The 27th annual Sedona International Film Festival will combine both live and virtual film experiences underscored by strict CDC safety protocols in a scaled-down but still incredibly entertaining 10-day deep dive into all things independent film from Feb. 20-28, 2021.

It still means a diverse range of full-length features, shorts, documentaries and foreign films sure to have something for everyone. It also means health and safety protocols and social distancing applied to every aspect of the Festival.

“The coronavirus pandemic has changed our world on so many levels,” said Festival Director Pat Schweiss. “We have spent many, many hours rethinking and reconfiguring how we operate the Mary D. Fisher Theatre on a daily basis and the annual Sedona International Film Festival as we navigate this uncharted territory. Our mission remains to provide a diverse lineup of entertaining and thoughtful films and a great overall experience, but we want a safe experience. Our focus is squarely on the health and safety of our patrons, volunteers, filmmakers and the City of Sedona.”

The 27th Festival will screen fewer films (between 80 and 100 compared with the usual 160-plus) in theaters arranged for social distancing and where masks will be required.  Films will be scheduled at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, Sedona Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and the two largest theaters at Harkins 6 to enable appropriate distancing.

Three screening committees are currently reviewing more than 1,000 film submissions.

Additional modifications to the Festival this year:

• Films will be scheduled for theater-based screenings as well as online.

• To eliminate waiting lines and congregating at the theaters, pass holders and individual ticket buyers will be able to choose their seats. Staggered start times will allow filmgoers to move directly to their seats when the doors open.

• Virtual Screening Passes will be offered to anyone who would prefer to watch films from the comfort of their homes.

• Masks will be required in all venues and staff and volunteers will have their temperature taken every day.

• Northern Arizona Healthcare professionals will be on site to monitor safety protocols and be available to answer questions.

• There will be no VIP Lounge this year or a Media Room for filmmaker interviews. Limited filmmaker interviews will be arranged and streamed via Zoom on Sedona International Film Festival social media platforms.

• Rather than parties and evening events every night, there will only be two this year, one at the beginning and the second at the end of the Festival and only for pass holders and filmmakers. The number of attendees will be limited during specific time blocks on each evening.

• A scaled down Festival-ending awards brunch will be live streamed “so that we can still honor the filmmakers for their work,” Schweiss said.

• A contingency plan is in place to transition to full a 100-percent digital Festival “should the progress of the pandemic require that action,” he said.

Schweiss said that filmmaker workshops will be offered both on-site, with attendance limited and social distancing in place, and online.  A full schedule of workshops will be available in February.

He added that “we still plan to honor specific filmmakers and actors with Lifetime Achievement Awards, but we’re still determining how we will present those awards and to whom.”

“We are moving with an abundance of caution and an equal abundance of excitement because we are seeing some incredible films coming our way,” Schweiss said.

Gold Passes offering unlimited films for live viewing and Virtual Screening Passes will go on sale in December with Early Bird Discounts. Single tickets go on sale Feb. 1. There will be no 10-and-20 ticket packages this year “because, given the reduced seat capacity in each theater, we can’t guarantee seats will be available if the theaters reach capacity.”

The complete lineup of films will be available early in 2021.

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