Happy Ending for Beginners

Happy Ending for Beginners

It was almost a year ago when Tom Hall was eagerly telling people at the Sarasota Film Festival that Christopher Plummer would win an Oscar for his performance in Beginners, the film Plummer was in the film festival to promote last year.

Of course, we all knew Hall was just talking up his closing night film, right?

Maybe not. Congratulations, Mr. Plummer.

Hall: SFF Dialogue Just Beginning

SFF Director Tom Hall has written a guest column for SRQ Daily following up on the recent town hall. Here is his piece. To get SRQ Daily sent to your inbox each day, subscribe at SRQMag.com.

SFF Dialogue Just Beginning

The Sarasota Film Festival on Wednesday night just hosted our first ever Town Hall meeting at The Marie Selby Library. The meeting was intended to offer some information and history about the festival, but our primary purpose in organizing the event was to gather feedback and ideas from members of our community. As we continue to grow and move forward as a non-profit arts organization, the SFF is focused on making our event as accessible as possible; this Town Hall meeting was one step among many we are undertaking this year to make sure that all of our attendees, from our most committed patrons to the curious individual who may only be interested in a single film, are able to find the information they are looking for, have a smooth experience with our organization and feel a sense of pride and ownership over the SFF itself.
One of our main goals at the Town Hall was to convey some important financial and operational information to our attendees; that we, like so many organizations of all shapes and sizes, have made significant cuts and changes in the wake of the recent economic challenges that we have all experienced, but that we are now stronger than ever and are eager for more partners, more sponsors, more volunteers, more patrons. The SFF is in a great position to grow, but without our community, that growth would be impossible. From our point of view, that message came through and was well received by those attending the meeting.
More importantly, we learned a lot from our attendees. We learned that we need to do a better job explaining how the festival works, we need to create a greater awareness of our 13 free education programs for students and families and we need to think more about how we help local filmmakers integrate their needs into our festival. And while we did our best to satisfy the questions we received at the Town Hall, we’re more than aware that the dialogue doesn’t just end there; it is an integral part of how we need to operate moving forward. So, we’d like to encourage anyone with ideas or questions about the festival to contact us at any time, either by joining us on Facebook (facebook.com/MySFF), on Twitter (@MySFF) or by emailing us directly at info@sarasotafilmfestival.com. We look forward to fulfilling our commitment to an open, honest dialogue with the community and to putting on a great festival from April 13-22, 2012. Everyone is welcome at The Sarasota Film Festival. Please join us and help us spread the word that Sarasota is a great community for film and film lovers.

Arts Alliance and youthFEST partnership announced

SFF today announced that the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County would sponsor the youthFest event on April 21. This is the first time the Alliance is partnering with SFF for the film component of the education event.

The SFF Education Department will curate a one-hour short film program and show it several times that day at the Selby Public Library. The films will come from several local programs, including Kids Reel Life Studio, Reel Life Studio and See Jane Studio at SFF. All films will be G-rated.

“This partnership represents a big step for YouthArts Fest.  The Sarasota Film Festival and its Education Department have developed a tremendous national reputation for excellence.  It is a special honor for the young artists of our community to be recognized for their accomplishments in such a prestigious event and for YouthArts Fest to be able to help showcase their work to the public,” said Jim Shirley, Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance.

Will Locals Get Promoted?

Perhaps the testiest moments of an SFF town hall this month came when Dayle Hoffman, a local director and the force behind the Creative Minds Soirees, asked that better participation occur between the local filmmaking community and the Sarasota Film Festival.

“How can they (SFF) say the want better partnerships but the film commission isn’t an entity?,” Hoffman asked.

Of course, various camps within both SFF and the Film and Entertainment Office of Sarasota County, commonly called the film commission, get a bit defensive about such a characterization. SFF Director Tom Hall noted the organizations do have different ends. “Our mission is not to make film; it is to showcase film,” Hall said.

Jeanne Corcoran, director of the commission, also jumped on this blog to make it clear her office loves having the festival in town. “Our film commission continues to be an active supporter as always (although we had to miss the Town Hall due to a scheduling conflict, much to our chagrin!),” she wrote in a message. “With its uninterrupted sponsorship for the last five years, again in 2012, the film commission is as always at the disposal of the festival to be of help in any way they can put us to good use.”

