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By Patty Fantasia
Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
 
The International Film Festival Summit Returns
 
The International Film Festival Summit (IFFS) returned to Las Vegas from December 5th through 7th at Planet Hollywood for its 7th annual conference.   The IFFS is the only event held for film festival industry professionals and features panels, workshops, keynote speakers and networking sessions aimed at discussing and evaluating ideas and technologies available in the field.  One of the highlights this year was the announcement of the winners for the Audience Choice Awards.  The Edmonton International Film Festival was named the Image Award Winner with Indie Memphis coming in as Runner Up, while the Livre d’Or Winner was the Macon Film Festival with the Edmonton International Film Festival coming in as Runner Up.

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Bart Weiss, Erik Jambor, Chris Holland, Stacey Simmons & Kevin Hartz
Following registration on Day 1 members of the Austin Film Festival staff discussed the operation of their eight day Festival and Conference in a presentation called “Anatomy of a Festival: Austin Film Festival”.  This was followed by Keynote Speaker Paul Cohen talking about “Festival Partnerships: Growing the next Generation of Filmmakers”, then came Conference Break-Out Sessions and the Opening Cocktail Reception.  The final item on the agenda was Dinner with Strangers, a unique program allowing attendees a unique opportunity to meet, dine and network with each other.

On Monday the first Panel was “Festivals Impact on Social Change and Culture moderated by Sydney Levine, Founder of Film Finders and SydneysBuzz on IndieWire, who was joined by Ira Deutchman, CEO, Emerging Pictures, Executive Director of the Traverse City Film Festival Deb Lake, The Founder of the Mill Valley International Film Festival Mark Fishkin and Robin Brook, CEO of The Creative Coalition.   Next up, the CEO of NOMOSA, a Las Vegas company developing a unique ecommerce and networking system for independent artists, spoke about “Festivals and Distribution: The Power of Collaboration”, then after the morning break came the Keynote Presentation “Producers and Studios: The Emerging Importance of Festivals” from noted Producer, Writer and Director Gilbert Adler  (”Superman Returns” and “Valkyrie”). In the Afternoon Breakout Sessions Gabe Wardell from the Atlanta Film Forum joined Kodak Brands Manager Janet Tiller for a Sponsorship Roundtable on the Progressive Track, while a Workshop on “Sustainable Sponsorship” was held on the Education Track and a Panel Discussion “Maintaining Innovation in Your Program” took place in the Thought Leadership Track.  Another round of Tracks continued in the afternoon with a Hybrid Session called “Conceptualizing Film Festival Operation”, and Panels “Alternative Festival Models & Formats” and “New Media and Technology Programs at Your Festival.

The final item on the day’s agenda was the Interactive Session “Action Network Groups” which were divided as follows: “Genre Programming” with SXSW Programmer Jarod Neece, “Which Comes First: The Ticket or the Pass?” led by Eric Jambor, the Executive Director of Indie Memphis; “Film Fest Cost Migration” chaired by the Managing Director of the Lone Star International Film Festival John Storm; The Boston Underground Film Festival’s Director Anna Feder talking about “Guerrilla Marketing: Big Ideas on a Small Budget”; Cevin Cathell, Director of Programming for the Sonoma International Film Festival discussing “Bringing Big Films to Smaller Fests”; CEO of Emerging Pictures, Ira Deutchman leading “Year-round Programming”; “I’m Just the Party Girl…An Executive Director’s Job with Nashville Film Festival Executive Director Sallie Mayne; Executive Director of the DC Film Alliance Jon Gann chairing “Judge, Jury, & Process”; “Legal Issues Facing Film Festivals” with Laurie B. Kirby, Esq, who is a Consultant at LA Eye For Talent; Executive Director of the RiverRun International Film Festival leading “Government Funding: National & Local”, the Co-Founder of the Atlanta Film Forum Paula Martinez chairing “Strategic Leadership” and the Denver Film Society’s Director of Membership & Volunteers Eileen O’Brien talking about “Understanding the Importance of Volunteers & Membership”.

