For the first time ever, the Boston Drone Film Festival is about to showcase the work of sky-high cinematographers and photographers from around the world.
Opening its doors for a two-day drone celebration starting on Nov 15, the fest is organized by Above Summit, a Boston-based production company specialized in aerial and video production. The team behind it all decided to take up the effort after seeing a need for content creators of their unique sort in the area to have a place to showcase their work.
“We’re trying to build a platform for travel and independent photographers and filmmakers,” said Jovan Tanasijevic, co-founder and director of Above Summit. “A lot of creators [are] sharing great content on Instagram and YouTube, and those are the people we want to celebrate and give a voice to.”
Maarten Slooves, a 31-year-old filmmaker from the Netherlands and finalist in the showreel category of the Boston Drone Film Festival, was working a day job in the off-shore engineering industry when he started out in film and photography about 10 years ago. In time, he researched and built radio-controlled quadcopters and attached cameras to them, the whole time doing ground and aerial filmmaking, learning at night and on weekends. What started as a side hustle became his full-time job, and he’s now worked on documentaries and commercial videos in places including Indonesia, Sierra Leone, and Sweden.
“Ten years ago, my creative work was at a level that I would call amateur level,” Slooves said. “Now my work has grown, as I’ve learned more about drones through experimentation, studying both the mechanics and electronics as well as surrounding myself with a group of fellow passionate drone pilots to share knowledge.
“By putting cameras on drones, I could explore new perspectives. Drone cinematography offers a variety of new storytelling perspectives. It opens new creative doors.”
The Boston Drone Film Festival received more than 150 submissions from the US, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Aruba, Hong Kong, Poland, Germany, Hungary, India, Ukraine, Mexico, Greece, China, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Seychelles, and Taiwan. The nominated images were captured from the air, using various kinds of drones, and come from every continent in the world. The works include a number of a wild rides, like one of a US Coast Guard search and rescue station in the Northwest coast. Another with images of a lighthouse in Iceland. The visual trips continue with buildings crumbling in slow motion as they are being demolished in controlled explosions, then on to country farmlands, ice mountains in the Arctic, and wildlife running over African plains.
Sometimes, the footage is so immersive that you feel like you’re in the woods yourself, next to a humanoid form doing a fire performance inside the ruins of a castle, levitating along an abandoned power plant. Or following a parkour crew backflipping through a multilevel parking lot.
For competing filmmakers, the movies had to be less than five minutes long and at least 50% of the footage had to be shot with a drone. In the case of the photography categories, all submissions had to be taken with a drone.
“The 50% drone footage [rule] forces people to find different ways to get shots and makes it really exciting, getting new perspectives,” Tanasijevic said. “You can start with a very conventional shot that ends up expanding and pulling away.”
The first day of the festival will take place at WGBH Yawkey Theater, from 5 to 10 pm, where attendees will see the screening of the top films in each of the 14 categories and the winners will be announced. Prizes for each category vary, but all winners will receive gear to create and produce visual content, including software packages, gear credits, drones, 360 cameras, power banks, and speakers.
“We’re going to have a community-based award for the student category,” said Julia Curiale, manager of the Boston Drone Film Festival. “It’s really important that we give all filmmakers a fair fighting chance. In other festivals, big production companies with huge budgets sweep all the categories and take it away from people who are really trying to think outside the box and get creative shots.”
“The people that we want to celebrate,” said Tanasijevic, “are definitely not the Hollywood production [types] that got to film 20 Netflix shows and Lionsgate films, because that’s not the majority of people who are using these tools.”
On Saturday, the festival will continue at Red Sky Studios in Allston, where it will host a Drone Camp with panels, workshops, and presentations that will touch on the future of drones, landscape photography, drone law and policy, thermography and drones, racing drones, and more.
“The drone camp is a quick, one-day bootcamp that gets your palate wet for all things related to drones, whether that is 3D mapping, color grading, drone footage, or simply flying,” Tanasijevic said. “With the festival, we also want to test the waters and see if there are enough people locally who would want to learn more after the drone camp.”
“My recommendation to people starting out is that once you start doing it, do it a lot,” Slooves said. “As soon as you spend a lot of time doing something and your enthusiasm hasn’t faded away or actually it increased, that is how you know you’re on the right track.”
BOSTON DRONE FILM FESTIVAL. 11.15–16. MORE INFO AND TICKETS AT BOSTONDRONEFILMFESTIVAL.COM.
Diego was born in Caracas and studied music in Paris and journalism in Bogota. He earned a Master of Science in Journalism at Boston University and is currently contributing to DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.