Reflection: Final Thoughts

As I attended yet another film festival last weekend (Film Fest Petaluma), I kept in mind several questions: What are the main functions of a film festival? Why do people attend? What are…

As I attended yet another film festival last weekend (Film Fest Petaluma), I kept in mind several questions:

  • What are the main functions of a film festival?
  • Why do people attend? What are their expectations/experiences?
  • What do film festivals contribute to the community? To society in general?

In the beginning of my research, I knew very little about film festivals, although I fancy myself a student of film. I started out researching a single festival, the Silver Scream Film & Comic Festival, which debuted this year at the Roxy 14 Theater in my hometown.  My research on this led me to want to compare it to other film festivals in the area. I soon found several active festivals, many which specialized in certain cinematic fare and/or targeted key audiences. I settled on two others to add to my list: the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival and the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Each of these events boasted their own distinctive mission statements, style and appeal. The one thing they all had in common was a passion for both storytelling and the storyteller.  Each festival wanted to support, honor and celebrate those who use the medium of film/video to educate and entertain.  Whatever reason the filmmakers had for making their film, these festivals gave them the chance to expose their visions to an audience. And all of them depended on the support of the local community to make it happen. They were often run by dedicated volunteers, some who worked year-round to make sure the festivals would return every spring to a devoted audience. And there apparently is a huge source of creative talent out there willing to do what it takes to obtain a screening at one of these festival, no matter how small or specialized they might be. Filmmakers from all over the world are participating in these local events, bringing their worldly visions home to us in our own theaters.

And this is what I love about our film festivals. I loved going to each and every one of them. I loved the experience of sitting with hundreds of other spectators engaged in the act of observation. I loved feeling them react around me, and being a part of the buzz in between showings.  Film is magic to me, and film festivals, because of their nature, are all the more magical not only because of the devotion of its creators and faciliators but also because of its audience. It’s a collective experience that reveals many things about who we are, and it shows us where we’re at as a society.

Let me explain briefly.  A controversial film was screened at SIFF this year that was shown to a class at SRJC.  It was about necrophilia. A young man digs up a dead woman and has sex with her one last time. The response from  audience members was mixed, ranging from shock to disgust to outrage to indifference. It sparked lively debates between students, especially between men and women. Films of this sort visually expose us to concepts and ideas we normally wouldn’t experience in our lifetimes, often triggering surprising discoveries about ourselves in how we react, physically and emotionally, to what we see and experience on the screen.

In short, the cinematic experience has the ability to transform audiences in unexpected ways.  Film makes statements we can’t easily erase from memory. Film festivals offer a collective experience that can bind us together by moving us emotionally, by compelling its audience to care.

So, how does this tie in with everything we’ve learned about festivals this semester? I feel that film festivals are not the result of a decaying tradition but instead a promise of a dynamic future. They cleverly use cinematic nostalgia to its advantage, in a way that propels us into the present and helps us to envision a better future. They also help to identify and break down cultural limitations by fostering an ever-increasing freedom of expression that perpetually keeps alive the creative spirit.

And that’s my experience. Thank you for being a part of it.

Week 10: Progress …?

So I sent my interview questions to the people who agreed to do interviews and am now just waiting for them to send them back. I got one back yesterday from this lovely…

So I sent my interview questions to the people who agreed to do interviews and am now just waiting for them to send them back. I got one back yesterday from this lovely lady who works in the Sonoma County Film department and she was gracious enough to answer questions about local festivals as well as the process for obtaining permits/permission to film in the area and stage events.  Hopefully I’ll get at least two more within the next week or so …!

I also got my press credentials for the Sonoma International Film Festival, and will be attending this Saturday. Pretty excited about that! I’ll get to see a large-scale film festival event complete with after parties and special events such as panels and signings. I haven’t been to this festival so it will be a treat.

My website is all set up and is simply awaiting content. I’ll be tackling my timelines probably next week.

Not much else to report. I’ve been keeping up with my readings and am enjoying the music festival articles.  Some notes I’ve taken (mostly for my own reference):

Branding, Sponsorship and Music Festivals:

  • sponsorship as a vital income stream
  • secure headliner acts to ensure ticket sales
  • loss of sponsorship is one reason why many festivals fail
  • countercultural carnivalesque
  • utopian possibilities, freedom from social norms and expectations, to play, transform, or create new norms.
  • commercialization and sponsorship are negatively linked to other trends such as the increasing regulation, standardization and domestication
  • majority of festivals make use of sponsorship opportunities in order to provide financial support, additional attractions, and assistance in marketing, promo and media coverage.
  • grants, donations, private organizations/individuals,
  • gaining access to certain target markets
  • association of “good times’
  • captive festival audience – making a profit
  • leveraging – badging – logo placement
  • alcohol sponsorships
  • playful, imaginative and memorable multi-sensory experiences associated with the sponsor
  • partners vs sponsorships
  • ideological or ethical decisions about which sponsors to work with
  • ex: sustainability
  • the right “fit”
  • avoidance – without sponsorship support
  • music festivals as consumer commodities and spectacles vs countercultural carnivalesque
  • not real but treated as real (hyperreal)
  • “shallow and manipulative forms of experience that leave little room for truly participatory activity.
  • activities and settings staged for the benefit of the sponsors
  • passive vs active festival-goers
  • financial pressures in promoting festivals
  • brand acceptance/avoidance
  • “something for everyone”

Blues Festivals:

  • House of Blues: study in contrast and irony
  • mostly white clientele
  • “look” joints, bbq shacks
  • decentralized nature of blues tourism
  • territoriality
  • cultural tourism – Blues festivals serve as one means to promote the blues as part of Mississippi’s cultural heritage.
  • “sanitize and repackage” the community in order to attract tourists to the area
  • disappearance of “local color’
  • blues festivals: homecoming/honoring musicians, preservation of blues culture, and integration/racial harmony
  • “vanishing blues culture”
  • abandonment of earlier styles
  • a “temporary integrated” community
  • Black Codes
  • blues as a response to oppressive and violent environments
  • Blues festivals funded by corporate sponsors, local businesses, individual contributors
  • providing financial assistance to elderly, often destitute blues musicians
  • Most audience members still arrive as a member of their respective racially segregated group. While whites and blacks may spark up conversations or even dance together, audience members are still closely connected to their primary group.
  • In many ways, racial integration at blues festivals is limited to spectators simply occupying the same physical space

And that’s my blog for the week! :)