Fourteen years after its founding, the Sedona International Film Festival and Workshop has become a signature event for lovers of independent film in the Southwest. On the following pages, we’ll preview this year’s event (to be held Feb. 27-March 2, with sneak-peek sessions on Feb. 25-26) with an overview of what’s in store for 2008, including a look at some of the highly anticipated films already scheduled (while the titles previewed were confirmed for the Festival at press time, all remain subject to change); a spotlight on an emerging theme for this year’s event, Women In Film, with a focus on three movies directed by actresses that audiences know best for their work in front of the camera; and a lineup of panels to be led by a special honored guest, Turner Classic Movies’ Robert Osbourne. Finally, to give newcomers a little flavor of the event, we asked some veteran attendees to share a few special memories of festivals past.
What’s new for the Sedona International Film Festival and Workshop in 2008? It’s typically the very first question we ask when we start planning our annual preview, but there was something different about this year compared to the past three – the biggest thing that seems new to us is…that there are no wheels to reinvent this time. In past previews, we’ve chronicled innovations in the ticketing systems; adding days to the screening schedule; introducing the “cast party” concept and the large Festival Pavilion inside a tent in the Harkins parking lot; building relationships with Hollywood’s big players in the independent film world and corporate sponsors; forging relationships with other festivals around the country, endowing cash prizes for worthy films – significant initiatives from year to year.
The closest thing to a major change this year is the format and location of the workshops. In recent years, Red Rock H.S. has hosted a panel discussion on Friday about an area of specialty, like animation or last year’s session on film distribution, followed by breakout hands-on sessions on Saturday. This year, the space at the school is going to be used as a screening location, adding capacity to the theatres at the Harkins Sedona 6. On Friday and Saturday, the Red Rock H.S. auditorium will be used to show a selection of acclaimed international films coming to Sedona thanks to a new alliance with the Global Film Initiative, as well as selections for kids in a new Family Film Series.
Meanwhile, revised workshops will be moved over to the Festival Pavilion, in hopes of encouraging general participation. Plans for this year include a general expansion of the events held in the pavilion, which debuted as a central mingling point for audiences and filmmakers at last year’s festival. There will be a screenwriting workshop there on Thursday. Filmmaker panel discussions and celebrity chats moderated by Robert Osborne, longtime contributor to the show business industry bible The Hollywood Reporter, and primetime host on Turner Classic Movies, are also planned for the space during the weekend (participants and schedules to be announced). Osborne will also moderate an event on Women In Film, a theme of this year’s festival, which includes films directed by actresses Helen Hunt, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley.
In addition, Osborne will spearhead another programming innovation for the 2008 festival: The inclusion of some classic films of interest to Southwestern audiences.
Spotlight on Women Who Direct
Even in 2008, it’s not easy for movies geared to or made by women to get a fair shake in Hollywood. But at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival, audiences will get to see three films by actresses making the move behind the camera more common for men: Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets), Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride), and Mary Stuart Masterson (Benny & Joon).