One year ago, the Sedona Film Festival & Workshop received 150 to 200 submissions of films for consideration, says new CEO/Artistic Director Douglas Tanton. For 2004, he and the local selection committee expect to review 600 contenders for slots in the four-day festival beginning March 4.
That’s good news if you love movies, particularly those from independent voices. On the following pages, we present some of those voices, who give you a sneak peek of what’s in store. You’ll meet Tanton and assistant Mindy Mendelsohn, who give us insight into the selection process, as well as two exceptional sound editors involved in planning Workshop presentations; get a heads-up on three of the first films selected for inclusion and hear from the director of a fourth; and get an early look at the festival schedule.
CEO/Artistic Director Douglas Tanton
Douglas Tanton is in his first year steering the direction of the Sedona Film Festival & Workshop. Arriving in Sedona from his native Canada, Douglas brings more than 15 years of senior-level film, digital media and production experience to his new post. Previously, he was executive producer of the Canadian Festival of Film. We spoke to him about his plans for this year’s festival and beyond, his sense of what sets the Sedona festival apart in the independent film world, and the role the festival can play within the Sedona community.
Sedona Monthly: This is your first year as the Sedona festival’s artistic director; what are you doing differently for 2004?
Douglas: One thing we are trying to do this year that’s a little bit of a departure is to rely on our local screeners to go through and review the films we have. Previously, the film festival was very pleased to receive 150 or 200 films; this year [submissions for inclusion are] just exploding. We have been very surprised. We expect the submissions to be well over 500-600 films, which is placing us in a new category. We’re moving up from being a small independent regional film festival to one of some national recognition.
For filmmakers, Sedona represents the final remaining opportunity to screen independent films in an independent environment. Filmmakers can come here and communicate, have a real conversation with distributors. There is an informality to our screenings here that is very, very rare on the festival circuit. One thing we are finding a real challenge in building this film festival is to maintain that informality and personal nature, while at the same time raising its professional standards and reach.
We have begun reaching out to festivals in Europe and Asia. We are reaching out to film institutes and film commissions, a number of highly esteemed national bodies, such as the Canadian Film Centre, National film boards, the Danish Film Institute, the Australian Film Commission. For the first time this year, we’re reaching out to them formally, asking what films they have and what would you, as a country, like to bring forward. Who do you feel are your independent voices? It is very exciting and also a little scary, because we are asking someone else, “What do YOU think is good?” We are inviting their version of quality, their independence. We lose the control in that area, when we invite someone from, say, the Austrian Film Institute to bring forward two or three feature films its people think are remarkable. We are left in a position to hang by their decision.