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Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends

This time it’s for real: Panic on the Streets of Birmingham…

As a huge supporter of the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, I am dismayed by the news that Erik Jambor, one of the festival’s co-founders has resigned as Director.

Here is the letter I received today via email:

Hi everyone – I apologize for the mass email, but with the news
beginning to spread like wildfire, I wanted to drop you all a quick
note to let you know that I resigned from Sidewalk last Wednesday. The
Sidewalk Board of Directors implemented organizational changes that I
didn’t agree with — and it became apparent that almost 9 years after
having co-founded the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, it was time
for me to move on to pursue other projects and jump back into the
world of creative content creation.

As Director of Sidewalk, it has been amazingly rewarding to have had
such a positive impact on filmmaking in Alabama, and I look forward to
continuing to encourage, support and inspire our filmmaking community
in other ways. It has been a true honor to have worked with you all
over the years, and I will be forever indebted to you for your help in
turning the wild dream of Sidewalk into a nationally recognized
festival which will hopefully resonate for years to come.

I hope to catch up with you all soon over a cup of coffee. Keep in
touch, and feel free to drop me a line anytime at (gamalost [at] gmail [dot] com)
or visit my not-as-exciting-as-it-should-be MySpace page at myspace.com/gamalost. (Maybe I’ll even start a blog!)

All the best,
erik jambor

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Erik Jambor Rolls Tide

I first met Erik nearly nine years ago in Park City along with Skizz Cyzyk, founder and co-conspirator behind the allegedly defunt Microcinefest and programmer at the Maryland FIlm Festival. For years, Skizz and I had worked together as projectionists, technical coordinators, and sometime jurors for Slamdance.

Erik approached us with questions about technical logistics. Projection, what eqipment would be needed to setting up screenings in a non-traditional venue and the like. He told us about a little festival he putting together in Birmingham.

Keen to lend a hand, we accepted invitations to Sidewalk year one to assist with projeciton and serve as jurors.

The first festival got off to a somewhat rocky star. Out of concern that indie films wouldn’t be enough to generate a critical mass at the first Birmingham film festival, Sidewalk originally proposeda street fair with vendors, musicians and activities, in conjunction with film screenings in storefront spaces and the Majestic Alabama Movie Palace.

Much to their surprise, the films were a smash–and the street fair fizzled.

In year two, Sidewalk moved from spring to fall, they scrapped the whole street fair concept and films became the focus, with hospitality the theme.

We realized they were onto something special.

In the ensuing years, as the landscape evolved, the festival continued to fine tune. The production facility Workplay opened. Local filmmakers pulled together to develop projects. The festival thrived.

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Crazy in the Alabama Theatre

Never before had I experienced such genuine enthusiasm, true grass roots participation and all around good will. Not a phoney in sight. Producers and writers and filmmakers and actors came to Sidewalk, fell in love. And made the little festival that could into an annual stop on the festival circuit.

Sidewalk created a laid back environment where filmmakers, audiences, industry folks, and the creative commuity could come together with local counterparts to celebrate cinema. The festival staff (and amazing volunteers) made hospitality a top priority.

Good times were had by all who attended. Film Threat‘s Eric Campos chronicles his annual trip to Birmingham as though possessed by the spirit of a sonambulast Hunter S. Thompson.

Because of this idyllic social setting, visiting filmmakers, panelists and jurors, many of whom travel the festival circuit without ever taking time to really get to know one another, can simply hang out together and talk.

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Garage Bar Courtyard

Whether engaging in late night discussions in the southern gothic trappings of a bar called the Garage, hanging out at the cocktail lounge after party at an unpretentious restaurant with the pretentious name Los Angeles, playing a backroom game of Texas Hold’em with some local card sharps, chatting it up at a fimmaker brunch at G, crafting your own cast iron memento at the Sloss Furnaces with your fellow soujourners, getting a behind-the-scenes tour of Sammy’s from a former dancer, or atoning for one’s sins at a Sunday Morning Service at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (the scene of the crime in Spike Lee’s “Four Little Girls“), Sidewalk has provided me a wealth of cherished experiences.

Add to this a unique community of fillmmakers filled with local character, and you’ve got a festival worthy of national attention, earning mentions in numerous publications: In a quote pulled from the Time Magazine, article crowning Sidewalk as one of a dozen or so festivals “for the rest of us, ” Sidewalk was “named a MovieMaker ‘film festival worth the entry fee’ and one of Chris Gore’s ‘best film-festival vacations’.”

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2003 Features Jury: Me, producer Molly Mayeaux (Dandellion) and writer Daniel Wallace (Big Fish)

Unlike the bullshit rolodex of business-card-handshake-industry-contacts one accumulates while networking at most festivals, the friendships I’ve made at Sidewalk are real, lasting, and meaningful.

I count Erik as such a friend.

That Erik felt he was no choice by the board but to resign puts future of Sidewalk in question.

My fear is that without a heart, Sidewalk will die.

I hope the Board knows what it’s doing.

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