Presenting Buffalo International Film Festival

May 11, 2016

What is the Buffalo International Film Festival’s mission?

We have a number of different things that we try and do for the community, but also for filmmakers in the U.S. and also internationally.  First and foremost our mission is to sow great films, and also to give filmmakers access to a western New York audience that appreciates their work.  We also have a strong community component focusing on supporting local filmmakers, supporting the film industry in Buffalo, and also providing a cultural opportunity for the community locally and one that also brings in people from out of town.  So they have another reason too, on top of the many there already are, to experience Buffalo.

Buffalo International Film Festival

What role does your film festival play in supporting your film’s community?

We do a number of things.  The biggest thing we do is provide a platform for filmmakers to present their work.  After that, we are a nonprofit so we provide fiscal sponsorship to projects that are interested ant that apply.  We can act as a fiscal path for filmmakers who are trying to raise funds for their film, whether through grants, through private individual donors, and we make it possible for people to donate money to us as a charity, which we can then grant to other filmmakers.  We also work with filmmakers to help connect them with mentors in the community who have maybe more experience as filmmakers to help guide people along the process.  Whether it’s someone’s first film, or someone who just wants to break into the industry.  We try and connect people to other members of the community to try and make it a little more tightknit.

How long has your film festival been around and how did it come into being?

This is going to be our 10th annual.  This is going to be my second year as executive director.  The Film Festival was founded by man named Edward Summer.  Ed was a bit of a legend in his own right, though he was relatively unknown.  He was a filmmaker, screenwriter, an animator, and an artist.  He was a friend of George Lucas’s’ growing up, he was a script advisor for the original Star Wars: A New Hope, he wrote the story for Conan The Barbarian and had a number of other connections.  He was a mentor of mine, and he past away in the fall of 2014 after the 8th year of running the festival and then passed the executive directorship on to me.  So the first 8 years of the festival was a bit smaller in scope, and reach.  Did a lot of repertory screenings and screened at a smaller venue in town.  When I came in we decided to take the opportunity of it being passed on to a new generation to expand it a bit and move it into a bigger more key venue, and try to position it to reflect the resurgence that Buffalo is experiencing as a city.  Last year we had a 235% increase in attendance and we were able to almost double the amount of films that we were screening, and we started to gain support in local municipalities in terms of funding and just generally gained a lot more press attention.  It has exploded in the last year and a half.

Buffalo International Film FestivalWhat do you want audiences to take away from your film festival?

At the end of the day we want to promote an experience.  From an outsiders point of view we want to change people’s perspective of Buffalo.  People have this misconception that it’s just covered in snow 365 days a year, and that it’s cold all the time, which is totally not true!   There is so much more than what the stereotypical point of view of Buffalo is.  There is a lot to do; there is a great nightlife, amazing restaurants, and beautiful architecture.  It is one of the greatest architecture cities in terms of the history of architecture.  We have the most Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the country.  We try and build all of that experience in for people who are coming in from out of town to visit.  At the end of the day the most important thing is that people got to see great films and they walk out of the theatre having conversations about what they say.  We want it to be an experience that encompasses a lot different things that reflects everything that Buffalo has to offer.

Anything else you’d like to tell the audience about your festival?

One thing that really interests us is diversity.  We are trying to build a festival that reflects the diversity of Buffalo, but also the film industry in general in a way that maybe isn’t reflected in the industry itself.  We pay particular attention to underrepresented voices, last year one of our big first efforts was trying to have our programing be as close to 50% made up of films that were directed or produced by females.  Now that we have been able to get a grasp on that we’re focusing on braking into other “Niche” markets.  Black filmmakers, Latino filmmakers, LGBT filmmakers, and we want to present all of their works in a way that doesn’t necessarily make this a “Niche” film festival, but one that encompasses the makeup of the world population.  We want it to interest a wide audience so that we are exposing people who are from different walks of life to works that have a universal truth.  We are a festival focused on diversity without trying to capitalize on being a “Niche” film festival.

Check out the Buffalo International Film Festival website.

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