But SFF Chairman Mark Famiglio also threw in his two cents at the town hall, noting the film commission does not directly advertise the festival on its website. Famiglio went so far as to suggest everyone at the town hall email Corcoran and call for further involvement. “Demand further coverage,” he said. Update: Famiglio said he contacted Corcoran immediately after this happened and that the film commission was very cooperative, and now has a click-through to the festival on its website. A link is now prominent on the FilmSarasota.com site.

Hoffman said the groups, and for that matter the entire local film community, should work cooperatively to promote local filmmakers to those film industry officials who come to Sarasota only for the Sarasota Film Festival. She would like to see special areas set up to expose industry visitors all of the talent in the area and share everything from head shots for local actors to short films created by local directors.

Hall did seem amenable to that idea. “We’ve seen film production grow in this town,” he said. And of course, Hall also noted the festival would still have Florida-focused events and screenings such as the Cinema Tropicale event and a shorts presentation spotlighting local filmmakers.

Town Hall Photos

The town hall pulled a respectable turnout this evening at Selby Public Library, filling up the library auditorium. Tom Hall led the Q&A, answering questions primarily regarding the community’s expectations for this year’s film festival. Here are just a few photos from tonight’s event, including Tom Hall, Veronica Pastore, as well as Sarasota Film Festival President, Mark Famiglio, who was there observing the town hall from the back of the auditorium–though couldn’t resist jumping into the discussions once in a while.

youthFEST deadlines are sneaking up

SFF Director of Education Allison Kohler noted at the town hall meeting tonight that the education programs ties to the Sarasota festival are among the only ones in the nation which are free. But you do have to adhere to deadlines, kids.

After the event, Frank PR issued a notice on some of the more important youthFEST deadlines to remember. Here is a summary of key dates:

Young Filmmakers Showcase – Short films should be submitted by March 1

Kids VIP Trip – Applications for these all ages field trips must be in by Feb. 27

Classroom Critic – Middle-schoolers who want reviews published on the SFF blog should apply by Feb. 17

Reel Life Studio – This competition for high school filmmakers has a Feb. 27 application deadline

Filmmaker Spotlight – If you want a world filmmaker in your high school or college class, apply by March 16

Film Academy – Apply by March 16 for the chance for a film school professor to come to your high school

Youth Screenwriting Workshop – Budding writers should apply by March 16

The youthFEST events also include the See Jane Studio, done in conjunction with the Geena Davis Institute, and Junior Jury, where judges for the youth film competitions will be drawn. Inquire with the festival.

SFF in Manatee?

Mark Famiglio, SFF Chairman, just hinted that the Bradenton crowd may get a little more film festival love. He noted a growing presence in Manatee County this year.

Exact details are not done yet, said SFF director Tom Hall said there could be screenings and events. “We want to bring our filmmakers up there,” he said.

Of course, SFF last year showcased a film with its roots in Manatee County when Through The Tunnel got a special screening at the Opera House. Read about that effort here

SFF looking for partners

SFF director Tom Hall has started the town hall at Selby library and is boasting about the dramatic turnaround in financial fortunes for the festival. The festival this year has no short term debt and has reduced long term debt 94 percent.

But he is always looking for new community partners and made a public call for any organizations with overlapping interests with the festival. Along with programs promoting women through a UN partnership and educational efforts done hand-in-hand with the local schools, Hall said the possibilities for partnership in Sarasota are endless.

“Film is a very flexible platform,” he notes. “There is a movie about everything.”

He town hall event is boasting about its work on gender issues, and said the Geena Davis Institute is continuing its partnership this year. Youth director Allison Kohler also noted SFF is he only flm festival in America providing its education programs at no cost, something only possible because of community partnerships and sponsorships.

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Schedule of events

The lineup of dates for major events was just announced. Officials also said the Opening night festivities will be held at the Van Wezel once again, rather than the Opera House as it was last year.

The events are as follows:

March 19 – program announcement
April 13 – Opening Night, Van Wezel
April 14-15 – Through Women’s Eyes
April 15 – Hollywood Nights
April 18 – Cinema Tropicale, Sarasota Yacht Club
April 20 – Night of 1,000 Stars
April 21 – Filmmakers Tribute, Opera House
April 22 – Closing Night Film