Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival & (why I don't do it)

The season of this festival is upon us. My first tip off - rain clouds I saw on my walk back home about an hour ago. There are also flyers on merchant's windows and the very cover of the SB Independent has a caricature of Sandra Bullock (my fav nominee for an Academy Award in the category of Actress in a Leading Role).

The SBIFF as is written everywhere- you get used to it after a few years of being in this town- is now celebrating its 25 years and is one of those things that are very much a Santa Barbara tradition. (If you take into account that I'm 25, I could very well, say it's existed, all my life.) Much like Fiesta, it's one of those things that reminds you "oh, it must be the beginning of February, or the first weekend of August." Locals either love it, or hate it, and with the best interest of the city in mind, it is fantastic for tourism.

There are many writers committed to sharing the events, the galas, the tributes, the films and interactions with the writers, producers, directors, casts, etc. One of the ones that I often read is Craig Smith who mentioned that "There's an awful lot of media interest in the Film Fest. I waited 30 minutes in line in the lobby of the Hotel Santa Barbara yesterday afternoon to pick up my press pass. Also in line, Scott Steepleton of the News-Press, Julie Ramos of KTYD, Joe Gehl of KEYT and former KEYT reporter Michelle Cole."

I, however, am not going to be blogging, or reporting about the Film Fest, but rather explaining why I've never been able to "get into it."

I have not yet been able to find the best way to decide which movies to watch. I don't seem to have enough attention span to read all of the blurbs about the films (which depending on which website/resource you read- may or may not include what time and when the film is playing-oh and where.)

Unlike regular films- mainstream media- where you get to watch previews and decide in roughly 30-50 sec whether or not you have interest in a movie, with the film fest you must do a lot of "work" shall we call it to pursue things that might be of interest to you. Of course, this excludes 2 kinds people, those whose leisure budgets allow for obtaining Platinum Passes ($1,655), & Cinema Passes ($605), or those that are very spontaneous, who will get up, walk on State, and say, "let's go into the next movie that's showing at a nearby theater." I fall in neither category. I like to plan things, carefully, my time (and money) is valuable to me, so I will carefully choose how I spend both.

Being a member of Generation Y, I believe technology is something that is inherent as not only someone who wants to get the word out, but as a preferred means of communication. So if I could make a suggestion which could likely not be welcomed due to costs, and time required by the SBIFF, it would be to splice all the previews of the films together into one hour long ad for the SBIFF and have it circulating on youtube a week or two before opening night. I remember several years ago, reading a particular Baby Blues comic where Zoe, the small child tells her dad at the movie theater, "that was great, I laughed, I cried, I had a great time" and her dad turns and looks at her and say, "Z, that was only the previews." How many of us, wouldn't love having good previews for the film fest?

Now, please note despite contrary evidence, I'm not being a downer on the film fest. Every year, I get excited, when those around me get excited for the SBIFF. (I am a fan of a lively Santa Barbara- though not of crowds). I have been impressed at the efficiency with which this festival is put together, marketed, and with the top stars, directors that come every year! Hats off to those that make this come together. Still, every year, I read, a total of 3-5 random descriptions of films, if I'm fortunate enough to find one I might have an interest in, then I attempt to match it up with a schedule and usually if by chance, I'm available, I'll have to call, or search online for the price of admission- by which time, I'm probably done looking it up & probably not attending. This will happen at the beginning of the fest, and sometimes in the middle of it, when I hear or read exciting reviews. This year, I started doing it, when I decided to stop and write about it, and see if anyone else goes through this odd ritual...

There is, however, one thing that I have enjoyed the past couple of years, and has slightly helped me out in this confusion and that is the Fund for Santa Barbara's Social Justice Awards. The reception itself is fantastic, but more importantly, this year, I noticed that their webpage contains the title, brief, brief summary of the film and the times that they are playing and location! Already going into it, I know that they are about some sort of social justice issue which means, there is a high likelihood that it would grab my attention. From those, it is far easier for me to find a film to attend. Perhaps a festival categorical guide by genre would be useful to those as dumbfounded by the task of finding which movies to watch.

For the local Santa Barbarans who are big SBIFF fans, have fun, stay dry. I will be kept up to date by many of you and the fascinating writers we have in our community, and patiently awaiting the day that figuring out how to "do the Film Fest" is far easier, and enjoyable.

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