After a week of sitting in the dark, I am home again. The laundry is done, the refrigerator is full, and the billed are paid. Reflecting on what was a great festival, I had some questions; so I called Patrick Shepard, assistant director for CIFF, for some answers.
Attendance at the festival has grown by leaps and bounds each year. Every day there’s an announcement about the number of attendees from the previous day, and invariably the number exceeds that of the same day the year before. This year, the first Saturday not only broke last year’s record for the first Saturday of the event, but also broke the 10,000 mark. I asked Shepard how they count attendees.
There are two volunteers with clickers outside each auditorium counting the number of people going in. As a check, they also count the number of vacant seats once everyone is seated. But because many people see two, three, and four movies in a day, they are counted two, three, and four times in a given day, making the daily total a little misleading. On reflection, however, this matters little, because any way one looks at it, the numbers are increasing.
I asked about BB and MM, the letters that appear at the end of the descriptions of the films in the festival guide. BB is Brenda Benthien, MM is Mallory Martin, both of whom are CIFF staff members, who also do other things. Brenda and Mallory each view about half of the films and then write the descriptions—that’s a lot of movies!
I wanted to know how the selection committee works and about how films are vetted and chosen for inclusion. Every film submitted is seen by three different people, each of whom write their responses to a survey for each film they see. The short films—30 minutes and under—with the highest ratings go to the co-chairs of the short film selection committee for final decision; and the ultimate decider for the feature-length films is Bill Guentzler.
Shepard said that CIFF is the only festival that shares these comments with the filmmakers, but filmmakers must request the feedback.
While being a screener for the festival may seem like a cool job, it’s a big commitment and a load of work. Screeners spend hundreds of hours of watching films, and not all of them are good, and then writing about them objectively.
A few highpoints from the festival:
Sitting in the Food Court at Tower City one day, we spied a middle-aged man buying an ice cream cone. My husband said, “I think that’s the guy from the trailer,” and so it was. We engaged Lamar Ratcliffe—the army ranger (camouflage)/financial advisor (business attire)—in conversation. He told us that on his way to the RTA, he encountered Kevin Kerwin (trailer director) shooting some tests on the Rapid. They got into a conversation, and Kerwin invited Ratcliffe to participate.
Ratcliffe said that it took more than four hours to shoot his part in the 69-second trailer, and that it was the most fun he’s ever had. Recognizing him in the food court, he added, “Made my day!”
We also had dinner with a movie star—Vivid Wang, from “Red Light Revolution.” This was her first visit to the United States and “Red Light Revolution” was her first film. She loved making the movie and hoped it would turn out to be the beginning of a long career in film. After the festival ended, she planned to travel to New York and Los Angeles in search of an agent. She ate little over dinner, and wanted to know what food Cleveland is known for. Hmmm, we pondered her question, but failed to come up with an answer. Any suggestions?
CIFF 35 is over. I saw 21 films in 7 days, and loved most of them. Among my favorites are: The Colors of the Mountain, The Piano in a Factory, We Were Here, A Screaming Man, Facing Forward, Caterpillar, A Matter of Taste (a.k.a. A Mouthful), and These Amazing Shadows.
CIFF 36 will be here in less than 350 days. Until then, you can find me in a seat on the aisle, left-hand side, at the Cedar Lee or the Cinematheque.