By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall March 16, 2007 at 6:28AM
...Before diving back into the prep for the Sarasota Film Festival. We announce our line-up on Monday, and I am really excited about the program Holly and I have been able to bring together. Stay tuned, as I'll be posting the line-up next week. I don't think I have the energy or desire to pull a Dentler (*grin*), but fair play; When you work on something this hard for this long, you want the world to know about it.
The process of getting the festival ready has been all-consuming this year; I've seen one film in a theater in the last month, and that was Zodiac (which I liked very much) a couple of weeks ago. Most people can't imagine how on earth going to a movie can be considered a break after spending months sitting in front of screeners, but what can I say? I love movies. Other than that screening, work work work. It's actually kind of nice to be doing something you love and to be so absorbed by it; I don't have any regrets about the work. It is, however, a steady stream of compromises, small victories, frustrations, and losses that, for some reason, when I am in work mode, all feel very personal.
When I'm not in Florida, and I'm out and about and watching other people's festivals come and go, burning brightly for ten days and then fading away, I am more philosophical about things. But when I am trying to bring in films to our festival, I see the program as an extension of Holly and me; A representation of our tastes, our politics, our ideas about film. In that way, it seems a very personal thing to have great plans and great ideas and to suddenly run into the word 'NO'. It happens all the time at every festival; Ambitions run smack into the reality of commerce, perception, and scheduling. Either way, any time we get a decline, it's always a little bit of heartbreak for what might have been.
Today, as an example, I went to a local video store to see a friend, and there, lining the shelves, were several DVDs of films that had played the festival in years past. I could remember each of them, the conversations with distributors and producers, the ones that I worked hard to try and screen but who chose not to attend, etc. I remember how grumpy the 'NO's made me, but more importantly, looking at the plastic boxes lined up in neat rows, I also thought "That's ours, that's ours, we had that one..." Another realization; Every festival programmer who has played the film feels exactly the same way I do. "That was our movie."
And then it hit me; What's the big fucking deal? In retrospect, while I am proud of the films we've shared, each year what I am most excited about is what we're doing NOW. What keeps me going and engaged are the filmmakers, producers and actors who want to share their work with our audiences, to spread the word about a cinema of ideas, and who have a great experience at our festival. And the reverse is also true; Showing these films to an audience eager for something new and alive and who, despite whatever stereotypes exist, are more than willing to experience art on the big screen-- that's why I do what I do for a living. And I'm really proud of what we're doing this year. So, doubts and frustrations be damned. We have 202 wonderful films and I am excited by them all. It is going to be a great festival. Until next week, a small sneak peek...