Sharpening the Independent Focus

Continued (page 7 of 9)

Did you notice a common thread to the films that made it into the festival after the fact?
Marion: There was a time when we thought we had to have some kind of brand, we had to have some kind of specialty, but we discarded that. Quality and the audience being able to stay in the film, that’s the first thing I think of.

Does what you anticipate the audience will think of a film enter into your ratings, or is it more a personal reaction?
General reaction: Both
Shelia: One of our screening categories is suitability for Sedona, for this festival. And there may be a film that gets [high scores] and when it gets to suitability, it was zero – and we don’t even have zeroes on our scale. There was a film I remember that was like that, but it was just too adolescent. And there were a few films that would be incredible at a specialized festival, but there wasn’t enough that this community, which is incredibly diverse, it just wouldn’t really have a spot here, but could be wonderful for another festival.
Debbie: There are some films that some of the screeners will see and just don’t like them at all, but we’ll end up putting them in because that’s a personal taste but we know there’s an audience out there for them.
Connie: Sagan and I were discussing just before we started this. We’d both just seen a film that more or less was biased, a documentary,  and I said that I would hate to see that in our festival. But I think what distinguishes us is the fact that you can view a film, and the film can have all high scores, until you get to that last area. The sound may be perfect, the cinematography may be perfect, the direction, the production, the art direction can all be perfect, and the film can still be a dog. Or simply unsuitable.
Marion: We have one main rule we tell the screeners: Do not let your personal prejudice influence your score.
Shelia: This year, there’s been a lot of New York sensibility in the films, and by that I mean maybe we’re looking at a beautiful documentary on the parks of New York, and obviously that could be very well done, but not really suitable here. And I think there have been maybe 30 films I’ve seen that have been totally geared for a New York audience, and we’ll put Great Film, but it would really be great at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Marion: When it’s pure pornography it’s out – pornography for the sake of pornography. Nudity can be OK, and sex.
Connie: Sexual themes, we just warn people beforehand, that there are explicit scenes, but we wouldn’t pull it out of the festival for that.
Shelia: And language. I remember reading one of your reviews and it was about the language. [You said] the foul language was absolutely appropriate for this character, and it was. So, of course.
Marion: Of all the categories, I would say the strongest one for us is story. If it’s very well shot, but it’s a lousy story, [we’d look at that differently than if] there are some flaws with the cinematography but the story really grabs you.
Debbie: There might be a tendency to overlook some of the other flaws if the story is strong.
Connie: The worst thing is predictability. If after five minutes you know exactly what’s going to happen in this film, that’s the biggest shame of all. Everything can be technically right, sometimes spectacularly so, but you get to the end of it and you just shrug and say, I know what it is, and that’s kind of a shame.
Patrick: We like films that stir some kind of emotion, whether it’s anger, or stirring you to action, or makes you look at a subject a little bit differently. Those are the kind of films we want to bring in, whether it touches the heart.

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