Thursday, February 26, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Wednesday, Day 5

Commitment – [kuh-MIT-muhnt]
1. the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.
2. walking across a parking lot in Nebraska when it’s 60 degrees in February and staying indoors all day to run a film festival.

So yeah, the drive to the theater with the sunroof open and the windows down was pretty awesome and the fresh, spring air made it really tough to start the day inside, but the show must go on. After doing all of the usual prep-work during the day, we geared up for what we hoped to be a pretty busy evening, especially since it was our first night with four theaters.

The first film of the day was a special screening of Jeff Saxton’s “Heart of the City,” and if you know me personally, you know my involvement with that film. Being in a position, running a film festival, and having an opportunity to program Jeff’s film was a real honor and a treat for me and I was glad to have it be one of our special screenings this year. In talking to Jeff over the last couple of months I told him I wanted 100 ticket sales out of him and tonight’s crowd ended up being 189 so we were thrilled with the turnout! Seeing so many of the people that had worked on the film together again was a pretty surreal experience and a treasured moment. There were fourteen people up front after the film involved in the Q&A session and it was great to hear Jeff talk about the film again. Thanks a ton to everyone that came out and supported this particular screening.

The other two highlights of the evening were the two films with filmmakers in attendance. Ben Kempas’ documentary “Upstream Battle” had its second screening and he had a nice crowd. He’s heading out of town on Thursday so we scheduled both of his screenings early in the week, and while attendance numbers tend to be lower during the early parts of the week, he ended up attracting decent crowds in both of his screening slots. Short film block #2 had Cosmos Kiindarius’ short film “Family Recipes” in it and he had a great Q&A after the block was over. A lot of people were engaged and liked what he had to say about his film specifically, and about independent film in general. Cosmos is a well spoken and intelligent filmmaker and was able to draw the audience in and give them a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking, which is one of the main reasons I love having a festival in the first place. And we were treated with one of my favorite festival moments this year during the ending credit sequence with an older couple who was leaving (or rather “walking out”) after his film. As he passed us, he simply said “booo” which cracked us up. I’m sure he didn’t realize that the filmmaker was standing right there with me. It is true that given the subject matter, “Family Recipes” isn’t for everybody, and that particular reaction proved it.

We’ve increased our attendance each night from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so hopefully we can keep that streak alive and keep growing over the last four days. One thing I’m encouraged by is our attendance at the short film blocks. Four years ago when we first started the festival, I don’t think the city of Omaha had ever seen a short film and over the years we’ve seen a steady increase in support of those blocks, so it’s great to see those films and those filmmakers getting the support they deserve. We spend so much time going over the hundreds of short films we receive, and running a short film block is a difficult thing to do because you have to switch each film and adjust the picture and volume on each one (thanks Johnathan), so when you have a great turnout it makes all of the work seem worthwhile.

After the festival we all headed out to Jake’s, a pretty cool cigar bar in Benson for our official after party. Since the place is only a nine iron away from my house, I figured it would be a good last-stop on my way home. It was a great little place and a cool opportunity to unwind.

As for us, we’re all holding up pretty well. Tomorrow we’re running four screens again and we’ve got some more filmmakers coming into town so it’s going to be a great day. By Friday though I think I’m going to offer a free ticket to the first person that brings me a large, ice cold RedBull. And if there’s a masseuse out there, stop by the booth and ask for me…we should talk.


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