This year’s Film Festival may have been one of the best, but there’s still room for improvement. That was the central theme to emerge from the second annual Asheville Film Festival roundtable discussion, held Dec. 12 at the Chamber of Commerce. The two-hour affair, attended by festival organizers, local filmmakers, writers and supporters, covered a wide range of ideas and concerns—including praise for the high points of the 2007 festival and brainstorms for improvement in 2008 and the years to come.
The 2007 festival generated quite a buzz and received “overwhelmingly positive feedback,” according to Festival Coordinator Melissa Porter. But as Wednesday’s discussion suggested, there is still work to be done.
Hot topics quickly surfaced and boiled down to the following: film-screening combinations and programming, festival length, cultivating an AFF identity, marketing strategies and the need for better long-term planning.
“The combination of films were a little strange,” commented local screenwriter Brenda Lilly.
Jaime Byrd, a local filmmaker, added that more attention should be devoted to pairing by genre.
“It’s time for the festival to define itself,” Lilly continued. “Now is the time to make that statement.”
Shawn Lukitsch and John Bennett, co-founders of the Asheville Rejects Film Festival, felt that local films must be emphasized in order for the festival to succeed. Ethan Hunter, another local filmmaker, agreed, adding that he’d like to see a “younger influence” in the festival altogether.
But Neal Reed, manager of Asheville’s Fine Arts Theatre, sounded a different note. “If we want to make an Asheville-only festival, we could do that, but I think it’s about bringing in people and films from other places too,” he said.
Though well discussed, a defining statement about the Film Festival’s marketing identity remained unresolved.
Many agreed that the festival should be longer. “Because many of the categories are so competitive, extending the festival would allow a [greater] range of films to be showcased in Asheville,” argued David Forbes, a Mountain Xpress staffer and Film Festival liaison.
Others pointed out that a longer film fest would allow for more screenings. Many popular films had just one screening—including Year of the Fish, which won Best Feature.
Finally, various roundtable participants called for better marketing and long-term planning. Finding better ways to advertise locally, regionally and nationally, attracting high-profile screenwriters and actors, and creating strategies for generating funds were all discussed as essential for the festival’s growth. But these things require sponsorship money—which the city is short on. Xpress publisher Jeff Fobes suggested that the Film Festival needs “a working festival committee and a dedicated administrative person to start [preparing] no later than Feb. 1.”
“That’s what I meant to say!” Byrd chimed in.
Another roundtable discussion will be scheduled after the New Year.
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