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Film festival plays matchmaker 

The Fast Forward Film Festival wants moviemakers in the Rochester region to make short films about environmental issues that are important to them. And it also tries to encourage laypeople with environmental concerns to produce films on those subjects.

But the problem is that some local filmmakers don't have topics to work with, while some community members have topics, but lack filmmaking experience or skills. Festival organizers have come up with an initiative to better connect the two groups. (The festival will accept submissions through February 27, 2017.)

Festival organizers and volunteers have done behind-the-scenes matchmaking in the past, but the Filmmaker Connection will be a more public effort; the centerpiece is a series of public events for the two groups to come and mingle. The first is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 6, at the George Eastman Museum. Previous festival filmmakers will be on hand for a question-and-answer session, too.

"We are not expecting everyone to walk out of the film festival after submitting and to be inspired to become the next Scorsese or the next Spielberg, but we are hoping that folks realize that video is up-and-coming for a platform to tell stories," says Rebecca Delaney, director of the film festival.

The connection could potentially lead to more content and new voices for the film festival. But it's important for environmental causes and efforts, too, because a well-told narrative can help advance a cause or boost an organization's visibility.

Linday Cray and Nick Brown started Earthworks Institute in 2013 as an educational nonprofit that helps people connect with and experience the outdoors. Cray wanted to produce a short film on the organization for the 2016 Fast Forward Film Festival, but she wasn't sure where to start; she knew that she wanted the piece to focus on Earthworks' mission.

She spent a lot of time talking with a festival volunteer, who helped set her up with filmmaker Zach Welch. Cray says that she was impressed with how Welch helped refine her vision, and how he weaved together everyone's ideas and the footage that Earthworks gathered to produce a cohesive film.

"He was the one that made the magic happen," Cray says.

"Reconnecting – an Earthworks Story" was a selection in last year's festival, and it helped bring attention to the organization and its fit into broader issues. Cray says she couldn't have been happier with the experience.

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