Full disclosure: Yes, A Hammer Fell in Jerusalem: Anathema was rejected by the Sarasota Film Festival. That makes two films rejected by the hometown. When I know when my film is playing the Fringe, I'll, of course, let y'all know, too. I should also mention that I am a film projectionist for the Sarasota Film Festival.
If you want to call me bitter, you have every right to and maybe there's a little bit of me that is. I've been rejected by plenty of festivals and I've been accepted by a few. I'm okay with that. But there's a special sting in being rejected by the hometown festival, especially when it's the only one there is.
More than anything, though, I'm frustrated. It feels like Sarasota wants to be supportive of local filmmakers just so long as those local filmmakers fit their view of what is art. And if there are stars in the film that can be brought to Sarasota to be shown off like a fancy piece of jewelry. What frustrates me the most is that the programmers for Sarasota like to go to other festivals, specifically Sundance, and pick up films from there for their programming. I see so many stickers from Sundance as I build festival prints, it's not even funny. I understand that there's a lot of that that goes on on the festival circuit, I'd love to know the ratio of actual indie and local films to ones cherry picked from other festivals to be shown here in Sarasota.
Last year, the festival screwed up and sent out the rejection letters without BCC-ing the entire list of rejects so everyone knew who was rejected. A few of those filmmakers got together and arranged on short notice to have their own festival in the middle of a restaurant featuring as many of the rejected films as they could pull together from the list of filmmakers the festival practically handed to them. While it sounds kinda ghetto, and according to a friend whose film played there last year it kind of was, it's also genius. Most cities have multiple film festivals. This one really doesn't. There's no competition for the Sarasota Film Festival, nothing to keep it vital to the community of artists that live here, young or old.
Will every film be good? No.Of course not. You, dear reader, may not like my film. That's the nature of the beast. But not every film the Sarasota Film Festival brings in is good either. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be some fine films in the Fringe festival that may not have gotten a chance to be seen otherwise because it looks cheap or you can see the boom mic or they used their mom as their lead actress or they just don't know any better and are brand new to the circuit or are consistently rejected from festivals for whatever reason. Without this exposure, this experience, some talented folks might not get seen.
I've played to empty rooms, well-attended theatre auditoriums, and jam-packed warehouse spaces. It doesn't really matter where you play so long as the work gets seen and filmmakers, no matter where they're from, always want their work to show in the hometown. Competition usually makes work better and there is no competition for the SFF. They've gotten complacent. Maybe the Fringe festival is exactly what is needed to shake them up a bit.
If you're so moved, you can give a minimum of $10 to the cause via Kickstarter. I've pledged $20. Only if they meet their goal of $5000 on that website will anyone be charged. If you're not so moved, at least come on out to the Sarasota Fringe Film Festival and check out the variety of films and filmmakers some good, some not good, but all made with heart.