IFFF builds a peaceful global family through the discovery and sharing of quality stories by emerging artists and production companies.
Founded in 1993 as a “grassroots” non-profit organization by Chris Shoemaker, Suzanne Shoemaker and Patte Dee McKee (still active directors), IFFF formed to exhibit and advocate for the production of family films – a driving purpose that continues today.
Originally established in the City of Santa Clarita, a suburb of north Los Angeles County that is rich with film history and lore dating back to the silent picture era, Santa Clarita continues to host the filming of a large number of feature films, popular television series and many commercials and industrial films. The first year’s fest unspooled in a “discount theater” in downtown Newhall (now part of Santa Clarita) where tickets generally sold for $1.00 a screening. With no track record, marketing effort or established reputation to its name, the IFFF’s organizers rented a considerable number of films to round out its first year’s film programming.
Another challenge met IFFF’s founders – the Northridge earthquake struck the Southern California region on January 17, 1994 and felled the major freeways and connector roads from Los Angeles to the Santa Clarita Valley. With the opening day of the inaugural fest set for March 18th 1994, prevailing wisdom suggested the festival should be postponed until the following year. In the tradition of “the show must go on” and with all events planned and films programmed, the show did indeed go on.
The award ceremony was held at the Hilton Garden Inn (a last minute change since the originally planned venue, a sound stage at Santa Clarita Studios, became flooded from the previous night’s rain due to the earthquake’s damage). The festival honored an attending Mr. Isadore “Friz” Freleng, the father of Warner Bros. animation, as its first recipient for a Lifetime Achievement of Excellence in animation (the “Friz Award” still bears his name) with Mr. Tom Patton and Mr. Dean Jones in attendance. Continuing with the festival in the face of adversity, a most graceful and distinguished event was presented to launch this proud organization.
From its Newhall screening beginnings, IFFF moved its festival venue across town to the newly built Edwards Cinemas at the Valencia Town Center. From this location, as well as a single year presenting at the Edwards Cinemas-Canyon Country venue, the IFFF presented its first 11 years in the Santa Clarita Valley before relocating in 2006 to the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, CA.
Now in its seventh year at Raleigh (the original United Artists Studio founded by independent artists Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith), the studio serves as a perfect home for the IFFF with three screening theaters, a sit-down restaurant and breakout spaces for seminars, panels, screenplay readings and networking.
IFFF’s target audience attracts filmmakers, writers, producers, agents, distributors, financers, social media experts, families and youth. To further define the family film genre and its own rating system for festival screenings, IFFF has introduced its festival rating system as follows: GA – General Audience or appropriate for all family members, CH – Children 13 and under with suggested parental guidance, and MA – films for a mature audience ages 13 and older. This system breaks the preconception that “family films” mean “shallow, fluffy or boring” films. IFFF strives to deliver stories and films that are engaging and appropriate for all members of the family with themes that help define and challenge the definition of family.