Summer may be over, but this is still one of my favourite times of year. It’s Adventure Film Festival season! Across the world there is a growing number of festivals showcasing the best in travel, expedition and mountain adventures. You should be able to find one pretty close to where you live. In addition, some of the festivals go on tour, taking a selection of their best films to different cities around the world.
I can really recommend seeking out one of these festivals, especially if you are relatively new to the adventure world. It’s so exciting to watch a carefully-curated series of films on a massive cinema screen. There’s usually a variety of films, designed to inspire you to head out and seek adventures of your own. Long films are book-ended by short little teasers, crazy adrenaline bursts of extreme sports contrast with slower, thoughtful films. And the best in the business – proper professional film-makers with vast skill, kit and cash – go up against amateur adventurers in the hotly-contested award categories.
The films are exciting, yes. But Adventure Film festivals are more than just a night out at the cinema. For you find yourself sharing the venue with hundreds of people just like you! People excited by adventure, remembering happy memories, planning future exploits. There’s so much energy and inspiration that you can’t help but come home fired with resolve to stop procrastinating and start planning.
I love Adventure Film festivals from another angle, too. I’m an adventure film-maker these days, and having one of my films selected for a film festival is always massively exciting. In terms of personal ambition, and trying to get better at what I do, I see being picked for a film festival as a huge pat on the back for me. The thrill and the pride comes because I know there is so much incredible competition out there. This genre of film-making is blossoming at an amazing rate.
I also know, from seeing behind the scenes, how much work is required to run an Adventure Film festival. It’s mostly done by dedicated, knowledgable, savvy volunteers who put in huge amounts of time and energy to make the festivals so good. I respect the people who make the selections for the festivals, and that makes me feel even better when (if) they deem my film good enough for their event.
So when you go along to a festival, know that people have really worked very hard to put together a fantastic collection of films for you to enjoy. Know that the film-makers whose films are being shown are bursting with pride to be up there on that massive screen. And know that the person sitting next to you in the auditorium is – right now – planning something ridiculous and bold and exciting, just like you will be doing.
Last year Leon and I had our film Into The Empty Quarter picked for a few festivals. It was ridiculously exciting. So we decided to add an extra layer of excitement of seeing our film on a big screen by walking from the airport to the film festival. We made this short film which we hope will fill you with enthusiasm for seeking out an adventure and a film festival for yourself.
Enjoy the season – go support your local Adventure Film festival. Our Top 10 List follows…
There are no end of great Adventure Film Festivals both in the UK and further afield. To try and make any sort of a qualitative list is silly. I would like to share with you my favourites, though – based simply on experiences as an audience member or when I’ve been fortunate enough to have my film screened there (and, in a couple on instances, festivals that I haven’t been to but have heard so much praise for that it’s impossible to leave them out.)
Have you been to any of these? Where have I missed out? Tell me your favourite in the comments section, or on social media.
One of the first festivals I went to, and one of the best. A great weekend of speakers and event in a city filled with outdoor enthusiasts.
There are a few good festivals in Ireland, but this is my favourite. It’s run by good people, and attended by the same. Galway is a great location too.
I limited myself to one Scottish event on this list, and it’s got to be Edinburgh. The organisers put a lot of effort in to getting great speakers to augment the films.
The first touring festival that I came across, and still one of the best.
This is generally the most madcap festival of my year. Run by the brilliantly eccentric Austin Vince and his talented wife Lois Pryce, it unearths films that you’d never find anywhere else.
Set in Colorado, this is regularly touted as the best American festival around.
The UK’s premiere festival, and to many one of the homes of UK mountain culture. Sadly, I’ve never yet had a film picked for Kendal. I intend to rectify that soon.
Wanaka and Queenstown are two of the most beautiful towns that I’ve ever been too. That alone is a good enough reason to visit this festival!
This was the first festival that a film of mine ever screened at. It does a wonderfully comprehensive tour of the UK, with a stellar gala event in central London
This is probably the biggest of all. Taking places over a week in the Canadian Rockies, it attracts (and accepts) only the best filmmaking talent.
Last year, Alastair and I made the journey there to watch our film in competition. It seemed a great opportunity to fit in another tiny adventure….
Pakistan International Adventure Festival
I got an email last year from the first ever adventure film festival in Pakistan, wanting to show one of my films. I wish I could have gone – it’s fantastic to see such a beautiful country embracing the world of Adventure festivals