OVER THE RAINBOW…
I am still basking in the creative surge and filmmaker utopian glow of the Bentonville Film Festival. As I review our amazing week there all I keep coming back to is this:
THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE.
Our first experience with this festival was through the wonderful call we received from Summre Garber, informing us that we were accepted. Her glowing comments about our film made us immediately sure that we had found the right home. This has become my personal barometer for the festival tour: If the initial response is this lovely- we simply have to go. (This standard was set by the wonderful, Michael Rabehl at Cinequest.)
As soon as I got to Bentonville, I realized this place was different. There was an immediate response to both us and Quality Problems from all the staff- they had either seen or heard of our film. More importantly- THEY WERE CURIOUS.
Not once was I “shoved aside” for so-and-so. Not once did someone look over my shoulder as they spoke to me- to see who was “more important.” There was no desperate scrambling of people to pitch themselves. There was no selling.
EVERYONE WAS AUTHENTIC.
There is something so mind-blowing about experiencing a place so safe, so welcoming, so INCLUSIVE, that you can just let your guard down and be. I got to really talk to people, amazing and remarkable people. I fell in love over and over. There were so many events and amenities set up for us that there was little time to see all the films I wanted to see. BUT THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! Yes, BFF had an App that sorted the films, scheduled our days and showed us when to be where (THANK YOU!) Interspersed were all the fantastic meals and festivities, the panels, the swag, the filmmaker lounge (our safe-place)… It was a blitz of constant movement and input and – at every turn- another group of genuine, insanely talented, funny and charming people.
HERE’S THE THING…
I have been… bothered for a while now about the climate of “Independent Film” and “Independent Film Festivals” because the Big Ones simply aren’t “Independent” at all anymore. They are Market, selling frenzies populated by big $$ and studio chaperoned fare, helmed and starring THE. SAME. PEOPLE. These are not folks that are skipping summer camp for their kids so they can stay an extra day or who sweat about days missed at their job so they can produce movies…
There is no longer anything “Independent” about these festivals, and it’s showing in the material. The content is starting to repeat itself. Which will happen in a homogenized, formulaic, incestuous environment that is ruled by big money networks, studios and corporate channels.
The Bentonville Film Festival renewed my faith in the future of Independent Film and Festivals. Truly, deeply, and with all my heart, I want to CHAMPION this festival, its organizers, sponsors and staff from the rooftops because I’m selfish. I want Independent Film to survive and those “Other Festivals”… are eating their young. That’s me. It’s these other BRILLIANT filmmakers of diverse backgrounds, colors, shapes, sexes, and economics; the TRUE VOICES of Independent Film.
We don’t have studio deals. We don’t have agents. We don’t have publicists or handlers or assistants or IRA’s… What we have is passion: A need to make our film NO. MATTER. WHAT. And that- is where ART is created.
So, take heart, my tribe because the Bentonville Film Festival is starting to turn the tide. They want us: The “weird kids” stuck behind this industry’s velvet rope, because of our differences, because we aren’t related to a Scorsese. We don’t take meetings on the lot, we aren’t a generic color, sex or demographic. They want us because of HEART. Ours. The material’s. The sheer belief and passion we have for the work.
I saw it in the eyes of every filmmaker I met. I saw it on the screen, the awards show- where I wept happy tears for fellow filmmakers I had come to love in only a few days. Where else does that happen?
So… yeah… I have some opinions about where the tide has drifted and where it should go. This is why I will do everything in my tiny but inspired power to champion this Festival. Because it should be the model for all “Independent” Film Festivals: Inclusive. Welcoming. Authentic. Inspired.
I am in love with everyone right now. I love the commitment of (O.G. Badass Woman Champion) Geena Davis. I love the passion of festival co-founders Wendy Guerrero and Trevor Drinkwater- a true believer who lights up and wants to hear- really hear what we as filmmakers think and feel. I love the joy of Brian Stevenson in meeting us and trying to help everyone he meets. I love, love, love the insanely generous and hard working team of Summre Garber and Paul Prado who were our constant guides and support. I love the open smile and life-saving help of Stephanie Nguyen Mai who started as our airport angel and will now be a forever hostage because we will never let her go. And these are just a few of the many examples.
The filmmakers? Just. The. Best. Truly. I want to shout everyone’s name here but this is already a f*cking missive so, just know that when I say I like and admire you… I mean that shit. I will champion you whenever and wherever I can because I am a picky bitch and I don’t give that praise without it being warranted. You deserve success. Whoever tells you differently doesn’t deserve your time.
Mostly, I just want to say that Oz exists for us, the weird kids- right in the middle of Arkansas. Who knew?
Now we have to work on coming back next year.