Evolution of a Festival

Film Festivals are evolving creatures. Our Sarasota Film Festival, celebrating 14 years, has grown exponentially from its earliest “French” film festival seedling stage to one of North America’s top indie film festivals. It has spread its branches, sinking its roots ever deeper. It raises our visibility throughout the film industry as a whole and drives economic vitality into our arts-and-culture-loving community. It has over the years not only showcased a multitude of brilliant, challenging, eye-opening and otherwise memorable films from around the world but also helped people build relationships with others of like mind. We’ve seen our own area filmmakers grow in number and they relish the opportunities given by the SFF to see their own work on the big screen.

Considering that major film festivals have only been around, really, since the 1930s (Venice was the first major film festival in 1932, Cannes began 1939, joined by the Berlin FF in 1951, to form the “big three” Category A festivals internationally), the events have blossomed far beyond what early organizations must have envisioned. There are now thousands of film festivals around the globe. Some spins on the concept of a film festival are amazingly diverse forms, from Sundance in Utah to Raindance in the UK, from showcases of experimental and independent films to genre specific animation, art and technology, horror and other niche content. For example, South by Southwest Film Festival has expanded to a current three-dimensional film-music-interactive extravaganza and the “KahBang” Film Festival of Bangor Maine serves up triple scoops of music-art-film. The diversity may one day require renaming many to “Multimedia Festivals” but we’re not there yet.

Our film commission is often asked about film markets where the “money people” show up to buy films or invest or help with completion funding, co-production, partnerships, distribution, etc., as opposed to film festivals. Filmmakers hunger and hunt for these elements practically every day of their working lives when they’re not physically creating their films. A film market is the business counterpart to film festivals, yet another dimension. Marche’ du Film is one example as the business end of Cannes, and the American Film Market in Los Angeles primarily serves only the business of buying, selling and distributing of film industry content as well as a growing television component. The European Film Market is a film trade fair driving the buying/selling/distributing elements as a simultaneous event to the Berlin IFF (a/k/a Berlinale). Sarasota may one day become a film market.

So what lies ahead for the Sarasota Film Festival and our Sarasota County film-friendly community? More growth and success, if we keep the momentum going and the word spreading, if we keep the dedication to quality of content and excellence our focus. And we must continue to nurture the support and enthusiasm of all private sectors and public entities. Most of all, if we keep our commitment strong and fresh to do everything to the best of our abilities, the future will continue to stay rosy.

This column also ran in SRQ Daily. To subscribe, visit SRQMag.com

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