History & Mission
Our Mission: Celebrate the diversity of human experience through the art of independent film by enriching, educating and inspiring all audiences.
Our Vision: To cultivate the foremost festival experience, recognized throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond, for bringing audiences and filmmakers together through a shared appreciation of the power of independent film.
Our Values: Excellence, Inspiration, Sustainability, Community, Integrity, Inclusion
The non-profit Southern Oregon Film Society was founded in 2001 and produces the nationally acclaimed Ashland Independent Film Festival (AIFF), as well as educational and cultural programs for more than 10,000 patrons annually.
SOFS was founded by Steve Wood (Executive Director), D.W. Wood (Creative Director) and Pokii Roberts (Founding Board Member), with support from John C. Schweiger, Coming Attractions Theatres (Founding Advisor and Benefactor). They established what are now AIFF traditions including free forums and screenings, strong ties with Southern Oregon University, gallery exhibits, and a focus on independent film at our home base, the beautiful art-deco Varsity Theatre.
Over 7000 film lovers gather at the Varsity, the Historic Ashland Armory, and other venues to watch over 100 documentary, feature, and short films in five days. Filmmakers from around the world engage with audiences after each screening and at festival events such as Opening Night Bash, the AfterLounge, and Awards Celebration, which include local wine, beer, and gourmet food. Special guests have included Chris Cooper, Lynn Shelton, James Ivory, Ty Burrell, Albert Maysles, Barbara Kopple, Helen Hunt, and Bruce Campbell. The festival typically features its Oregon connections with filmmakers such as Klamath Falls native James Ivory and Jacksonville resident Bruce Campbell ("My Name is Bruce," 2007).
The festival offers several general and audience awards for documentary and narrative features and shorts, plus special awards to illustrious honorees such as the Rogue and Pride Awards.
The AIFF's year-round programming includes Varsity World Film Week in the fall and Best of the Fests, featuring highlights from the recent AIFF and other festival hits that screen in Ashland, Medford, Eugene, and other Oregon cities. LAUNCH, the AIFF's free regional student film competition, involves coordinating with more than 150 schools in the six counties of southern Oregon and the Siskiyou region of California.
AIFF LEARN encompasses an array of year-round educational programs including Teen Press, OLLI Goes to AIFF, School Group Visits, Festival In the Schools, TalkBacks, LAUNCH, and Family Day at ScienceWorks.
The AIFF has grown from an all-volunteer organization to one with eight year-round and six seasonal staff, governed by an 8-member board and supported by a 14-member Honorary Board. Each year, more than 370 community members donate 10,000 volunteer hours to complement the efforts of the dedicated staff.