Breckenridge '02 Wrap Up
Final thoughts from the 2002 Breckenridge Festival of Film Category: Festivals
Date: 18 October 2002
Well, the Breckenridge fest has been over for some time and where is all the promised material? There are a few reasons for the delay, including a deadline for a completely unrelated project that is thankfully past now.
There are still a number of reviews pending from the festival. I have my notes, but cannot enter them yet because the IMDb does not yet include those titles. I've spent some time using their tools to add these films to their database, but weeks have past and they have yet to surface. There's a lesson here that this site needs some work to be less dependent on the IMDb. The work is already begun, but progresses slowly.
Breckenridge was a bit of an experiment. That Cow could use some additional features to bring people in to the site. The idea of articles is a good one, and festival coverage is the perfect compliment to the reviews.
The catch here is that festival coverage is a lot of work. The first day is easy - you get to walk around, look at the schedule, and attend an opening night film, and probably some party/gala/festivity to kick things off. Despite staying up late, I was able to get in a review and the "First Thoughts" article right away. And then things started backing up. I have a newfound respect for the daily rags at festivals like Sundance - they may have tag team reporters putting them together, but it's still a lot of work.
That said, this has been a learning experience - as it should be - and future festival coverage will benefit from it. It's early to decide whether the coverage is worthwhile, but I'm still encouraged that there is a place for it on this site.
I honestly found little to get excited about in the independent films this year, which is unusual. The strongest features were the John Stamos redefinition cause Grownups and Kiss the Bride, a logical heir to the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Of at least equal quality was The Badge with Billy Bob Thornton, but I'm hardly able to count it, since the film has been on heavy rotation on cable since before the festival. I just can't tell people to rush out and see these films. I haven't been able to post it yet, but I can at least warn people away from the truly awful Harrington's Notes.
More solid this year were the shorts. It makes sense - they're easier to finish, and the short length means it's harder to lose your way as a filmmaker. You won't be bogged down by loose ends and overreaching story. The best was The Man With The Empty Room. Also notable were Self Storage, Get Skinny, and Easy Pickings (these last two awaiting the IMDb).
Jeffrey Lyons is the man responsible for getting a consistently good slate of premieres at Breckenridge. He has the connections and can persuade the right people this small festival is a good place for the movie to show.
This year held eight major film premieres - granted not world premieres, but at least regional. Often the world premieres come in Toronto in the week or two before.
For its size - only a four day festival - eight premieres is pretty good. I haven't counted, but I'm not sure the Denver International has that many for its ten day run. One of them did fail to show - a native American tale called Skins. A little birdie says that if we had to lose one of the premieres this year, then that was certainly the one to lose.
My big problem with the premieres is that it simply is not possible to catch them all. The opening and closing night films don't play against anything, so they're a veritable slam dunk. Of the other premieres, only two were repeated - and of course I caught those, but I desperately wished for other screenings - not just for the premieres, but in general - to give me more options for seeing everything I wanted. The problem is that, contractually, some premieres can only be shown once - often due to the need to send the print off somewhere else. When that's the case, I'd like to see the independents they play against have a second screening as well.
In business, the more established a product is, the more they emphesize the value-add - hence you get shoes that light up when you walk, super-size fries, and pre-moistened towlettes. With a film festival, people pretty much expect to see movies, so it's common for these events to branch out with celebrities, panels, parties, contests, and the like.
The norm at Breckenridge has been to have two independent film panels, and two celebrity interviews - one each on Saturday and Sunday - a writing seminar with a professional and some question and answer with the festivals screenplay contest winners. This year they threw in a pair of women-in-filmmaking panels as well. As for parties, there's something each night, though they've held back a bit the last couple years, not having the big gala they've traditionally thrown.
The celebrities this year were Jon Favreau and Jane McGregor. McGregor, as a guest, was a delight. The experience of acting is fun for her and it comes across with a buoyant energy that also reflects an intelligence and prescient saavy about the industry in someone so young. And then there's Favreau, who is, hands down, the best guest I've seen yet at Breckenridge (granted I missed such folk as James Earl Jones, Rod Steiger in earlier years). He's been involved in many sides of filmmaking, in independents and studio movies, in front of the camera and behind. Not only that, but he's vital - he's doing his thing now. Most guests who have a lot of experience here tend to be looking back at an extensive career rather than participating in one. His class shines through for being unable to attend last year, and still coming for this year's festival.
With the panels, there tends to be a limit on how much you'll be able to get out of it. The greater your interest in the details of the industry, the less you'll tend to fall sleep. Don't get me wrong - there's information here, but it's not for everyone. One of the more interesting aspects this year was the presence of Mark Maine of Angelic Entertainment, who describes himself as a film financer. That's the sort of statement that gets people's attention. Like E.F. Hutton, his words were paid just a bit more attention to, especially from the other filmmakers. Money is the biggest issue in getting a film made, and Maine's ideals of selling a film before even making it were appreciated, if not considered practical for those just getting in the business.
It's A Wrap
Breckenridge is a small town festival. There's no getting around that. The quality of films and guests does run higher than you'd expect for a festival this size. Yet, the festival is not growing very fast in popularity. If this were a business, it would be described as having flat growth - heck, it's not a business and can be described that way.
There's a bit of a conundrum afoot as to where the festival should go from here - take risks to gain a larger audience, or get comfortable with simply being a smaller festival. Attracting people from Denver is tough when there's a decent 10-day festival in October. When I come up for the festival, I recognize advertising all over Summit County, but local attendance stays low.
I still feel like the festival is in a recovery period. Last year's event was thrown in disarray by terrorism. There is still a note of doubt in the air which is largely unvoiced, but still lingers behind the scenes. Coming so close to the one-year anniversary does not help. My feeling is that this won't be an issue for the coming year, but only time will tell on that count.
We end this first attempt at film festival coverage (oh, it's sad, I know), with this list of the films reviewed from this year's festival - a complete list will be put here in an update shortly. Just remember you can see more films like these if you come next year!
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