Young Women Founded Cat Fly Film Fest to Focus on Emerging Southeast Creators

Apr 3, 2018


A couple years ago, three Asheville women in their mid-20s bonded as production assistants on a film made in Atlanta. When the filmmakers decided to tour their film around the country, the women here had an inspiration of their own.

“So I just thought to myself, we should have them in Asheville. We should organize a screening and we should show some of our films, too, and how about other cool people from the area?” said Brittany Jackson. “Why not just make it a weekend and call it a film festival.”

Cat Fly Film Fest founders (from left) Cat Wityk, Madeleine Richardson and Brittany Jackson.
Credit Courtesy of Brittany Jackson

That’s how Jackson describes the birth of the Cat Fly Film Festival, which Jackson co-founded with Cat Wityk and Madeleine Richardson. The festival debuted last spring to sold-out houses, focusing exclusively on local filmmakers producing short works.

That’s still the focus for the second annual festival. Cat Fly films screen April 6 at the Masonic Temple, April 7 at the Mothlight and April 8 at the Grail Moviehouse.

But a few things have changed--or more accurately, grown. There are now more films, larger venues and more seats to accommodate the interest that surprised the festival’s founders last year.

“I remember the very last night of the festival, holding Cat at the end and being like ‘Thank you everybody for coming,’ and I’m just like crying and so filled with emotion and exhaustion and exhilaration,” Jackson recalled. “I definitely remember feeling, I’m definitely going to remember this the rest of my life, like this is one of my defining moments.

The festival’s name comes from a spin on the Sundance Film Festival -- something about Jackson’s cat loving the sun, and “fly” as a play on “dance.” It all seemed a whim without structure, until a structure became necessary.

The women found venues, attracted 52 film submissions and sold out 250 seats across three nights and three venues.

“Cat Fly truly came about because we were just three young filmmakers, female or not, who are just trying to make it,” Wityk said. “And we realized there really isn’t a platform for young, up-and-coming filmmakers to go with their hard work. If only something like this existed, and we said ‘Let’s stop dreaming and make it happen.’”

Like last year, music videos dominate the lineup for the upcoming festival, but there are also arty abstract films, documentaries, dark comedies. All are from filmmakers of the southeast.

Kira Bursky is just 21 years old and a rising filmmaker from Asheville who has already had her work screened at festivals coast to coast. She collaborated on an art video screening the opening night of Cat Fly and produced two music videos showing the second night.

“Every festival has its own soul and its own vibe,” Bursky said. “The women behind this festival, you can feel a sense of their presence and what they believe in within the festival. They’re just doing a great job of tapping into the community and really showcasing the work and getting an audience out there.”

While women run the festival, there isn’t a particular women’s angle here. Instead, the directors are more motivated to inspire filmmakers to stay in Asheville, rather than flee to larger cities, and break up the filmmaking cliques that can often seal off a smaller city from newer voices.

“Part of our mission with Cat Fly is to hopefully break those circles up a little bit,” Wityk said. “Not to in the sense of breaking up friendships, but in creating new friendships, more variety of friendships, bringing all these social circles together.

“I think the dream is just to have work here and help our local community,” Jackson said. “There are so many filmmakers here and so many beautiful locales, hopefully at the end of the day, I don’t have to choose whether to split my time between Atlanta and here.