Last year, the Sedona International Film Festival & Workshop wasn’t just showcasing drama: It was participating in one. Right before Festival weekend, the organization experienced a sudden change in leadership. Remarkably, the festival went on without a visible hitch, but its future was uncertain.
Now, under new director Patrick Schweiss, the show will go on. With new sponsorship money and donations, preparations for the Festival’s 11th year are well under way.
Schweiss remains committed to providing a showcase for stories “that make audiences think.” We spoke to him about his goals, including expanding the festival’s role in education, and highlight some of the films and guests scheduled to be here for the March 3-6 event.
Patrick Schweiss is no stranger to the movies, or planning big events, in Sedona. He is founder and chairman of “An Evening at the Oscars,” the largest fundraiser of the year for the Sedona Arts Festival, on whose Board he has served for nine years. We spoke with him in early December 2004; what follows is an edited excerpt of our conversation.
Sedona Monthly: Where do you think Sedona fits in on the independent film festival circuit?
Pat: It’s an interesting question. We’re not Telluride, we’re not Sundance, but we are a player in the film festival world on the level that we’re at. We’ve launched some great movies, like What the #$*! Do We Know!?, which has gone on to this incredible wave of national success. In the grand scheme of things, we’re not one of the biggest festivals in the nation – what we are is a very good festival. And we have a very good reputation among filmmakers and among our audience. Our 10-year goal is to be something close to a Telluride [Colo.] festival, because our audience can match that, our size can match that. They get 5,000 to 7,000 people at Telluride every year. What Telluride has that we don’t is powerhouse movie distributors that automatically launch films there. We’re not at that level yet.
So how do you go about making Sedona a festival where distributors want to launch?
Everyone already knows Sedona for its beauty; the town is an easy sell, it already has a reputation. The film festival aspect, even though it’s been around for 10 years, is still relatively new. We have to keep reminding them we are a viable resource. I went to the Telluride festival in September, and when I came back I got on the phone and called all the distributors and contacts for all the great films I had seen. Now, Telluride launches many films that are getting distribution a month or two later, so the chances of us screening those specific films in March are slim and none. But what we’re doing is putting our Festival’s name in front of a lot of these distributors, as a viable option to bring other films.