Anthem Film Festival Partners with Salem Media for a Virtual Series

Deserted Las Vegas Strip, May 8. Photo courtesy of Marc Beauchamp.

Humans are resilient, adaptive and resourceful. When an obstacle is placed in our way, we remove it or circumvent it. When we lose something, we devise a substitute. When a door closes, we begin looking for a new opening.

We’ve seen examples of this innovation and resilience throughout the pandemic lockdown. Manufacturers adapted their factories to provide goods with heightened demand. Stores and restaurants installed plexiglass shields, established senior hours, and moved their services out to the sidewalk. Internet and streaming services boosted their bandwidth and expanded their volume.

We at FreedomFest have also been resilient, adaptive and resourceful as we wrangle with ever-changing regulations, edicts, mandates, requirements and restrictions coming from local, state and federal authorities. Despite being closed down by government edict, we brought you the Emergency Meeting on July 13 as originally planned, but in a slightly different format—you watched it virtually from the convenience of your own tv or computer. It was so successful that we are preparing several more mini-conferences throughout the year leading up to FreedomFest 2021—a conference you will not want to miss!

We are determined to stand up for our freedoms and fight back against the rampant authoritarianism that has ballooned in our country and around the world since March.

When Gov Sisolak (D-NV) effectively shut us down just ten days before the festival was to start, by outlawing gatherings of over 49 people (despite having hundreds of people gathering near each other in the casinos just outside the conference area and hundreds more protesting in the streets outside) we were outraged.

We felt a deep regret for our speakers and sponsors who had prepared speeches and presentations, as well as for our attendees who had made travel arrangements and craved the interaction with other attendees at the festival. We feel great concern about the Twin Freedoms of assembly and speech as the lockdowns continue into their sixth month with no end in sight. Human lives and livelihoods are being irreparably damaged, at levels that far exceed the loss of life from the disease. Our mini-conferences online will continue to address these issues while providing expert advice on how to navigate this perilous edicts.

Anthem Adapts

When we were shut down, our greatest disappointment was for our filmmakers– the actors, directors, musicians, editors, producers, set designers, scriptwriters, costumers, and everyone else who contributes to the making of a film.

Festival films are different from those we used to see at the local Cineplex or streaming on Netflix. They’re brand new, and not yet in theaters. Attending a festival gives viewers the opportunity to see next year’s movies now, often with the directors introducing the film and answering questions afterward. And it gives the filmmakers the gravitas of having been selected and even awarded a prize. It helps them win funding for their next film and gives them the confidence and energy to keep producing.

Closing the 2020 festival season has been as devastating to filmmakers as cancelling the Olympics has been to athletes and shuttering the live theaters and concert halls has been to entertainers. We ache for the artists in every field who are hurting from this massive shutdown.

But humans are resilient, adaptive and resourceful. We don’t take “No” for an answer if we can create a “Yes.”

For Anthem, that “Yes” came in the form of a phone call from David Evans, President of Salem Media, suggesting that we partner together in presenting Anthem online this year. There ensued a flurry of preparations as we adapted some more. And we’re happy to announce that, beginning next week, viewers can subscribe to the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival on the SalemNow platform!

David Evans is another example of resilience, adaptivity and resourcefulness. He owns over 100 radio stations across America. His radio hosts include Larry Elder, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and many other names familiar to FreedomFest attendees. Radio listenership is up during the pandemic, but advertising is down, as businesses that usually advertise on radio have responded to falling or nonexistent demand for their products and events. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are staying home – and the resilient and resourceful Evans saw an opportunity to expand his business by adapting to new demand for digital media–movies, that is. He demonstrates the self-balancing power of the marketplace from which all of us can benefit.

The Anthem Libertarian Film Festival is going forward, with all but two of our original films intact. Those two films had to withdraw because of previous distribution commitments, and we’ve replaced them with two dynamite substitutions, one brand new (Man in the Arena, a bio-doc about Roger Ailes) and the other a timely, award-winning reprise from our 2018 season (Sweden: Lessons for America?). You can see them all for one low subscription price.

We can’t bring you into the darkened theater to enter the worlds our filmmakers have created, but we can bring the films — and the directors– into your darkened entertainment room where you can watch the films at your leisure, as many times as you want during the run of the festival, August 26- September 30.

Filmmakers Adam Guillette, Sean Malone, Scott McRae, Lana Link and Helen Straight join a post-screening panel.

Our 30 films are an eclectic lot. Some are lighthearted and fun, some are dramatic, and some are downright scary. All of them cover important issues that will make a difference in today’s world. Some are about government intrusion, of course–it’s a libertarian film festival, after all! But many are about human relationships, and are made more poignant and timely because of the pandemic lockdowns. Our films reveal victories in education, fights against regulation, corruption in politics, virtue shaming in journalism, new historical and political perspectives, a little romance here and there, and the white horse of innovation and entrepreneurship that often rides in to save the day. Each celebrates individuality, choice and accountability.

Film festivals are more than movie venues. They bring together movie lovers and movie makers, with intros and post-screening Q&A from the directors themselves. Through the magic of zoom and the Internet, we are creating the ambience and variety of a film festival, within the convenience and safety of your own home. For some, it’s even better than a live festival — no travel expenses, and you can bring your own popcorn!

Your subscription to the Anthem Virtual Film Festival will include all of this:

  • Unlimited access to all 30 short and feature-length films during the run of the festival
  • Meet the Directors: Personal videos of the directors talking about their careers and background in filmmaking.
  • Introductions to the films: Each director will welcome you to the viewing and say a few words about what you are about to see.
  • Post-screening interviews with the directors: Anthem producer JoAnn Skousen talks with the directors about their films and asks the questions you would have asked.
  • Rate the movies: Your vote will help determine who wins the coveted Audience Choice Award.
  • Awards Ceremony: We’re dressing up in our fancy clothes for the virtual awards ceremony in late September, where you’ll get to see the directors’ excited faces and watch their acceptance speeches.

For ten years Anthem has been presented live at FreedomFest, and for ten years our viewers’ biggest challenge has been how to choose between watching a film or attending a breakout session. I’m often asked, “Why don’t you make the films available online?” We can’t do that every year, because of the sensitive and unusual nature of festival films. But for 2020, the films are yours, in the convenience of your own home. We hope you will join us!

Jo Ann Skousen is the founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival, now in its tenth year. She is also co-producer of its parent conference, FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” She teaches literature and composition at Chapman University and Sing Sing Correctional Facility.