Ashland Film Festival opens, goes beyond traditional movie experience

Ashland Independent Film Festival, Apr. 7th 2016, (KTVL/Megan Allison)

ASHLAND, Or. -- The 15th Annual Independent Film Festival has arrived in Ashland, with some changes. Puppeteers and musicians will perform alongside films, tastings will be offered, and there will even be a film to view in virtual reality.

Richard Herskowitz is the director of programming with the film festival. He said he wants to go beyond the traditional movie experience.

"Film festivals are kind of laboratories for exploration of new things where cinema is headed. This is not your typical movie-going experience.They're also much more interactive. The filmmakers are here so you get to engage with them not just in the theater but in the streets," he he said.

Herskowitz hopes this process will inspire young filmmakers.

"The quality of what's shown here and the fact that they get to listen to the maker of the film articulate what inspires them can open their eyes to what motivates somebody to be a filmmaker and can turn you into a cinephile and a film lover," he said.

This is Ryan Barger's first film festival as a film maker. He said festivals give the rare opportunity of bringing the best unknown films to the public.

"They're kind of more important now than ever, I think. In terms of being the sort of filter that brings this sort of quality to people," Barger said.

Herskowitz said the amount of films grew by a third this year, and he hopes the festival will draw larger audiences as well. The director of programming said this weekend brings people to Ashland for the off-season.

"People are beginning to come from out of town and we are really becoming a major attraction for tourists to come and do Ashland in early April which is not usually the height of the season," Herskowitz said.

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