by Liza Mitchell
The 10th Annual Jacksonville Film Festival celebrates the accomplishments of local industry professionals with four days of screenings, social mixers, family-friendly events, workshops and panel discussions. The Film Fest will be held November 1-4 with activities held at participating venues throughout the city including the Florida Theatre, the Jacksonville Public Library Main Branch and the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. Festival activities will be ongoing during the first day of the event but it will open officially that evening at a kick-off party at the Florida Theatre with the film This Space Available.
At the helm is festival director Jules Delamar, who has committed to creating an atmosphere that can be tailored to each individual festival patron. After stepping away from the festival for a few years, Delamar is back with a renewed perspective that she hopes will translate into a positive experience for festival patrons and participants alike.
As a former festival volunteer and, later, the assistant director for festivals ‘04, ‘05 and ‘06, Delamar says she feels fortunate to be able to incorporate her previous experience into this year’s event and hopes others will support the event as a valuable cultural commodity.
“When I left the festival in 2006, it was almost like all the energy I had for the festival was just put on hold. When I came back in this year, I could give it everything I had in me just waiting,” she says. “My efforts and focus are solely on this festival but that being said, it is very difficult for me not to think long term. I love building relationships with others in the community and thinking about where we are going to be five years from now.”
Delamar is developing a new series of festival pass options that will provide the opportunity for film buffs to create their own unique and individual festival experience. Each option is tailored to a specific type of festival-goer, from those who want to participate in every event to those who require only limited access.
“We have a lot of different pass options than we have had in previous years. What I’m trying to do is allow the different type of festival-goer to experience the festival in the way they want to. I’ve heard a lot of people say that ‘I don’t care about parties, I just want to see the films, so why would I get an all-access pass?’ There might be people who literally love to going to the parties and the mixers but really only have time in their schedules to see one or two films. So there is a different pass structure this year.”
The pass options will include an all-access pass that gets you into “absolutely everything,” a preferred access pass that offers entry into most festival events, an information access pass which covers all of the workshops, a social access pass which serves as the golden ticket to all of the parties and social events and a screening access pass for entry into all film screenings.
“I am attempting a ‘create-your-own access’ pass that will allow people to pick and choose what they want and create their personal passes,” she says. “There are some discount opportunities that can be available with the ability to create your own passes. To me, I wanted to be able to allow different types of people to come to the festival and experience it the way that they want to. There are so many different ways to experience a film festival.”
The Jacksonville Film Festival was founded in 2003 by Joan Monsky and Karen Sadler. Throughout the years, it has operated under a variety of directors, each with their own unique personality and vision. One of the first orders of business for Delamar was to establish the Main Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library as a festival center.
“One of the first things I wanted to do was get back to the library. To me, the [library] is one of the most important cultural resources that Jacksonville has. They have a great conference center and beautiful spaces,” she says. “I really wanted to have a central feel to the festival and I wanted to centralize the people and activities including the box office and information.”
This year, Delamar is excited to welcome actress and director Carrie Preston to the festival. Preston is an accomplished actress, well-known for her role on HBO’s True Blood. She will be attending the film fest in support of her directorial debut for the film That’s What She Said, a female-centric comedy starring Anne Heche and Alia Shawkat.
“It’s very exciting because she is beloved as an actress and such a generous spirit. But she is actually coming as a director and producer which is really exciting. It’s wonderful in the independent film community because you get to have this small window sometimes of watching someone transition a career,” Delamar says.
“They might be really big in one aspect of their career but if they are transitioning, like in Carrie’s case, she is moving… into directing and producing with her company 3 Daisy Pictures. She can come to the Jax Film Fest with her own film whereas if we were trying to bring her in as an actress, I don’t think we would be so lucky. But because she wants to bring her film, That’s What She Said, which was at Sundance this year, we get to have her come.”
Another big highlight is the screening of the Andrew Bird film Fever Year, directed by Xan Aranda. The film’s availability to the public is strictly limited to the independent film circuit and will not be distributed in wide theatrical release. Delamar says the ability to screen such films for local audiences is what makes the festival such a rewarding and valuable resource for the city. Fever Year is an 80-minute concert documentary that captures Bird’s 165th and final performance of a frenetic year on the road. His magnificent musicianship and the rigors of his physical and awe-inspiring performances are on full display.
“We are so proud to be screening this. You aren’t going to be able to see this in theaters or on Netflix. You are going to see it at festivals or you are not going to see it at all. This film opened at the New York Film Festival. Andrew Bird is such a tremendous musician. His fans adore him and music lovers will adore him,” she says. “One of the most important things to get across is we are programming films that you are not going to see generally in that capacity ever, in the case of [this] film, or for a long time. These films are not out in theatres, they are not out on DVD. We are curating for audiences things that they may not be able to see in other ways.”
Delamar tells us a festival favorite is the Screenwriting Competition which will parlay into a Pitch Competition for the top five screenwriters invited to participate in this year’s festival. “They will be able to pitch their project to a panel of industry professionals and they will get feedback, which is incredibly valuable,” she says. “The audience gets to watch the pitch and watch the feedback. It’s kind of an insider moment. It’s very interesting and exciting. The audience tends to love that.”
A cross-pollination of music and film will be showcased as part of EU’s Jacksonville Music Video Revival, which features video submissions in all genres of music. Delamar opened up the submission process to video directors nationwide which she says is certain to bring in a diverse selection of videos.
Music video submissions are still being accepted. Visit www.jaxfilmfest.com for submission rules and online entry forms in all festival categories.
Special panel discussions will include Women in Filmmaking, which will feature several female filmmakers as panelists discussing the benefits and challenges of being a woman in the business. Workshops include Business and Legal Issues in Independent Film, which will cover such topics as optioning, rights and distribution agreements.
Children’s workshops will also be available for those hoping to break into the business as an child actor and those who are interested in pursuing a future career in filmmaking. Parents of budding film ingénues are also encouraged to attend to learn what they can do to nurture and protect their children in the industry. “We are putting in more family-friendly options this year and really highlighting that so people can work towards the things that they want to bring their family to,” Delamar says.
The film fest will travel to the Beaches for the first time on Sunday with its inaugural program at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. Delamar says the first screening of the day will be crowd-sourced from that audience. “We are going to throw out some suggestions, put out some ideas but basically we are going to let the first film of the day be selected by the audience so it will be kind of interesting to see what comes from that,” she says.
A Q&A with Xan Aranda and a “Welcome to the Beaches” cocktail party will follow the screenings, closing out the day with the film Jerzy and the “work in progress” screening of the documentary Messenger of Truth, which was filmed entirely in Poland by an all-local crew.
“We have a lot of local, or used-to-be local filmmakers, that are being highlighted at the festival. We have a very special night planned on Friday night for Patrick Barry and his film Veer. That is another way for Jacksonville to celebrate the local artistry. You can’t grow as an artist in a community unless there is that sort of audience relationship going on. You have to be able to show your work and get feedback,” Delamar says. “It’s crucial that we continue to offer this resource of a film festival not just to be bringing in other people from other places but to be raising up and continuing to nurture the careers of those who choose to continue to have roots in Jacksonville.”
Submissions are still being accepted in all film categories at www.withoutabox.com. Information is available at www.jaxfilmfest.com or by emailing [email protected]
Jax Film Fest 11/1-4
by Liza Mitchell