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By Jacqueline Monahan
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6th Annual International Film Festival Summit at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino

At first glance, you’ll think you’re in for some great independent features, shorts and documentaries. You’ll look for the screening rooms and schedules, tickets and passes, booklets full of synopses and stills. You won’t find them here, but what takes place over the three day conference ensures that you will never be far from a film festival when that indie craving takes over.

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The International Film Festival Summit took up residence on the upper level of Planet Hollywood in the conference rooms to the right of the Peepshow Theater. Covering international, national and regional independent film festivals, the summit brought together a group of like-minded individuals who opened nearly every personal introduction with, “Which fest are you with?”

Representatives came from festivals in Beloit, Wisconsin, Boston, Orlando, Nantucket and Austin. Telluride was there, alongside the London Independent Film Festival and The National Endowment of the Arts, who mixed it up with The Seattle Jewish Film Festival, who shared a table with the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

With workshops centering on subjects that fell along three tracks (Sponsorship, Programming, and Distribution), hot topics included juries, grants, submissions and membership drives with the number one issue invading the domain of all of the others: funding. Money and how to get it, keep it, make it and award it was the needle that stitched the whole festival quilt together.

Assigned Living Groups, consisting of eight attendees to facilitate networking and collaboration, we were actually told at the orientation that if we found we weren’t contributing to the group, to “get up and go somewhere else. You must contribute.” My group included festival officials from New Orleans, Palm Springs, Milwaukee and New York.

An exhibit area featured vendors that specialized in venues, tickets, credentials, security and media products. The registration packet included a sampling of wrist and badge-wear from one of the sponsors. Everyone also got a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, perhaps for the Hollywood allure of it all.

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After a brief orientation which was still confusing to a novice, (although I did gather that actor Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame would be attending) the first of two keynote addresses took place. Billy Sanez Director of Advertising for American Airlines spoke about partnership formation between corporations and festivals, those symbiotic relationships that benefit big, brand name companies and small non-profits alike.

Asserting that “film is in our DNA,” Sanez boasted of his company’s 87-year history and its reach into 40 countries and 250 cities. In one of their aircraft cruising at 40,000 feet at 555 mph, he boasted that the airline played “films that defy gravity. Sanez himself has 1.8 million frequent flyer miles under his belt and knows all about product placement and branding. No, not cattle – a company or product.

American Airlines can be seen in movies such as Silent Running and Home Alone, and on television series such as The Amazing Race and Iron Chef America. Sanez urged the festival reps to do the same with their “brand.”

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As a keynote address, four representatives of the San Francisco Film Society spoke about the various facets that comprise their city’s International Film Festival SFIFF). It’s the oldest, longest running film festival in the Americas (est. 1957). The Executive Director, as well as professionals in Marketing, Programming and Filmmaker Services took turns describing the social and educational aspects of the prestigious festival, along with their tremendous membership growth (3500) and the responsibilities of a multimillion dollar budget.

A subsequent question and answer period followed with the inevitable emphasis on the gathering of dead presidents (money) that is the life’s blood of any festival. The SFIFF people have a Facebook page and were quick to point out that “friends aren’t fans,” meaning that a large friend following doesn’t always translate into monetary support.

The SFIFF is clearly an example of a festival gone “right” in every direction. Their mandate to the assembled crowd was to go forth and do likewise.

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Las Vegas has its share of film festivals, from the glamorous CineVegas (on hiatus this year) to the smaller (though gaining in popularity) Las Vegas and Nevada Film Festivals, to special interest (horror, Sci-fi, fantasy) fests that occur at conventions such as Fangoria and Xanadu.

Representatives from The Nevada Film Alliance and Film Festival Magazine (with a contributor who lives in Las Vegas) were on hand to network and brainstorm with the best and the brightest in independent film festival production.

IFFS 2010 will take place in Amsterdam.

More in-depth coverage of the IFFS, as well as the accompanying music festival (IMFCOM) will appear in Patty Fantasia’s column in the next edition of Las Vegas Round the Clock

For further information:

www.filmfestivalsummit.com

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