00:15 Chris Ronan: Hello everybody. This is Inside Geocaching HQ. I am Chris Ronan, aka Rock Chalk, one of the lackey at Geocaching HQ in Seattle. Thank you for having a listen to our podcast. Today, I am chatting with Sven, who is our GIFF guru here at HQ. GIFF stands for Geocaching International Film Festival. You can see the 219 GIFF films at GIFF events, which are held around the world from November 7th through the 17th. So here we go with Sven to get the lowdown on GIFF.
01:01 CR: Sven. This is your first time on the HQ podcast, so you have to tell us about what you do here, what your day-to-day job is. We’re mostly talking about GIFF here today, but when you’re not doing GIFF, what else are you doing at HQ?
01:17 Sven: Well, first of all, thanks I having me Chris, excited to be here. In my day-to-day job, what I do is I support the community volunteers as part of the CBS team, and especially more on the technical side, in that I do quality assurance for the various admin pages that are available to volunteers behind the scenes to review caches, for example, and do the day-to-day tasks that they do to help the community.
01:47 CR: And this is just the latest thing that you’ve done. You’ve been at HQ for how long now?
01:51 Sven: It’s been almost two and a half years now. I started in the Visitor Center for a good while and I had the pleasure to welcome in visitors from across the world. Being German helps with all the German visitors that we get as well. So that was a great pleasure, it really gave me a good insight into the details of the game, and I think prepared me pretty well for when I ultimately moved behind the scenes and joined the team that I’m on today.
02:19 CR: So for people that have met you and are familiar with your background, what part of Germany are you from?
02:27 Sven: I’m from the Lower Saxony area. I’m from a tiny, tiny 1,000 soul village. The closest place near it that people will know will probably be Hanover, which also has two geo-tours in it. And yeah, it’s up north, at least I would consider it that. And people always joke that it’s as flat as a pancake and that you can see for miles and miles and miles.
02:53 CR: We have that in common then. Being from Kansas, people joke about that too, for me.
02:57 Sven: Yeah, being in the mountains now here is really odd sometimes.
03:01 CR: Well, I don’t know if it’s like this for you in Germany, from where you’re from in Germany, like people say, Kansas is flat as a pancake, and I always tell people, “Well, where I’m from, it’s on the very eastern part of the state and it’s right around, I don’t know, 600 to 1,000 feet elevation there. And then, the far western side, with the border of Colorado, it’s getting up towards 5,000 feet.” And I always say, “Could it really be flat as a pancake if it starts at 600 to 700 and then makes it up to almost 5,000 at the other end. Something doesn’t compute there.”
03:34 Sven: I think you could probably make the same argument for my area with the southern end of the state being near the Harz mountain region, which has the Brocken, which is one of the highest mountains in Germany other than outside the Alps of course. But then, yeah, as you get closer to the coast, the more flat it gets.
03:56 CR: And I can, for anybody, I can vouch for Sven knowing his geocaching in Germany, because he’s great about sending people like myself to good places to find caches, as I was there not too long ago, for a couple of events, and you definitely directed me to some good spots. So if people happen to meet you out in the wild, not just caches in Germany, but you also know a lot about caching around here, because you’ve gotten pretty hardcore into it over the last couple of years, wouldn’t you say?
04:25 Sven: Yeah, I started with a good 48 finds when I got hired at HQ. I had gotten into it because my then fiance, and now wife, was a geocacher and it gave us a thing to talk about when we were at long distance, kind of adventures on the weekend type stuff. And yeah, over the past two years or so I’ve had a good 2,400 finds to my record, and have really thoroughly enjoyed my travels and the trips to the mountains on the weekends and such.
05:00 CR: And so, what’s your favorite kind of caching to do?
05:03 Sven: Definitely caching in the mountains. The ideal cache for me will usually involve driving off-road for a little while to get to a trail head or to get out into the boonies and no cell reception land to really unplug for a little bit. And then potentially some hiking, get out there and then just have a nice big container in a nice view point at the end. That’s probably my favorite.
05:30 CR: So, work-wise, we gotta talk about work a little bit.
05:33 Sven: Right.
05:33 CR: Yeah, ugh, it’s terrible. But this is a good thing about work, GIFF, which is an event that you are very involved with. For people that don’t know what GIFF is, let’s give them an overview of it.
05:45 Sven: So, GIFF is the short form of the Geocaching International Film Festival, and it started a couple of years ago in the context of the block parties, when we asked the community to create and send in video submissions of capturing what they felt was the essence of geocaching on film, and a selection of these clips were then shown on the big screen at block party. One year, the weather was very liquid sunshine, as we like to call it in Seattle, and we got terribly rained out, and as a result of that, decided to open things up a little more and make the film reel that had been created for the block party at the time available to Geocaching events across the world. And it kinda took off from there, we’ve now headed as a world-wide event series and GIFF season, you could say, for a number of years and it’s been great fun and a great success.
