Sharpening the Independent Focus

Continued (page 6 of 9)

Shelia: What was it that Ned Beatty said about our festival, didn’t he have a great quote?
Patrick: Last year, Ned Beatty said after the screening of Sweet Land where he was in attendance, “This festival is better than Sundance. You are what Sundance used to be. You are Sundance with a heart. And don’t ever lose your heart.” And I said to him, Can I quote you on that? And he said, “You can absolutely use that wherever you want to, and I really sincerely believe that.” And he and his wife left us a pie.
Debbie: Yes, when they were driving back they had our volunteer who was driving them stop in Black Canyon City at this bakery with homemade pies and bought a couple and sent them up.
Patrick: With celebrities, we don’t deal with high-maintenance people. They’re not worth having at our festival. If they’re demanding, if they’re this, they’re that, it’s not worth the festival’s time. The celebrities that come here are very accessible, we make that part of what we tell them when they come. We want them to be here, but we want them most importantly to be part of all the festivities, to be accessible to people, to spend time with people. And with the exception of one or two, they’ve been really, really good.
Shelia: Honestly, we can count on one hand the number who stand out as being high-maintenance, why are they here? And there’s one I can recall who started out as high maintenance – and it wasn’t such a surprise, we knew it on the phone – and there was a numbers discrepancy about some stuff, and we were just there and there, and there was no fighting or moaning, and by the second day he got that there was a different way to interact. And then he became a human being again. I don’t know what happened after he got home [Laughter] It rubs off, and that’s what’s neat.
Marion: Spoken from a psychologist. [Laughs] Patrick: So we’re hoping that’s what  people take away. We put that up with every correspondence that we have with them, with how we treat them, how we talk to them, how we communicate with them, and certainly that’s what they experience when they’re here.
Marion: We’re a gracious film festival.

Are you finding that the word is getting around?
Patrick: Yes. Another thing that our festival does more than others is when we know a filmmaker is here, whether the film is one minute or two hours, there is always, always, always a Q&A session scheduled afterward. When I was at the Telluride Film Festival, there’s only certain films that have a Q&A scheduled, even if the filmmaker is there. We do it with every single one, so people know that if there’s a filmmaker there, or a cast member is there, there will be a discussion about this film. At first, I didn’t realize that didn’t always happen at every film festival. A lot of filmmakers have commented to us, What a remarkable thing. That usually for short films – and for us, 65 of our 120 films are short films – those people don’t often get a chance to talk about their film at festivals, usually they’ll say the filmmaker will be standing out in the lobby if you have any questions for them. It’s another part of the way we honor our filmmakers, who we always say are our true celebrities.

What is a Sedona film festival film?
Shelia: I think it’s easier to say what isn’t.
Sagan: What I love…I think I’m a little more radical about avant-garde [films] than some of the screeners, I really love avant-garde , and that’s a stretch, I think, for us. I find, for me, what I’m drawn to – and Sheila has been wonderful at coaching that we really have to be fair to these filmmakers – I know that I’m drawn to films of the heart. I know that I’m drawn to films that have a unique voice. A lot of times something I really like I’ll say, This film is unique, pay attention to it. I think that we’re very open to many, many different styles. I don’t think there’s a rule about, No, we’re not going in any direction. I just think we’re open to any good film if it hits us on some level, to make a note of that.

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