Big movie, little movie
Film festivals are a uniquely varied marketplace for films, where student experiments can brush shoulders with star-studded flicks. Vail Film Festival director Sean Cross knows this well: Each year, he simultaneously weeds through thousands of submissions while keeping an eye out for a clever studio film or two to showcase at the festival.”Our mode is to screen indie film, and even if they have bigger name actors, it’s still often an independent movie,” Cross says. “Then we look for one or two student films to balance it out. We’re not looking to be an avenue for studios – large films play a part, but it’s a small part that helps broaden our lineup.”This year, the Vail Film Festival will show “Knocked Up,” a film from Universal by Judd Apatow. It’s the spiritual sequel to “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and could be a very popular comedy later this summer.”We’re excited when we can get a good film like that in the lineup,” Cross says. “We also love screening comedy and some lighter fare; often film festivals are full of darker material, so it’s nice to have quality comedies to show. But our overall goal is quality.”
Indeed, film companies stand as much to gain from a film festival showing as festival attendees: Festival screenings provide critical early buzz and word-of-mouth, which, thanks to various channels on the Internet, can spread far and wide before a film’s release.”(Studios) want to build momentum, and the Vail Film Festival is a great platform,” Cross says. “They’re confident in their film, but when they screen it and people start talking about it, word gets around.”Cult status
The mark of a true film festival often comes from its showing of a small, unnoticed gem that goes on to become a cult film embraced by a small but devoted legion of fans.”It’s tough to define what makes a cult film or predict what movies become cult movies,” Cross says. “They strike a chord with people and spread by word of mouth, but I can’t say what will or won’t become one, because you just never know.”This year’s festival features two films screaming out for a cult audience, and both fall into the horror-comedy category: “Murder Party” follows a cluster of Brooklyn hipsters as they attempt to murder a hapless victim for art’s sake, while New Zealand’s “Black Sheep” features zombie sheep ransacking the Kiwi countryside. Both films deftly balance bloody attacks with deft bits of humor, like “Shaun of the Dead” before it but with wildly different spins. Only time will tell, however, if the films can grasp a wider following.Cross says “My Date With Drew,” about the filmmaker’s attempts to score a date with Drew Barrymore, struck a chord that resonated. The film eventually gained wider distribution and picked up a cadre of fans that tapped into filmmaker Brian Herzlinger’s desire to meet a childhood crush.
“‘The OH in Ohio,’ while not necessarily a cult movie, strikes me with good memories, because one of the producers was from Vail, so we really showcased local talent,” he says.Most importantly though, the Vail Film Festival will serve as a place for film lovers to come together to see films they can’t see anywhere else.”We will continue to show one or two studio films a year, but screening quality independent films that won’t make it to distribution is a priority,” he says. “Many of these films will not find a place in the market, but audiences will enjoy them nonetheless, and this is a great forum for (those movies) to take the spotlight.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or email@example.com.