BRING ON THE GLITTER, BRING ON THE GLAM!
By Diana Colson
Break out the red carpet, the champagne, and the slinky dresses—the Sarasota Film Festival is back in town! With over 45,000 attendees expected, SFF ranks among the largest festivals in the southeastern United States. It not only supports and encourages filmmakers, it provides them with educated and eager audiences.
Of the SFF, Variety has this to say: “Regarded by many as the acme of a regional American film fest, Sarasota possesses virtues that run both sides of the podium. On the one hand, a team of informed, passionate programmers; on the other, and intensely loyal, slightly older-skewing audience who turn out in numbers . . . Visitors praise the sense of community the fest fosters, with a high number of filmmakers flown in.”
The festival runs from April 4th to 14th, with most films being shown at Regal Hollywood 20. Most individual tickets are $12.50, with packages providing a better buy.
Now in its 15th year, the 2013 SFF will screen more than 200 films, including features, documentaries, shorts and films designed especially for kids. The SFF hosts a Narrative Feature Competition for international and domestic narrative films. It also hosts an Independent Vision Competition designed especially for low-budget American films and emerging US artists. Last but not least, its Documentary Feature Competition is considered by many to be the best documentary showcase in the Southeast. Winners in each competition category receive generous post-production packages as prizes, making it a destination event for emerging filmmakers.
To be considered for programming, filmmakers must have sent in a DVD of their complete film (no trailers or rough edits for selection purposes.) The film must not have been commercially screened in the US or available for video or internet distribution prior to April 3, 2013. The film must have completed production within the last year, and must be in its original language with English subtitles where applicable.
Entries were required to arrive at the SFF office in Sarasota not later than January 13 of 2013. DVD’s had to be accompanied by entry forms as well as fees which vary from $25 for student films to $60 for features.
Hundreds of films were submitted for consideration, and over 200 were selected, with entrants being notified prior to March 15, 2013.
The Opening Night Film at the Van Wezel auditorium is “Blackfish,” a documentary about the history of killer whales in captivity. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite will be in attendance. The showing will be preceded by the FSU College of Medicine Scholarship Reception, and followed by an after-party where revelers are expected to dance the night away.
“The Spectacular Now” is the Narrative Centerpiece. It is a modern portrait of the power of young love, and is directed by James Ponsoldt, who will be in attendance.
The Documentary Centerpiece is “Running From Crazy”, an inspirational portrait of Mariel Hemingway and her family’s battles with depression and mental illness. Mariel will be here to receive the festival’s third annual Impact Award, honoring women in the film industry for their off screen impact. She is being honored for her advocacy on the issue of suicide prevention, an award co-presented by the Gulf Coast Chapter of U.N. Women.
This U.N. group also supports a sub-festival within the SFF: Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival. Here, films are exhibited that have been made exclusively by and about women. This group sees film as a means to make people aware of women’s problems with violence, poverty and inequality.
As many other film festivals flounder and fail, SFF keeps its head above water. To quote Tom Hall, SFF director: “As non-profits around the country work harder than ever to secure limited numbers of grants, sponsors and donors, the costs of operating a film festival continue to creep upward; travel costs, new technologies (including the transition to Digital Cinema) and a general decline in sponsor dollars have created a new set of challenges. Thankfully, surviving festivals are working hard to deliver great events to their communities and industry constituencies (filmmakers, distributors, the press), but as these changes require diligent management, an entirely new set of economic pressures are being shifted on to festivals, those of traditional film distribution.”