A bassline thumps through the walls of Neptune Studio, but back here in this mirrored rehearsal room it's quiet. The three women who created OUTeast three years ago, and run it still–Andria Wilson (producer), Jenna Dufton (programmer) and Krista Davis (special projects)–sit by a window minutes after announcing the new festival's lineup. Opening Thursday, June 12 with the Canadian doc Derby Crazy Love, the 2014 edition of OUTeast is typically dense and varied, featuring selections from the Netherlands, Australia, Russia and a pair of anticipated American docs, To Be Takei (about your favourite Facebook friend) and HBO's The Case Against 8.
Three years on, with two successful events behind them, the trio feels pressures shift from year to year, while getting more of a handle on festival logistics. "The first year was like 'It's just the first year, it'll be fine.' And then every year it's 'Oh that was a good program. Now I have to make another good program,'" says Dufton. "It's stressful hoping that the right things come down the pipe. Otherwise we do have a rhythm down–we work really well together, we have a lot of the infrastructure. It gets more fun every year."
"It's also become more fun because it isn't about making an event happen," says Davis. "The event is happening."
"We try to add a piece or a couple of pieces each year," says Wilson, "and the pressure of making the right choices as to what we're adding, but also to continue to grow in a way that makes sense and to keep it the right size, not to try too much too fast."
A new piece for year three is a nod to Ellen Page, with a free screening of Drew Barrymore's roller derby film Whip It, on The Oval after the opening night film. "We were at The Company House that night, and I was on my phone reading Twitter and it just–POW–hit the internet," says Wilson of Page's surprise coming-out speech at the Time to Thrive conference in February. "And then the entire bar. People were playing the video, it was madness."
"And then we were just sitting down going 'OK, what Ellen Page films could we show?'" says Dufton. "And I was like, 'Well there's Whip It' and then Wilson was like, 'The Oval' and I was like, 'Sold.'" "That's been how everything happens," adds Davis.
Wilson calls the event "a big investment and risk, investment in audience development"–"risk of weather," Davis chimes in–but a risk the festival is able to take as it carefully adds new elements moving forward. This year includes local shorts being screened in Neptune's lobby and a Sunday brunch with Tanya Davis, star of Andrea Dorfman's upcoming Heartbeat.
"It's not making it a bigger event or a bigger festival, it's just adding to what we already have. We've really found the formula that works–a certain number of films, because if we started showing films at 10am till 10 at night we wouldn't fill all of those anyway," says Dufton. "Schedule-wise what we have now with the films and the parties really works."
"It's not huge but it's immersive. It's a complete event," says Wilson. "By the end of the event last year, the biggest piece of general feedback we got was 'It's like the kickoff to Pride.' It had that feeling of people starting their summer party schedule."