals, ourselves included, have taken a page out of the Slamdance Film Festival guidebook. Slamdance is run by filmmakers for filmmakers and was started by “Sundance rejects” on the cusp of Sundance becoming more mainstream and less independent at heart. Slamdance is for the rebel-heart. It’s for the filmmaker who wants to stomp to the beat of their own drum and make films their way, no matter the budget. This is a style and an art that shouldn’t be left behind. We hope to emulate festivals like Slamdance and work to support the truly indie, low-budget artists waiting to be discovered.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

In part, it comes from submitting to and attending film festivals. There’s an indescribable energy when you’re at a film festival meeting new creators and industry game-changers. Every festival I’ve attended, I’ve learned valuable lessons, met inspiring artists, and most of all, been reinvigorated with creativity and energy to create. I want to build a space for others to feel this. It also comes from a love of that form of independent, get-your-hands-dirty, belly-full-of-Redvines, low-budget filmmaking where no one really knows who else will see your film but in the moment of creation, that doesn’t really matter because you’re building a family. I want to give those filmmakers an audience and the tools to keep on creating.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

I hadn’t used FilmFreeway prior to this year’s festival and I’ll be using them from now on. It’s an easy tool to use and to navigate, their support system is helpful and concise, they provide a wealth of resources, and it’s incredibly easy to communicate with your judges, submitters, and staff. I can’t speak more highly of FilmFreeway. I originally thought since we were such a young festival and hadn’t done much marketing outside our state that we wouldn’t get many submissions. We received many more than expected – from all over the world! It’s been exciting and reminds us why we want to continue to grow this festival.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

I see us having grown to add more days and more screening times. We’re able to provide travel and lodging stipends from out-of-state filmmakers. During the festival, there are more networking and celebratory events added for filmmakers and festival attendees alike to round out the experience. We’re following up the festival with a tour of the award-winning films. The awards include cash prizes and we have a grant program for diverse and rising voices in film.

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

I don’t rewatch many films because I like to experience as much as I can but I’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off a lot. I used to come home from school and watch it on a little TV on the floor of my bedroom. I had it on good ol’ VHS. I’ve also rewatched Top of the Lake (season 1) by Jane Campion many times. It’s one of the most well-crafted pieces of filmmaking and frankly, art I’ve seen in recent years. I could go on about every detail of it. It’s truly beautiful. I also had the unique experience of watching the entire series over the course of an entire day at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. This was the first festival “binge-watching” experience and the cast, crew, and Jane Campion herself were all present the entire time. It was amazing and I think that added to the experience of it as a whole.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film is made with passion.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

I’m based in Denver, Colorado. It’s a very creative city on a whole where people are excited to collaborate. We’ve had a number of Netflix, feature films, and nonscripted projects come to work in the area. We’re still earning our step to the ‘next level’ but things are happening.. There are award-winning filmmakers who have chosen Colorado as their home, and notable festivals like Telluride Film Festival and Denver Starz, talented production companies, and discussion of building a ‘studio city’ on the outskirts of Denver soon. If we keep bringing filmmakers here, we’ll continue to grow.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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