Sharpening the Independent Focus

Continued (page 2 of 9)

Where did you get the films?
Marion: Laurie had a few connections. Filmmaker Magazine, We may have run an ad. You know, I’m not sure, it was a long time ago. But we got some very good films. There was a series of films about gypsies going around the film festival circuit. We showed it at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, and the Flicker Shack was filled. The owner of the Flickershack was like, he couldn’t believe it. We had a movie about Croatia that was very good.

The following year, I think that’s when Dan Schay and Nadia Caillou came on board. Dan did it before Nadia, Dan was the chairman. Nadia worked for the Arts Center at the time. And that’s when you came on board [pointing to Dr. Sheila Jackman].

Was that the second year?
Marion: [Nods] So we did the festival for several years, and Nadia took over from Dan. From the four of us, after a few years we had this huge committee. We didn’t have an incorporation, we weren’t an organization, we were part of the Sedona Cultural Park. And all the people who were interested in film, we’d just put them on the committee. You were there in those days [referring to Connie Levinson].
Connie Levinson: I met Marion at a cocktail party for Jazz on the Rocks. And she was the first person in Sedona other than my realtor that I had met. We chatted and she said, You like film, do you? And she whipped out a card and said, You must volunteer. [Laughs] I became a gofer, and suddenly I was elevated to watching lots of films.

So you became a screener early on?
Connie: After my first year as a gofer.
Marion: We didn’t really have to worry about too much the first years, it was all local people, and it really didn’t amount to much of anything, it was like one little session. But then Frank Warner got involved. Frank Warner is a very highly respected sound editor, won an Academy Award for Close Encounters, knew everybody, and everybody loved him. He was living in Sedona then, I actually met him on one of my morning walks.
Dr Sheila Jackman: In fact, at the Oscar parties, everyone used to get their picture taken with Frank’s Oscar. [Laughter] Marion: I forgot to mention that our first honorees – we called the award the Sedony – were Ann Miller and Donald O’Connor, who lived here.  The following year we honored Frank Warner. The next year we honored Diane Ladd, who also lived here. Then we honored Sean Young, who lived here. Then we honored the Harkins.
Sheila: Ted Danson and Mary Steenbergen.
Marion: After a while, we ran out of celebrities that lived here. [Laughter] We had to spread out. We gave an environmental award to Dennis Weaver. One year we did musical scores as the subject for the workshop, we had Elmer Bernstein come in. Pretty big name, so we had some very important people coming in here.

The festival was growing year to year, at this point was it mostly word of mouth, or were you actively working to get the word out?
Marion: We were making an effort. I was doing publicity, and I’d get the word out as best I could. I’d do a shotgun thing – this was before e-mail – and I’d get every major newspaper and I’d send out faxes all over the country. And I got responses – the N.Y. Post, I remember, and then a few weirdos. [Laughs] And Phoenix started getting interested in us. They’d had a film festival, but it hadn’t been very successful at the time. So we got people from Phoenix coming up here, and we got Phoenix Home & Garden, newspapers getting interested in us. And then we got professional PR people.

So at what point did it go from a group of people who were interested but essentially amateurs…
Connie: You mean people who didn’t know what we were doing? [LAUGHTER] You could look at it that way… But when did you say, we’ve got growth going on here, let’s bring in some people dedicated to making it work?
Marion: Nadia had connections. Nadia was the daughter of the gentleman who just passed away, Alan Calliou, who was in the movie business, a screenwriter, and she grew up around Hollywood people.

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