May 31, 2006

Festival Focus: International Film Festival Summit

Christian Gaines, artistic director of the AFI Fest, who delivered the keynote address of the International Film Festival Summit

It was great to be back in the crisp winter clime in New York City last December, where nearly 200 individuals who produce, manage, promote or sponsor film festivals from Czechoslovakia to Seattle gathered for the second annual International Film Festival Summit (IFFS). The impressive assemblage took place at the Park Central Hotel and Samsung Center in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle. The objective was to create a dialogue among peers, share insights and gain knowledge and further understand the value of festival sponsorship and opportunities and impact on economic growth in communities.

The two days of panel discussions, workshops and breakout sessions addressed the most pressing issues facing the film festival industry in the largest gathering of its kind. Topics included festival funding, capitalizing on technology, evaluating economic impact, sponsorship, programming and distribution potential.

Christian Gaines, director of the Los Angeles-based AFI Fest, delivered the inspiring keynote address that kicked off the summit, summarizing the social and cultural phenomenon of the past century of movie-going experience as the "transformational experiences providing a means for people to connect with others as well as offer an enriched perspective of the world--more important than ever in our ever-fragmenting world." Gaines pointed out that although attendance at theaters in the US is declining, film festivals are vitally important to encourage and build audience appreciation by providing a satisfying experience to current generations and "introducing the next generation of filmgoers to the special encounter between a film, a filmmaker and the audience in the festival environment."

The organizers of IFFS deserve kudos for having the initiative to create a forum to address pressing questions and challenges facing the film festival front.

As Gaines concluded, "Your work is critical in preserving and creating lovers of movie-going, and celebrating the sacred cultural activity of going to the movies...It's transformational and actually has a direct effect on our society as a whole."

This year's IFFS takes place December 3-5 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more, see


Stephanie Mardesich is a public relations consultant specializing in arts and entertainment, and festival director/co-founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival ( taking place May 5-7 in the Port of Los Angeles, California.