On the final day of the Summit a Panel Session “Creating a Festival Identity” was scheduled in the morning followed by “Filmanthropy at your Festival” with documentary filmmaker James Chippendale, who is also Co-Founder of the Hope, Strength, Love Foundation.  The Keynote Presentation “An Independent Distributor in the Land of Festivals” with Speaker Robert Baruc, President of Screen Media Films followed before the Summit’s final Track Sessions were held in the afternoon.  Once again attendees enjoyed the educational and networking opportunities the Summit provided, though it was suggested that next year more content related to social media and technology should be included.  On February 8th and 9th, 2011 the European version of the conference will be taking place in Berlin.
 
 
The Nevada Film Festival Promotes New Talent from Many Places
The Nevada Film Festival kicked off its event with an Opening Night Party and Filmmaker Reception inside J.C. Wooloughan’s Irish Pub at the Rampart Casino at the Resort in Summerlin on December 3rd. While enjoying chicken wings, potato skins and other appetizers, the award winners, friends and family members, who came to Las Vegas from as far away as Canada and Minnesota had the chance to network and get to know each other.

The next morning on December 4th screenings of features such as “The Rise and Fall of Their American Dream”, “Modern Day Slaves”, “The Pharmacist”, and “Streetball”, along with the documentary “Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story” and several shorts were screened inside the Marquis Ballroom before a Closing Night Awards Ceremony was held.

The Festival also included a Screenplay Competition and the Grand Prize Winners for 2010 were in 1st place Poetease, 2nd place Chances and in 3rd place I Run to Win. Despite the fact there was no way to “see” their submissions several screenplay writers were on hand for the festivities including top prize winner Jeffrey Morin. Poetease is described as the story of two people who live at opposite ends of society and spend their lives in darkness until during a 36 hour period together they share passion and intimacy that transforms them.

Morin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, studied theatre and drama before moving to Milwaukee and starting a family several years ago. “I was planning just to go to NY and do Broadway, but then I got married and it kind of turned me around a little bit, so I started a theatre company called East Hollywood Productions,” Jeffrey shared. His concept was to do original theatre against a video backdrop they’d film and then show during the productions. Working with plays encouraged him to write his first screenplay around 1990, which he submitted to the Nicholl Fellowships before letting it go to focus on raising two children now 26 and 22. With both his son and daughter grown, Jeffrey decided it was time to try his hand at writing again.

Morin began working on Poetease in August admitting he prefers writing dark, character driven stories. Originally the characters were supposed to be Alex and Thea, but Jeffrey decided the script might be more intriguing if he turned it into a gay piece, so Thea became Theo, an abused runaway from Faith Homes who had been living on the streets for a year and supporting himself as a prostitute. The other character Alex is a young wealthy poet and sex addict and their brief encounter changes both their lives drastically. “It’s intimate, more erotic. It’s personal. Two people trying to discover more about each other and it turns into more of an affair,” Jeffrey explained. Aside from winning the award at the Nevada Film Festival, Poetease has also been accepted into the Diamond Category at the California Film Awards.


Following the screening of the bilingual production “The Pharmacist”, Director Chester Sit and lead actor Corey Loranger were also on hand to discuss their film, which is about a narcoleptic named Spencer who decides after a failed suicide attempt to leave the safe world he created 10 years earlier following a tragedy. This turn of events and desire to stop “sleeping through his life” leads Spencer to unforeseen circumstances and scary choices.

Chester related that he got the idea for the movie after driving with a buddy, who was talking about how difficult it was to stay awake doing his boring job as a pharmacist to a friend and former drug dealer’s wedding. Once the script was completed by Indy Randhawa and Chris Craddock and financing received from Telefilm Canada, a government agency that invests in culturally relevant projects, casting was started.

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Sit wanted bilingual actors from the city of Edmonton where the movie was filmed and Corey won the role. Playing Spencer is the actor’s first leading part and he was thrilled by the opportunity. Aside from being bilingual, Chester also believed that Corey was the right choice because of his boyish good looks and ability to make people like him in spite of the bad things his character does. The shoot took 19 days and was filmed in the middle of winter, which is dark and cold in Edmonton. “All the cast worked so hard,” Sit commented. Post production took a while too, since the crew worked at low rates and had to take breaks when “real” work offers came along. This was Chester’s first feature and aside from being an official selection in this festival, “The Pharmacist” won the People’s Choice Award at the 2010 Edmonton International Film Festival, which also scored Special Jury Prize Rising Star Awards for Corey and co-star actress Anna-Maria LeMaistre. The Nevada Film Festival is already accepting submissions for next year’s event, which will be held on December 2nd and 3rd, 2011.

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