Independent films have Sundance. Foreign films, Cannes. And for the ascending field of unmanned aerial film making, there is now San Francisco’s forthcoming Flying Robot International Film Festival.
Scheduled for November 19, FRiFF will be the first global festival to “celebrate aerial cinema from the perspective of drones.” But the festival will be more than just the stunning landscape cinematography and dronies commonly associated with aerial film—Flying Robot is making a point to highlight short films in categories that often go unnoticed. “[Flying Robot] isn’t so much about the beauty of the films,” event organizer Eddie Codel says. “The stories around some of the categories are just as important as the quality of the shots.”
One such category is “Drones for Good,” which will feature the best shorts about how unmanned aircraft are being used to help humanity and tackle global issues. Drones already have been used to help anti-poaching efforts, drop medical supplies in war zones, fight fires, and even find missing people. “These stories of good don’t get much attention,” says Codel. “So many people just assume the worst. With Drones for Good, I hope to offer another narrative as to why we should carefully consider drones as lawmakers start banning them everywhere.”
While FRiFF will be the first international drone-focused film festival, it’s got regional precedent. March’s debut of the New York City Drone Film Festival, which brought over 400 film buffs to the Director’s Guild Theater in Manhattan, secured the title of first-ever drone festival. But beyond the scope of the events, Codel expects the two events to look very different. The NYC drone festival targeted the traditional film-making community, even rolling out a red carpet flanked by photographers. Whereas New York’s promoters say they see their festival becoming drone’s version of Sundance, Flying Robot wants to be more like Slamdance.
Codel says he’s taking a big tent approach, keeping admission low ($15) and setting the film submission fee at just $5 (students get their fees waved entirely). And in the spirit of the event, the festival will be held at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District–an independent neighborhood theater that also happens to the longest continuously operated cinema in the country. Flying Robot already has begun signing on some big sponsors, with 3DR joining on as a platinum sponsor. And the festival has brought together a diverse panel of judges, including MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis and Engadget’s Veronica Belmont.
Despite the big names behind the event, Codel says attendees don’t have to worry about a royal red carpet outside the venue.
“We will likely have a small one, more like a red area rug.”