Building the GI Film Festival San Diego

I love history, so on most Saturday mornings I often watch documentaries on KPBS, American History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc. Just last week I watched a fascinating program about the Tuskegee Airman aka the “Red Tails” on the AHC network. A few years ago I discovered a wonderful film festival that was completed focused on Veterans and the military experience called the GI Film Festival so I traveled to DC to attend the festival. Much to my delight they now have a festival in San Diego and this week they will be celebrating their second year.

Recently I had the privilege of attending their VIP reception at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park. I had a wonderful time and viewed many significate artifacts that are housed there and I highly recommend that you should go as well! The San Diego GI Film Festival will take place between September 14 -18 in various locations in the city and again, it is a must attend for any person who wants to see a great film based on a military experience or just a great film in general!

I wanted to learn more about the festival and I had the opportunity to interview Nancy Worlie from KPBS one of the organizers of the event, that interview is listed below:

Q: Congratulations on the second annual event in the SD area for the GI Film Festival! How did the collaboration with the originators begin?

A: KPBS set a goal of doing a better job at connecting with the military community, but we didn’t want to compete with all the wonderful organizations already serving our military families and veterans. So we really focused on what KPBS does well. As a multi-media organization – we tell stories.

So to build off that we came up with the idea to have a military film festival in San Diego. First we had to see if one already existed either here in San Diego or elsewhere. In our research we found the GI Film Festival in Washington DC – they were the only one! They had a great festival in place in DC and we saw an opportunity for collaboration. So we reached out and we simply asked them if we could partner and bring what they are doing in DC to San Diego. And as a true military town San Diego was ripe for something like this.

We also went to their festival and were shocked that PBS or the local stations in the DC area hadn’t partnered with them already. The GIFF in DC was rich with untold stories and great documentaries. I walked away from it saying: “This is perfect for public media.”

Q: How did the partnership with KPBS happen?

A: Laura Law Millet and Brandon Millet – the founders and organizers of the GIFF DC are great. They were very open to working with us after a few initial conversations about what we wanted to do. We attended their festival in DC in 2015 and were so impressed. Frankly it was daunting to go back to San Diego with less than 5 months to execute our first festival in October of that same year. But we did it! Then Laura and Brandon came out for our inaugural festival and I think after they saw what we could do they gave their blessing for more.

Q: The GI Film Festival has been compared to the Sundance Film Festival and called the Sundance Festival for Veterans, would you say that is a good comparison or consider that a compliment for your festival? Why or why not?

Sundance has instant name recognition, so the comparison is certainly a compliment for the GIFF DC. I think our festival in San Diego is just in the infant stages. We might not be there yet, but I hope that we will grow into a must-attend San Diego film festival for the entire community.

Q: I had the opportunity to attend last year’s festival in DC and really enjoyed some of the seminars and many networking opportunities, can I expect more of the same from SD’s festival? Or are the two festivals completely different?

Nancy Worlie

Nancy Worlie

A: The two festivals are both similar AND different.

The GIFF San Diego tends to gravitate toward documentary films. KPBS is the organizer and documentary film is such an integral part of public media. To that end, we also like to host panel discussions about the issues or topics of the films after each block. It’s always been important to KPBS to extend the viewer experience. We like to present the story and then feature experts or people directly involved – and have a conversation.

The GIFF in DC does an amazing job of engaging with filmmakers and talking about the craft of filmmaking. They host a popular Boot Camp during their festival aimed at giving people the tools they need to understand the film business and get started.

Q: Are there any plans to add other locations to the festival?

A: KPBS is focused on growing the festival in San Diego County. We would love to have screenings in North County and other parts of San Diego. We’d love to have a screening on a military base! This is only our second year of the GIFF SD, so we want to be realistic about raising awareness in our own community. That said – we are very proud of how well our first year went with 1,200 attendees and presented more than 30 films last year. And we continue to find new partnership opportunities throughout the community.

On a side note, we have had interest from other stations in the public television system to replicate the GIFF in their own market. In that sense, KPBS is happy serving as a role model for other cities. The more the merrier.

Q: Organizations like “Got Your 6” or “Veterans in Film and Television” started as a way to assist Veterans in getting their foot in the door in the entertainment industry……do you believe that these companies have been an asset to the festival? Why or why not?

A: VFT came down for our inaugural festival in 2015 for some panels we did on screen writing and Veterans in the Entertainment industry. They are wonderful partners.

Q: Has any major studio or cable channel picked up any films or documentaries that were shown at last year’s festival in SD?

A: KPBS is a public media organization. We are fortunate to have a TV channel, radio station and digital platforms. Some of the films in our festival – particularly the ones from PBS – will air on our station. The Veterans Coming Home “Permission to Speak Freely” project will be online. While the goal of our festival is to use the content solely for the GIFF SD, we can, when it makes sense, air the films or shorts.

Q: Lastly, what would YOU like for people to know most of all about the GI Film Festival and what separates your festival from all the other festivals in SD?

A: There are a lot of terrific film festivals in San Diego that do amazing work. Many of them include tracks or feature films about the military. What sets our festival apart is that we are dedicated to the military experience. We feature films that tell their stories and we also feature work by veterans or active duty military – giving them a voice and a showcase for their work.

Most importantly, we aim to bridge the military civilian divide through film. Each time I watch a film, I learn something new. And the conversations that take place after each screening are so rewarding. If we can better educate our community to understand the sacrifices, courage and complications of our military and their families through a film festival, then we’ve done our job.

Until next time my Veteran Fashionistas, as always, stay fashionable!

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About the Author

Jackie Tacke

Jacquelyn Tacke is a proud Navy veteran. She has represented designers from “Project Runway,” “Project Runway All Stars,” “All On The Line,” etc. Some of those designers’ lines were sold in Dillard’s, Lane Bryant, the Smithsonian museum, as well as a variety of boutiques across the U.S. She has produced celebrity fashion shows all across the country and abroad. She was also a guest speaker for FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) in San Diego and is a member of Fashion Group International.


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