06:53 CR: So what is the process like, let’s say GIFF last year ended, how does the circle start again for this year’s GIFF? Yeah, just from start to finish, what’s the first step?
07:08 Sven: So GIFF, the last announcement essentially would have gone out towards the end of November last year announcing the Signal award winner. So the overall winner of a reviewer voting and also public winner for the best film. So pretty much around that time, we would already start our planning for the next year, so the year that we’re in right now, just getting a burn-down ready so really a step-by-step schedule of when the certain milestones have to be completed, eventually we will start the planning process for the next year.
07:48 CR: And so a call goes out at some point, asking people to submit their films. And from what I gather some people are working on these things even before that call goes out, there are some folks that really put an awful lot of effort and resources from themselves to create these films for consideration for GIFF.
08:11 Sven: Yeah, absolutely, that couldn’t be more true, what you just said. In fact got an email just the other day of somebody asking questions about what could be in a film, what could not be in a film for the next production that they’re starting to work on. So people, especially with more extensive production efforts are really starting early. And one thing that is for sure is that over the cause of the years that we’ve done GIFF now, the average quality of the video submissions that we are receiving has increased to an impressive extent. At the end of the day, it’s still an amateur film festival but some of the clips that we’re getting are really, really raising the bar for everybody else for sure, which is both a blessing and a curse, right.
09:04 Sven: But yeah, so usually in the spring time, we’re gonna send out or we gonna update the GIFF website and we’re gonna open up a submission form for people to submit their film submissions for the year, the submission form usually closes some time mid-summer. And as soon as all submissions are in and then also as they continue to trickle in a panel of judges will review the submissions based on guideline compliance, like is there a cache that has depicted that maybe wouldn’t meet the guideline or is there any commercial concern with the video clip. Is it family friendly first and foremost, those kinds of things. And then this ultimately goes through an iteration of three or four different stages with the final stage being a movie night of sorts at HQ, where we all sit down and review the final, let’s say 25 submissions and then pick what usually ends up being like 16-18 finalist movies to make the final film reel.
10:21 CR: You mentioned a couple of things about what can or can’t be in one of these film submissions, talked about family-friendly and caches, wanna make sure the caches that are depicted are complying with the guidelines and things like that. Is there anything else that is really important to either include or not include when you’re considering putting one of these films together?
10:45 Sven: One big thing definitely is that you get permission for everything, just like you should get permission for your placing geocaches at a certain location, you should get permission to use audio in your clips, which is great in the day of free audio databases, you should get permission from the cache owners, if you’re showing caches that are not your own, because some people don’t like spoilers, believe it or not.
11:08 CR: I love them myself, but no, that’s okay.
11:12 Sven: Other than that there’s good documentation of what you would wanna do and what you would not wanna do on the GIFF website, which is geocachingfilmfestival.com. And if in doubt you can also always shoot us an email with more specific questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
11:30 CR: So when do the films start coming in for consideration?
11:35 Sven: Well, some people have it in the pipeline and essentially are just tapping their feed ready to go as soon as the form goes live, others will wait and are still busy cutting things and compiling files and getting their videos ready. And so this year, for example, we received a good quarter of the total submissions during the final week of the window. So for me, sitting on the other end, seeing them come in, that’s always both nerve wracking and exciting, ’cause you never really know what you’re gonna get until the very end.
12:10 CR: Right. So these films come in over the course of a few months, how many are we talking about?
12:17 Sven: This year we had roughly 60 submissions from I wanna say 23 different countries. So really international set of submissions, some countries of course being more predominant than others, we usually get a lot of submissions from the US. We get a lot of submissions from Germany. We have a couple established teams that submit stuff from Spain for example. But one thing that we were really delighted to see this year is that we received a lot of submissions also from Czechia and Slovenia and Slovakia, countries that hadn’t been as involved in GIFF in past years. So that was really great.
12:58 CR: And it is whittled down to how many for the final reel?
13:01 Sven: This year, it’s gonna be 16.
13:03 CR: So 16 films and now we’re getting ready for the events, and there are events all over the world. How many events right now for… Well, I guess this might change by the time that we air this podcast, but generally a rough range of how many events?
