The Cincinnati Film Festival is returning to Cincinnati on September 6-14. Today I had a chance to talk to Executive Director of the festival, Katharine Steele, about the event. For this, the third year, the primary (but not the sole) location will be the Esquire Theatre in Clifton, and as I talked to Katharine it became clear that along with bringing in movies from all over, the festival is as much about people, and Cincinnati, as it is about movies. “We have more filmmakers coming in this year than in any of the three years, from NYC to LA and everywhere in between,” she explained. “It’s all about welcoming them here, showcasing their films to a new audience, and introducing the filmmakers to our city. If they like Cincinnati, maybe they’ll want to make a movie here.”
For more information on the festival, go to the festival’s website, cincinnatifilmfestival.com.
How do you choose the movies you choose?
The majority of the films are submissions through Without a Box, an online submission tool. This year we had submissions open from April 1 to July 1. Then our all-volunteer screening committee and staff reviews and puts down feedback for our submitted films. Submitted films that are accepted become part of our Official Selections, eligible for juried awards. Invited films, which usually already have distribution, are not.
Are these films that have already been released?
No, submitted films do not, however we have had 2 or 3 in the past that have had distribution arrangements prior to submitting.
It seems to me that part of the appeal of a festival like this is the opportunity to see a film that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.
Absolutely. I love finding a hidden gem. It’s a wonderful feeling. And distribution is really tricky to get: you can have the best film ever and it won’t show anywhere if you don’t have the funds or know-how to properly market and distribute your film. I like to think that film festivals can provide an alternate distribution method, that is, with over 5000 film festivals worldwide, it makes it easier (and cheaper) for a filmmaker to have a multi-city screening. Most of these filmmakers have spent all of their funds (a lot of times coming personally out of pocket) on their projects but haven’t saved enough for distribution and marketing. These filmmakers are many times doing triple duty or even quadruple duty — producing, directing, writing, acting – to produce their passion piece. It’s part of our duty to help get them to a regional audience that normally wouldn’t have the chancto see their film.
Although it’s not the only venue, the main venue for this year is the Esquire Theatre. So let me get this straight: will all six screens be showing film festival movies all the time, or…
At the Esquire, we have one house, a 115-seat theater. That’s for the week-long run from Friday the 7th through Thursday September 13th, with 45 screening blocks, starting at 1 on most days, and Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 AM. We have a couple extra houses just for Saturday and Sunday mornings, and our midnight screenings Friday and Saturday. We have additional screenings at other locations to make sure we gave every film two screenings this year.
I love documentaries, and I love watching them on the big screen, and I noticed you have a lot of interesting-sounding documentaries.
We have 43 narrative shorts, 7 narrative features, 10 documentary features, and 14 documentary shorts. I love documentaries, especially when they’re tackling important issues, and that’s why we’re really lucky this year to be partnering with Community Cinema. It’s a program through ITVS which does programming for PBS too. We’re going to be able to do nine free screenings that extend beyond the festival.
What’s the funniest movie in the festival this year?
I’m kind of partial to this FDR: American Badass! It’s the midnight Saturday screening. It’s one of things that you kind of just gotta watch. It’s got all of these cult icons in the film playing historically recognizable characters.