You’re walking through a local business in downtown Prescott, perhaps grabbing a drink at your favorite coffee shop, when a little black strip of perforated celluloid catches your eye. You take a look and find that it’s a strip of film cut to the size of a small bookmark, advertising the Prescott Film Festival.
“Hm, Prescott Film Festival,” you might think to yourself, “that sounds like fun, but I’ve never been to a film festival before! I wonder what I might expect?”
You need look no further, this year we have a handy guide for newcomers.
The Prescott Film Festival began in 2010, when after attending the Sedona International Film Festival, Helen Stephenson thought to herself, “Why can’t Prescott host a festival of its own?”
Working first with the Frontier Village Cine 10 and eventually moving to the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center, the festival has been a success for over a decade now, celebrating its 13th anniversary this year September 19-24.
The festival was suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic, and many at-risk fans may have chosen to forego attending the 11th and 12th festivals in person due to safety concerns. This year a step-by-step primer is in order for returning attendees and those checking out the festival for the first time.
Step 1: Plan it
Mailed to every home in Prescott and Prescott Valley, the printed program includes film showing times and descriptions, filmmakers in attendance, available passes, and details on special events. The program is also available on the website to help you decide how to make the most of all six days. First-timers: Start off with a bang! Opening night has a filmmaker Q&A with audience participation, followed by the Stage Party with music, finger-food, and a cash bar.
Day-timers: Attend free workshops on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, then choose which films to see between the Jim & Linda Lee Performing Arts Center and the cozier Community Room, where you can enjoy fresh popcorn. The first 150 people attending the sing-along to Mamma Mia! will receive free goody bags.
Horse-lovers: Saturday brings the Arizona premiere of The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses. This feature documentary, executive-produced by Robert Redford, takes you on an odyssey through American locations few have seen or know about! There are more than 80,000 wild horses on our federal lands and more than 50,000 in government corrals. Featuring music by Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and an original song by Diane Warren and performed by Blanco Brown, this movie will make you fall in love with America all over again and understand why the protection of our wild horses and our public lands are worth fighting for.
Cinephiles: Purchase the All-Film pass and do you!
Sundays are Special: Attend the festival’s closing “The Last Drop” Soiree and Silent Auction in the Marcusen Sculpture Garden, where you can mingle with filmmakers and other attendees over a glass of wine from the Southwest Wine Center while bidding on prizes, followed at 4 pm by the Silent Symphony, where the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra performs live for the 100th anniversary of the silent film Safety Last with Harold Lloyd! (Much more on this in our August edition. — ed.)
You can to purchase tickets and event passes at the event or in advance through prescottfilmfestival.com. The festival also provides an exclusive VIP Director’s Loft experience for those who purchase the Platinum Pass, offering preferred seating, exclusive commemorative gifts and opportunities to mingle with filmmakers and other VIPs after each screening Tuesday-Saturday. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the full experience. Barry Barbe of Torme and El Gato Azul will be providing food.
Step 2: Join it
Follow @prescottfilmfestival on Instagram and the “Prescott Film Festival” Facebook page for a chance to win giveaways, and visit the website to be among the first to know about films, special events, and filmmakers in attendance.
Step 3: Find it
The festival takes place on the Yavapai College Campus at 1100 E. Sheldon St. in Prescott, and a handy map is included with each program.