if you’re already familiar with our general opinion of film festivals today, you might find it weird that i’d actually go ahead and plug one anyhoo. that’s one of the many goofy contradictions about me. i have my own rules about capitalization, i love using words that don’t actually exist and despite all of the reasons why film festivals seem to be a total waste of time, i still think there are a few that might be worth it.
unless you’re independently wealthy, the first decision you have to make – choosing which of the thousands of festivals to apply for – is hard enough, and then if you’re accepted to a bunch, the second decision – choosing which festivals to actually go to – is even more mind-numbing.
at the end of the day, it has to come down to what you value most. if you value money above all, you got into the wrong industry and i have no advice for you. if you value fame most, same answer. however if you’re like me and you see this career as a long steady climb and want to expand your contacts in an organic, genuine and easy-going way – and hell, if you’re just in need of a nice vacation, then perhaps the Big Island Film Festival is one worth attending.
full disclosure: i’m actually from the Big Island, so when my short was accepted last year it was kind of obvious that i was going to attend. family is even more important to me than filmmaking, so the fact that such a massive portion of my family – massive both in numbers and in body mass, thanks to my oldest-sister’s highly prolific brood – could actually see our film on the big screen, made attendance a total slam dunk. however the BIFF is practically brand new in the festival world. in fact, this next season is only its seventh! i didn’t know anything about it until Kendall, Denny and i actually went last year, but i was very pleased.
of course it’s Hawaii, so it’s obviously gorgeous. most of the screens are outside and screening your film under the stars is pretty amazing, but that’s not even the most compelling reason to go. in Hawaii, we have a term: talking story. talking story is basically the same thing as ‘shooting the s***’. it means hanging out, talking about nothing in particular, just having fun – but it’s much more than that. ‘talking story’ is a way of life. it’s an integral part of life. as a kid, ‘talking story’ would drive me completely nuts. i always wanted to be somewhere, do something, while ‘talking story’ meant sitting around seemingly doing nothing. now that i’m here on the continent however, i miss it. i really do. turning that clock in your head off and just being there with other people, getting to know them and genuinely enjoying their company is the kind of thing that makes you life-long friends, the kinds of friends that will do anything for you and for whom you would help however you can. those are the kinds of friends you’re likely to make at the Big Island Film Festival.
Jan and Leo Sears, the couple who created and run the festival, have added voluntary “talk story” sessions at the beginning of each day, which are only open to filmmakers. last year they were run by John Mason, the head of the Big Island Film Commission. though what happens in these sessions is not truly talking story, it’s really as close as you could get with a bunch of nervous, ambitious and self-centered filmmakers who’ve never talked story in their lives. i really think that Jan, Leo and John have done such a fantastic job of creating questions which crack open the filmmakers’ shells and of nurturing an environment over-all which creates trust and a kind of pervasive brotherly good will.
now cost can obviously be an issue. the Mauna Lani Resort where the film festival takes place is breathtakingly gorgeous, but a little out of the range of the average indie filmmaker. there are a variety of cheaper places to stay in Kona, the main city on that side of the island. there are time shares and hotels and you can always try couch surfing. that obviously means you’ll need to rent a car, but i mean come on! you’re in Hawaii! you’re NOT going to check out one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world or see one of the world’s most active volcanoes while you’re there? let’s get real.
so in summary, you’re liable to make lifelong friends who also happen to be filmmakers – the very best kind of contacts – and you’re likely to have a really amazing time as well, and those are just about the only valid reasons to go to festivals anymore in my humble opinion.
Chad is the Creative Director of supefreako productions. A writer/director with over two decades experience as a performer, Chad traveled the world with STOMP in the late nineties and then moved to Los Angeles where he’s played drums for an Elektra-records band, written and produced an album of his own and worked in TV, film and theater as an actor.
Chad founded superfreako productions in 2007 with his brother Denny and long-time girlfriend Kendall. Follow the on-going story of superfreako productions at blogfreako.com.