Wiltonians take over local film festival

Wilton resident and filmmaker Megan Smith-Harris and her husband and business partner, Bill Harris, have been named director and general manager, respectively, of this year’s Ridgefield Independent Film Festival (RIFF).

RIFF showcases independent cinema from around the world at a number of venues around Ridgefield. Roughly 40 films are expected to be screened during this year’s festival, taking place Oct. 18-21.

For the past several years, Smith-Harris has been pursuing her passion for filmmaking. She is president and co-owner of the independent documentary television production company Pyewackitt Productions, and has produced the documentaries Trial by Fire: Lives Re-Forged and The Buddy System.

Harris is a multiple award-winning producer and director, who “after a long, successful career in broadcast television and film,” now consults and serves as executive producer to independent projects with his wife.

Harris said he and his wife have been attending film festivals for a long time and have considered running their own “for years.”

When RIFF Executive Director Geoffrey Morris asked if the two would be interested in running this year’s festival, Harris said, “we jumped at the opportunity.”

As director, Smith-Harris said, her job is to “make sure that we entice talented filmmakers and actors to attend the festival, screen fabulous films every day, show the audience a great time, and throw an amazing party in a different venue every night of the festival.”

As general manager, Harris said, his job is to “basically, keep the trains running on time,” while “working to get through the first year and fulfill the goals of our initial three-year business plan, which is to grow the scope and impact of RIFF as a significant independent festival by 2020.”

“Megan brings most of the passion and creative energy. I try to add some strategic structure and process managing the budget, scheduling and events,” he said.

“We work together with filmmakers and programming the selection of films, special events and all social media and marketing.”

In preparation for RIFF, Smith-Harris said, she will “personally be screening a lot of films” so she can “select the very best independent cinema to share with audiences.”

“I’ll also be pulling together a top-notch screening team, seeking out volunteers, doing meaningful outreach to filmmakers, putting together thought-provoking panel discussions, planning and overseeing other RIFF events, and taking very good care of our sponsors,” she said.

Smith-Harris said people should attend this year’s festival because of the carefully selected and curated independent cinema that is showcased.

“There will be thought-provoking documentaries, powerful narrative fiction, innovative animation, family-friendly fare,” she said, “and a selection of shorts — both comic and dramatic.”

Smith-Harris said raising awareness and funding is “critical to the success of the festival” and sponsors and donors are actively being sought to help cover the costs of running the festival, as well as sponsoring filmmakers and guest speakers.

Leading up to the October festival are a number of fund-raising events — the first being an Oscar Screening Party, featuring a red carpet, celebrity lookalikes, specialty cocktails, and live auction items, on Sunday, March 4, at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. Tickets cost $75 and may be purchased at RIFFct.org/events.

People may also make tax-deductible donations to the festival at RIFFct.org.