Community January 9, 2023

Celebrating Cinema at the Sun Valley Film Festival

Mountain film festivals continue growth

When mutual friends introduced Candice Pate to Teddy Grennan in 2012, he spoke to her about a film festival in Sun Valley.

“Having just moved from Los Angeles, I wasn’t sure I wanted a film festival here, but when I saw what they did in the first year, I loved it!” recalls Pate. “A little bit Hollywood, and a lot of Sun Valley. Working for Visit Sun Valley, I saw SVFF as a natural tourism hook. So, when [Teddy] asked, I jumped in!”

Pate is now the director of the Sun Valley Film Festival.

Co-founders Pate and Grennan are looking forward to the 12th year of the film festival, which will take place March 29 – April 2, 2023. But you can get a sneak peek at a winter screening at the Argyros Theater on December 28. Check out the festival’s website for how to get tickets.

Pate says it will likely be open to the public on the evening of December 27, and then a private screening for patrons on December 28 from 5 – 7:30 pm. Past presentations included Free Solo, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary only weeks later.

Pate explained that the SVFF is evolving from more than just five days in the spring. “We are expanding our offerings to bring the best and brightest in independent film to our community throughout the year. Stay tuned!” she says.

SVFF’s slate of films is being developed by Ana Souza, Director of Programming. She is also the Manager of the Programming Department at the Sundance Film Festival.

The idea of the SVFF is to showcase and foster new filmmaking talent. “We’ve had the honor of hosting some of the most well-known and iconic filmmakers in years past, and we’re just as dedicated to celebrating new talents,” states Grennan.

National Geographic Documentary Films, one of SVFF’s founding partners, provides films to the festival and is also a partner in the Wild to Inspire filmmaking contest, the brainchild of Grennan and Chris Albert.

“Each year, we’re blown away by the talent and creativity that comes out of WILD to Inspire, and we look forward to showcasing this next class of storytellers,” says Grennan.

Besides the WILD to Inspire competition, other festival highlights include engaging Coffee Talks with top industry insiders. For example, last year’s Coffee Talks featured Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler. Also included are the Screenwriters Lab, Nat Geo WILD’s Salon, the SVFF Film Lab, multiple fabulous parties, and more.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the honorees of the Pioneer Award, National Geographic Further Award, and Rising Star Award. Former award winners include heavy hitters like Clint Eastwood, Bruce Dern, Jodie Foster, Geena Davis, Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow, the Duplass Brothers, Oliver Stone, and Bill Paxton.

When asked how to grow the film industry in Idaho, Pate replied, “That’s a tough one. Without the tax incentives that many states have, it’s hard to compete. But we try to spotlight Idaho filmmakers with our One Potato Short Film Competition, hosting the festival and year-round screenings to illuminate and inspire filmmakers and film fans. We also love to remind people that Sun Valley is Hollywood’s original ski-Shangri-La.”

The One Potato short screenplay competition has been on hiatus since Covid, but SVFF hopes to bring it back soon. “We solicit short film screenplays, and the winning script receives a cash prize and mentorship to shoot the film in Idaho. Then we screen the winning film the following year prior to the reveal of the next winning script,” explains Pate.

Other competitions in the past include the High Scribe Award and the Future Filmmakers Forum, the high school short film competition. Pate says the SVFF is looking to expand the FFF in 2023.

Pate, who has lived in Sun Valley for 14 years, shared what she likes most about the area. “I love the people!” she says. “As William James famously said, ‘Wherever you are, it’s your friends that make your world.’”

When she isn’t at SVFF, you might find Pate dining at Enoteca, as she is a huge fan of the Mason family.

“We have an informal sister-film festival relationship with Bentonville Film Festival. The people who run it have ties to Sun Valley and are dear friends!” Pate notes.

With all the excitement with this season’s festival, Pate advises Sun Valley Film Festival attendees to not wait to buy their passes. There are two of four passes sold out before the festival opened last year.

“The secret is out!” she says.

Over the years, the festival has grown, and expected attendance is in the thousands.



Sundance Film Festival
Essentially the “O.G.”—setting the gold standard by which other film festivals are measured.
January 19-29, 2023, Park City, Utah.

Aspen Shorts Fest
April 10-15, 2023, Aspen, Colorado.

Bentonville Film Festival
The 9th annual Bentonville Film Festival will take place in Bentonville and the Northwest Arkansas region during June 13 – 18, 2023, with on-demand streaming through June 25.

Big Sky Doc Film Festival
February 17-26, 2023, Missoula, Montana. This is the largest documentary film festival in the American West, which started in 2004.

Boulder International Film Festival
March 2-5, 2023, Boulder, Colorado.

Durango Independent Film Fest
March 1-5, 2023, Durango, Colorado. Held since 2001, the Durango Independent Film Festival’s mission is to provide the unique opportunity to experience and discuss global, innovative, and diverse films.

Oregon Short Film Festival
February 19, 2023, Portland, Oregon.

McMinnville Short Film Festival
February 2023, McMinnville, Oregon. In its 12th year, the McMinnville Short Film Festival features culturally diverse screenings, events, and gatherings in the midst of the wine and culinary mecca of Oregon’s Yamhill County.

Sun Valley Film Festival
March 29 – April 2, 2023 PO Box 3471, Sun Valley, ID 83353.

This article appears in the Winter 2022 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.