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Bucks Fever FilmFest helps local filmmakers connect, share their stories

“Best of the Fest” went to Ryan Canney for documentary about Doylestown cyclist


The Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce hosted the 23rd annual Bucks Fever FilmFest at County Theater in Doylestown, Sunday evening.

The four-hour festival screened the short films, hosted a panel discussion, featured a script table read and provided refreshments throughout the evening.

Beginning in 1999 with “The Buddy Holly Story,” the FilmFest has been a staple of the film community in Bucks County for years. Its mission is to “provide a mentoring and learning experience with rising area student filmmakers, along with adult and professional filmmakers.”

Since then, nearly 900 films have been submitted, 300 screened and more than $30,000 in prize money awarded.

The festival now offers a screenwriting competition and a table reading of the scripts.

Brad Sanders, of the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, is the head organizer of the evening. He said the goal of the festival is to “promote and encourage young and emerging filmmakers and screenwriters to share their craft with the community and public.”

The FilmFest provides a “platform that is educational and supportive. Also providing resources, building relationships and making connections,” Sanders said.

Bucks County has a rich history in the arts. Many contestants from years’ past “come back yearly to support the new wave of filmmakers.”

“We have had filmmakers submitting films since they were in high school and some of those filmmakers are now creating featured films or work for major distributions and networks,” said Sanders.

One of those filmmakers is Jeremy Kipp Walker, a judge Sunday night and a panelist at last year’s event. Walker was among the young filmmakers “that submitted to our FilmFest in the early 2000s,” said Sanders.

The festival offered the “Blood and Guts of Horror Films” panel discussion — the theme changes every year — featuring filmmakers Lance Weiler and Doug Torres.

Weiler, a filmmaker and writer from Pennsylvania who is best known for one of the first “Found Foot-age” films and “The Last Broadcast,” believes horror is a film genre that can “ignite the imagination.”

Torres has been in the industry for 25 years and has worked on hundreds of projects. Torres calls himself a “storyteller,” which is ultimately what brought him to the film industry.

When asked by an audience member what makes a good film, Torres said “If the story is there, a lot of other things are forgiven in terms of the film.”

One of the main goals of the FilmFest is for up-and-coming filmmakers to make connections. Weiler explained how important and beneficial these connections are. “It is very much about the story, but also the network of people you build.”

The festival awarded winners in screenwriting; high school and college narrative; music video; documentary; animation and more. The “Best of Fest” winner, by one vote, was “Mountains We Climb” by Ryan Canney, who has been involved with the FilmFest since 2011.

“Mountains We Climb” is a documentary following the journey of competitive cyclist Chris Baccash, a Doylestown native.

For Canney, cinema exists to tell stories. “To me, the purpose of cinema is to tell stories that expand our worldview.”

“In a community like ours, the arts aim to bring us closer together for a thoughtfully crafted experience that makes us think, feel, and live possibly a little differently than we did just a couple hours before,” said Canney.

The film was born from collaboration with Bike Works Doylestown through his video production business, “Riverbank Creative.”

“I was hired to make a promotional video for Bike Works in Doylestown by co-owner Brian Boger,” said Canney. “After that, we began developing a project centered around the Bike Works p/b Fred Beans elite Cycling Team. The focus of which shifted rapidly when their teammate, and my friend, Chris Baccash received his cancer diagnosis. I continued to follow his recovery journey, through the pandemic, and ultimately to one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world, the Leadville 100 MTB.”

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