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Dallas Video Fest: Day of Decisions


by Bart Weiss 18 Sep 2008

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is Director of the Dallas Video Festival and president of Video Association of Dallas. This post is adapted from my column “bart chat,” which is part of videofest.news a weekly e-mail newsletter the Video Association sends out. In addition to the great blog that KERA is doing here, you can get […]

CTA TBD

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is Director of the Dallas Video Festival and president of Video Association of Dallas.

This post is adapted from my column “bart chat,” which is part of videofest.news a weekly e-mail newsletter the Video Association sends out. In addition to the great blog that KERA is doing here, you can get get info on what is happening in the film and video world by subscribing to our free e-mail newsletter. We announce free screenings too. Sign up.

I write this on Sunday. Before my head hits the pillow, we will have the schedule set for this years festival.

I assume by now you’ve heard the news that we’ve moved the dates of the Video Fest from October 3-5 to November. One slight adjustment to the original note is that we are starting Thursday night, November 6, and going until the 9th, which gives me one more day to program. This year is so tough because I have only two rooms to work with rather than the customary four, and we’re down two days from last year.

There are DVDs sitting next to my Mac looking at me, like that ice cream I really want but can’t have. I am on a programming diet. But the metaphor only goes so far: there is no fat in these programs I want to show. We will lose diversity this year in our slim trim program. I feel like one of my students who I have to tell, “Lose that shot for the good of the film.”

But in this case, it is not just a shot the audience won’t see, it is a whole perspective on the universe this region will miss. And it’s another filmmaker who gets a rejection letter. And this year, makers whose work I really like – pieces I really like – will get rejection letters. As a filmmaker, there is no good way to deal with a rejection letter. It’s like an actor who doesn’t get the part. Festival organizers are saying we don’t like this thing you have spent the last few years of your life on, and that has to hurt. But that is not a reason to program something that is not as good as something else that needs to be seen. I believe all filmmakers should experience jurying a festival. It would make a difference in the films we see. (Things would be shorter.)

So today is when I agonize, “Do I show this experimental film that nobody else in town will program, and not so many people will come to see, but those who do will love ? Or more mumblecore films, or another local feature, or a politically important doc?”

Which finger do I like better?

As a maker, I have received a rejection letter and I know how it feels; as an audience member I might wonder why a film was picked, and I know how that feels. So today I am in the middle – the surrogate for the audience, the gatekeeper.

Today I define the look of the festival and how ours defines itself in a world of many festivals.

When you go to the festival (And make plans now Nov. 6 -9 at the Angelika Theater in Mockingbird station. Hey, put it in your date book right now before you read the next sentence.) there will still be the question, “What do I see? How do I choose between two films at the same time?” But it won’t be the same feeling as missing three other programs. There will be so many titles that I clearly would have programmed last year, DVDs that I like, but don’t have a place for. I almost have enough to program another video festival. Maybe we could do a screening of some of these somewhere.
Also, we are trying to show the videos off of iTunes, not tape this year. I kind of feel like I did in Year One, when we knew we could do this thing called “desktop publishing.” It wasn’t easy. The Video Fest blazes new paths for others to follow.

Remember that we will be doing Guts and Glory again this year, so those with 16mm film cameras should get them out of the closet and do a test to make sure they work.

Decisions are my task for today. Wish me luck.

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  • stephen becker

    Bart —
    Good luck with the programming. Picking among a lot of favorites is never an easy task. But here’s hoping that you’ll find some level of satisfaction in knowing that by more tightly curating the Fest, you’ll be helping to guide the audience toward the very best that you received. I suppose the problem is: how do you define “best”? What’s always made the Video Fest great is its plethora of options. All I will say to that end is that I’m glad I’m not the one having to make the tough choices, but I am also glad that when I attend this year’s event, I’ll go in knowing that this program has been poured over and thought about maybe more than any other in its history. That’s an exciting nugget for us viewers to think about heading in. And hey — like you said in your post, who says you can’t program a night of outtakes after the festival wraps?