The heart of the Eau Claire International Film Festival

Behind the scenes of the Eau Claire International Film Festival

Skyler Schad

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If you’re asking me
October 4, 2023

Photo by Skyler Schad

The repurposed awards are given to the best films at the end of the weekend

The Eau Claire International Film Festival took place this past weekend, Nov. 4-6, at the Woodland Theater in Davies.

The festival featured different films from around the world, from Wisconsin all the way to Argentina. At the end of the weekend, attendees were able to cast their votes on what they believed were the best films throughout the weekend.

Chris Herriges, festival director for the Eau Claire International Film Festival, created his own feature film years ago but discovered it was hard to get into film festivals. Herriges said this inspired him to suggest starting a film festival to his former partner.

Herriges said he currently lives in the Twin Cities but went to school at UW-Eau Claire, and he knew it was the perfect place to hold his film festival. This later came to be the Eau Claire International Film Festival.

“It came out of my experience making movies and finding a real love for finding independent films,” Herriges said.

Herriges said this was the fifth year he held the festival. He said at one point he was feeling very burnt out with the event, and Jaylin Carlson and Annie Brenizer took charge of the event and helped to bring in extra filmmakers.

Herriges said planning for the event starts with obtaining submissions from filmmakers. They collected films by putting their festival on an online database called FilmFreeway, where directors could submit their films. Herriges said they also received submissions via email.

Herriges said they had about 60 submissions, which were viewed by a panel, who cast their votes to decide which films would be showcased. This resulted in 44 films being highlighted.

Brenizer, a volunteer for the festival, said the selection process was very tough, as every filmmaker works so hard on their films.

Brenizer said she was doing a lot of the content creation over the weekend. She loved being able to rewatch the films while keeping the festival running.

Brenizer is happy the film festival is able to bring international films to Eau Claire and give viewers that exposure. She said not a lot of places around here give us that opportunity.

“I hope attendees enjoy themselves and have a good time,” Brenizer said. “And I hope they can be inspired by these and realize that this is the type of environment for all and not a closed-off space.”

Brenizer said she loved meeting all of the people who attended the festival, especially the directors and the people who starred in the films.

“It’s been super fun to see those faces in real life,” Brenizer said. “And I love seeing people in the audience and seeing the turnout. A lot of people are interested in this and they just don’t know where to start.”

Herriges said he loves connecting with others and having insightful conversations during the event. He said his anxiety about the event goes away when he shares a good laugh with others.

“The community of it is what makes it worthwhile,” Herriges said.

Herriges said he hopes more students at UW-Eau Claire will attend the festival in the future.

“I want it to grow a lot,” Herriges said. “I hope attendees are provoked by a new perspective on something, whether it be an insight that you get out of a nice story, or something you learn from a documentary.”

According to Herriges, satellite events will be happening over the winter, which will be showcasing the highlights of the Eau Claire International Film Festival.

Schad can be reached at [email protected]