With the news of another terrific line-up at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival (congrats to the Programming team on another great job!), I thought it might be an opportune time to remind the filmmaking community that my very own Sarasota Film Festival is now accepting submissions for the 2011 Festival, taking place April 7-17 in Sarasota, FL. Our deadlines are approaching; December 14 for the Early Birds among you with January 7 set as our Normal Deadline.
While I know our little ol’ non-profit’s place in the film festival universe (I consider the SFF to be a very strong regional festival, and we’re all well aware it is not a market), our program has evolved over the years into something of which I am very proud. Some of our guiding principles:
It’s YOUR Movie– We believe that the best thing a festival can do is play a meaningful role in the life of a film, but we understand that the festival is only a part of a filmmaker’s own strategic plan. As such, we do not worry about “premiere status” or where your film has played before and we don’t play the game of putting filmmakers in the middle of festival “premiere” battles; if Sarasota is a place you want to play, we want to look at your movie in the hopes that we can help you find an audience for your work. That’s it. No guilt, no discomfort, just a celebration of the films in our program.
We Have A Strong Tradition Of Supporting Emerging Filmmakers– With our Independent Visions program, we have been able to showcase the work of emerging American independent narrative filmmakers. Past participants include films by Katie Aselton, Andy Blubaugh, Mary Bronstein, Andrew Bujalski, Tze Chun, Lena Dunham, Erica Dunton, Hadjii, Brett Haley, Azazel Jacobs, Aaron Katz, So Yong Kim, Jody Lee Lipes, David Lowery, David Robert Mitchell, Ry Russo Young, Josh and Benny Safdie, Brent Stewart and Scott Teems among many, many others. We are committed to supporting new work and are always looking for strong new voices in cinema.
Non-Fiction Filmmaking Is Our Passion– The Sarasota Film Festival devotes half of its program to powerful, visually compelling non-fiction storytelling. We believe that documentary films are among the most interesting, important films being made today and we treat non-fiction and fiction films as equals in our program. We also work hard to build community partnerships around issue-oriented documentaries, including engaging Sarasota’s arts communities to engage with films about the arts. As programmers, we are very dedicated to non-fiction, serving on the Gotham Awards & Cinema Eye Award nominating committees over the past few years; we will always strive to make Sarasota an important home for documentary film. Our friend AJ Schnack thinks we’re doing a pretty good job, naming Sarasota one of the Top 20 film festivals in the world for non-fiction filmmakers.
We Promote Community Building, Collaboration and Professional Networking Among Filmmakers– By giving all attending filmmakers full access to all festival films and events, we have been very successful in helping bring artists together to forge creative collaborations, friendships and networks that last well beyond our festival’s ten days. It is important to us to make sure that all filmmakers are able to see one another’s work, to meet and discuss films and issues facing filmmakers today. Our festival continues to grow into a place where filmmakers can catch up on one another’s films, meet and discuss future projects. Many times, filmmakers and actors who have met at Sarasota have gone on to create new films together. We’re proud of creating that environment.
We Create Special Programs For Our Community– Sarasota is the only festival to partner with GCC UNIFEM to present Through Women’s Eyes, a program of films dealing with global and domestic issues affecting women. We also have one of the finest Outreach & Education programs in the country, teaching filmmaking to students from Elementary to High School while also introducing students to cinema by busing in thousands of students from the surrounding area to view age-appropriate films and meet and talk with filmmakers about their work. We also partner with community groups like the Sarasota Manatee Jewish Federation to create a special program of films of interest to the Jewish community. This year, we have several special programs up our sleeve; we’re always looking for all kinds of work.
We Are Committed To World Class Presentation– One of the largest and most important areas of our budget is our Technical budget; we bring state of the art digital projection and sound into our host theater at the Regal Hollywood 20, creating outstanding, professional presentation on the big screen. Stadium seating and an attentive, passionate audience contribute to make our screenings very popular among filmmakers. We work very hard to ensure that everything is as good as it can be.
If you’re putting together your festival strategy, I hope you’ll think of Sarasota.
Opening Night At The Sarasota Film Festival