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Santa Barbara Festival Opens Tonight with Missel at the Helm

Santa Barbara Festival Opens Tonight with Missel at the Helm

Santa Barbara Festival Opens Tonight with Missel at the

by Tom Cunha

The 13th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicks off
today under the new artistic direction of feature film producer Renee
Missel, whose credits include “Resurrection,” “Nell,” and the recent
“Guy.” Missel has lined up over 80 films and over 35 shorts to
participate in this year’s fest, which is expected to bring in over
30,000 attendees at the March 5-15 event. Missel has set some promising
goals for the continually growing festival, hoping to steer things in a
new direction while still maintaining the highly regarded reputation
SBIFF has acquired over the years. “In a filmmaker’s mind, I would like
this festival to be the alternative to Sundance. There are so many good
films that don’t make it into Sundance. I would like all of those films
to make Santa Barbara their second choice.” Herself a Santa Barbara
resident, Missel has seen a growing number of locals in their early to
mid-twenties and is striving to pull that demographic into this year’s
festival by showcasing “younger, edgier and more urban” films.

Additionally, Missel seeks to establish a venue for independent films
seeking distribution. “We have a lot of acquisitions people coming up
here this year. I’d like the festival to become a place where you can
come and show your film and someone from Miramax, New Line or Fox
Searchlight will be there to see it with an audience, which is always
better than seeing it in a screening room. It’s like an automatic
marketing screening.”

This year’s festival is celebrating the 1970’s as “the last golden
decade in American cinema,” paying tribute to a time when creativity
flourished in major studio films. Missel, who began her career in the
film industry in ’73 as a story editor, fondly recalls that time period,
“There was a change in the ratings and suddenly Hollywood became
bolder. What happened between ’68 and ’78 was an explosion of more
daring and edgy films. I came to Hollywood in ’73, so I saw it and
touched it briefly. It hasn’t been the same since.” She also points
out that some of Hollywood’s most prominent filmmakers were launched
during this time including Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. In
keeping with this theme, director John Schlesinger (“Marathon Man”),
writer/director Robert Towne (whose latest feature “Without Limits” is
the closing night World Premiere film), and actress Julie Christie (“Dr.
Zhivago,” and “Afterglow”) will all be the focus of salutes this year
which will include screenings (writer Towne’s “Chinatown,” Schlesinger’s
“Midnight Cowboy” and Christie’s “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”), followed by
Q & A’s.

The festival also offers a greater number of seminars than years
prior, many geared toward independent filmmakers. The first, “Independent
Co-Financing,” will be discussing various methods of acquiring financing
from international sources. “I did a seminar last year called How to
Make a Movie for Under $500,000.” recalls Missel, “This is the sequel to
that. It’s not aimed at large budgets. This is aimed at real indies.”
Attorney/producer Harris Tulchin will head the panel which includes
Peter Belsito (of Film Finders), Mark Forby (of Alliance Releasing) Ted
Perkins (of Universal Pictures), among others.

This year’s Modern Master Award will be presented to two time Oscar
winning actress/director/producer Jodie Foster, whose aclaimed career
spans three decades and includes such landmark films as “The Accused,”
“Taxi Driver,” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

The festival opens with the Coen Brothers highly anticipated follow-up
to the Oscar winning “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski” a mystery/comedy/thriller
which stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore.

[For more information call (805) 963-0023. The complete festival lineup is
available on their website at: ]

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