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About Us

JOY, HOPE AND OPTIMISM ON A CHANGED PLANET

A BIT ABOUT OUR HISTORY

The Gorge Impact Film Festival is the result of three creative people pondering the same thing, bumping into each other at the right time. Unbeknownst to each other Alan, Leith and Sean had the idea of launching a film festival in The Gorge.

 

Alan, a dedicated-alternative-energy-or-bust-hello-people kinda guy, found himself back in Hood River after a couple of decades away and wanting to connect with community; Leith, can’t-say-no-to-juicy-creative-collaboration was resisting the whole retirement thing, and Sean, socially-conscious-swamped-with-fast-growing-film-production-company-parenting-young-kids-and-building-a-house, just couldn’t say no to a longtime dream to host a stellar film festival in The Gorge.

 

Somehow, they ended up around a table over coffee. They agreed The Gorge was ready for a premiere film festival, but one with a mission. That is, to start the conversation around what may be the most important question of our time: How does humanity go forward with joy, hope and optimism on a changed planet? The Gorge Impact Film Festival was formed in the fall of 2022 and a year later, it is ready to fledge with hopes of growing an annual multi-day, multi-venue cultural event supported by local communities and representative of our globally shared stories.

 

MISSION

Our mission at the Gorge Impact Film Festival is to explore the question of how humanity moves forward with joy, hope, and optimism on a changed planet. Through thought-provoking films, discussions, and creative engagement, we seek to inspire diverse communities. We embrace underrepresented voices and promote local and regional artists. And by fostering arts-based tourism, we contribute to cultural enrichment and economic growth in the Columbia Gorge area.

 

VISION

The Gorge region, known for its natural beauty and hospitality, is ready to host an annual premiere film festival that draws filmmakers and audiences from our communities and worldwide. In a world grappling with political, social, and environmental challenges, our festival aims to ignite transformative conversations through the art of impact focused film.

How indeed does humanity go forward with joy, hope and optimism on a changed planet? The goal of the Gorge Impact Film Festival is to explore this question.

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Photo Credit: Sean O’Connor / Story Gorge

Meet The Team

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Alan Hickenbottom

Co-founder and Business Director

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Alan's day job is the Principal/Owner of Latitude45 Associates, a Hood River-based consulting firm offering business development, project management and policy work in the renewable energy and clean tech space. This has long been a topic of interest for Alan - as both vocation and avocation as an entrepreneur and twenty-year veteran of the renewable energy industry.

 

He has also been involved with related non-profit, environmental and arts organizations for many years including the Young Peoples Theater Project and Slab Creek Music Festival as well as board stints with the Oregon Natural Desert Association, Clean Energy Works Oregon, Community Renewable Energy Association, Build Local Alliance and the NW Environmental Business Association. He is also a writer, printmaker and illustrator.

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Sean O'Connor
Co-founder and Creative Director

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Sean is an EMMY® award-winning visual storyteller, passionate media educator, and internationally published photographer.

 

Since 2001 his work has created socially responsible stories and educated hundreds of students in impact storytelling. 

His credits include his most recent internationally award-winning film screening in over 40 countries and translated into 14 languages. Contributions to broadcast television on PBS, as well as still photography publications with Smithsonian Magazine, The Wallstreet Journal, The Boston Globe, National Geographic Adventure, Outside Magazine, High Country News, and others. He has also juried films for The James Beard Foundation Media Awards and the PNW student EMMY® awards.

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Leith Gaines
Co-founder and Program Director

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Ms. Gaines has been an arts administrator and events producer in private and public sectors for over 25 years. She was the Executive Director of Columbia Center for the Arts from 2019- 2021, and before that spent 11 years as Director of Arts in Education of the Gorge.

 

Her experience spans from managing operations of non-profit arts organizations to producing live performances, weddings and large fundraisers. She has collaborated with private and public community leaders, artists, event technicians and service vendors. Her passion is collaborating on impactful arts and culture experiences.

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