If you live in a town like Seattle or New York (or any city with a film festival, for that matter), you probably don't realize how lucky you are. After all, you get to see films that people in smaller towns won't see for a year or two -- or, more likely, at all. You also probably don't realize just how much work goes into putting on a film festival, especially one the size of the Seattle International Film Festival, which this year boasts 418 films. Beth Barrett, SIFF's charming and very busy Programming Manager, was kind enough to sit down with me and give me the skinny on what it takes to pull off SIFF. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the anatomy of a film festival:
Cinematical: SIFF is a huge film festival - 418 films this year! Can you tell me a little about what it takes to pull a fest like this off?
Beth Barrett: It's a different kind of festival. SIFF is first and foremost an audience film festival. We exist because the audience exists, as opposed to a market film festival like Berlin or Cannes. One of SIFF's really strong points in terms of distributors and producers and directors is that it offers them a chance to see how the film is going to play in front of an audience that is smart and engaged and is really looking for a cinematical adventure. Our audiences will go see almost anything if it fits their schedule, which is a rigorous adventure all on its own, and they engage and they think about what they're seeing, and they want to know: What were they thinking, and what was the budget, and I saw an element of this, and can you explain? The Q&A's are very smart, and I think that impresses the producers and the directors.
You hear these numbers thrown out all the time, but per capita Seattleites check out more books from the library and watch more movies than anywhere in the country. We are a very literate – and cinematically literate – group of people.
More after the break...