13:22 Sven: So, as we speak, we’ve just crossed the 400-proof GIFF events mark, and we’re expecting more to come in over the last couple of weeks until GIFF officially starts. Usually the form to submit your GIFF Event goes life sometime in August, so usually with three months to spare until GIFF officially starts. And how that would usually work is that you create an event listing, you make it all about GIFF, if you have some artwork and that you might already have, you can put it on there but it’s important that the focus of the event is on GIFF. You submit it for review, it gets published by your local reviewer. And then you submit it to HQ where event form for approval and then either me or one of my colleagues, ’cause luckily I have a lot of great support and people supporting me in the overall GIFF project. We’ll take a look at this submission, and if all looks well they will add it to the official list that is hosted on the HQ account, and shortly after you will receive an email from us with various creative assets that are in this year’s GIFF spirit to create art work for your event. Some people like to make even cakes that look like the GIFF norms for example or make a fun lock book or just make your cache page even more fun than it was before really.
14:52 CR: Yeah, we’ve seen some pretty remarkable events over the last few years, people that really looks like with anything else, people get creative with geocaches, they get creative with films and now they’ve found a way to get creative with these events. Some of the pictures we’ve seen from events and videos and stuff it’s really pretty amazing.
15:12 Sven: Absolutely, I’ve been involved with GIFF for a good three years now, the past two years I’ve been helping out as a supporting member essentially, and this is the first year that I’m leading the GIFF project. But last year for example, we even had a mega event that was the GIFF Event where they rented out a whole car cinema. And we’ve had, like I said, we’ve had cakes made, we’ve had whole fancy ball attire events where people are expected to wear a suit and tie and evening dresses. It’s really impressive to see how people are going above and beyond to make this as special as it can be and to honor both GIFF and also the film makers that make GIFF possible every year.
16:07 CR: And so when are the dates when the GIFF Film events will be happening?
16:12 Sven: So that’s another exciting thing about this year. So we’re gonna be hosting GIFF starting November 7th, but because in last years it was always only one weekend and we’ve had the community reach out and say, “Hey, if I can’t make it the first weekend, the window is too short.” We opened it up for a second weekend this year, so GIFF is gonna be closing on November 17th.
16:37 CR: So people will go and watch these films at these events, what happens next?
16:42 Sven: What happens next is there’s gonna be a public vote again this year, around the time that we GIFF events take place, slightly before and probably keep your eyes peeled for an announcement on the event cache pages, that will ask you to after watching the GIFF films, cast your public vote for what your favorite film was. And of course at the events a lot of voting happens also so a lot of events try to do their little internal votes and decide to reach out to the filmmakers who got the award at their local events and share the love. The events is really when all the work and all the effort that went into GIFF comes to fruition and comes together and people are having a good time.
17:35 CR: I wouldn’t ask you what your favorite film is either this year or from past years, but are there certain things for you just as a viewer that you find particularly enjoyable about the films that come through?
17:47 Sven: For me personally I like when people don’t take themselves too seriously, and there’s a couple of submissions again, this year, not to take away too much that really excel at that and that bring a great sense of humor to the game, and to certain components and experiences that we’ve all experienced while being out there caching and present them in a new way, let’s put it that way.
18:14 CR: Yeah, sometimes I’ll be watching these films and think, if I wasn’t a geocacher none of this would make any sense but it’s so cool that there’s something here for me and people like me, who we know about this world and to see it on the screen is such new thing.
18:30 Sven: Absolutely. I think the films being relatable is one of the things that makes GIFF so special, ’cause you get to share the experience of watching these clips with fellow geocachers, some of which you’ve been on adventures with together as well. And you’re seeing these moments and it just triggers all kinds of great memories both good and bad and moments where you’re like shaking your head of like, “Oh yeah, remember that one time when that happened to us.” Yeah, it really is a great thing.
19:05 CR: So if people wanna know more about GIFF or find a GIFF event, what do they do?
19:11 Sven: They should check out the public list section on the Geocaching HQ account, the GIFF 2019 event list will be available there. It’s also linked to on the GIFF website, so your geocatchinginternationalfestival.com. And it’s also linked to from various copy that is available on our blog, on our Facebook channels, on our Instagram, on our… What else do we have? Twitter, that’s right.
19:42 CR: So many places?
19:43 Sven: So many places, social media these days. So yeah, it’s gonna be available in the social media as well and people can access it there. I’m sure there’s gonna be one in your neck of the woods if not, maybe it’s your time to host one this year.
20:00 CR: So there you go, Sven has thrown down the GIFF gauntlet. If you would like to learn more about GIFF, visit geocachingfilmfestival.com. You cannot only learn about this year’s events but you can get links to GIFF Films dating back to 2013. It is quite a rabbit hole, you can spend a lot of time on that website if you’re not careful, believe me. If you have an idea for the HQ podcast, send us an email to podcast at geocaching.com. And please rate and review us on iTunes, we would love that. Until next time from all of us at Geocaching HQ, happy caching.