By Marc D. Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org
on April 10, 2013 at 4:15 PM, updated April 10, 2013 at 4:21 PM
FAIRHOPE, Alabama — Over a 4-day period in November a group of dedicated volunteers will launch an ambitious film festival with the hope that one day it will rival some of the top venues in the country.
“We think that we have something special to offer here and there’s really not that level of festival in the Southeast,” said Phillip Norris, co-founder of the Fairhope Film Festival. “We think all of the pieces are in place to do that.”
Norris, accompanied by fellow festival co-founder Mary Riser, spoke to members of the Fairhope City Council at their work session this week.
“Our goal is to build a festival that is competitive internationally,” Norris said. “The theme of the festival is “The Best of the Best.” You can’t get in this festival unless you won a film festival in the last 14 months. So this is the winners of the winners.”
The festival has been billed as a first-class event featuring 40 films at four downtown locations over four days, Nov. 7-10, with an expected draw of 5,000 people. The venues will include the University of South Alabama’s theater, Faulkner State Community College’s Centennial Hall, Fairhope Public Library’s Giddens Conference Center and a covered outdoor venue.
While USA’s theater is ready to go, Riser said upgrades are needed at the Faulkner State and library venues in order for it to properly host the festival.
“What we really want is for you to help us with the library and turn it into a real theater because it’s really not a real theater right now,” Riser said. “It needs a full makeover.”
Norris added, “And when we say makeover it’s a new screen, a new projection system and some audio. And this is not just for us it’s for all the groups that use the library.”
Riser said she was encouraged by conversations with John Borom, director of Faulkner’s Fairhope campus, about upgrading the college’s film equipment. For the library, Norris and Riser told the council that $30,000 would cover the upgrades, including removable risers that seats can be put on to create a theater-like setting.
“As we look at other film festivals around the country. Virtually everyone has support from the (host) city,” Norris said. “We see this as a partnership with the city because we want to bring international recognition to Fairhope. We didn’t name it the Gulf Coast Film Festival. It’s the Fairhope Film Festival.”
With local film connections to actors such as Jason Schwartzman, who is married to a Montrose native, and Faulkner’s launch of its computer animation and visual effects program in the fall thanks to a partnership with Centre NAD Baccalaureate College in Montreal, city officials were receptive to the proposal, which also included placing banners around town and using the Welcome Center as a box office.
“I like the idea,” Council President Jack Burrell said. “I’m not going to sit here and promise you that we’re going to support you … but there’s one thing in your favor and that’s the next budget year. So you need to get this request in by June the 1st so that we can start talking about it.”
Burrell said he would also like to see an economic impact study done, and Norris said one was already in the works and should be complete by the end of May.
If you’ve been to your average cineplex on a weekday night, you probably cast your eyes around the theater and found mostly empty seats. On average, fewer than 5% of all theater seats have anyone sitting in them from Monday to Thursday. There are plenty of contributors to this phenomenon, chief among them the constantly shifting and expanding options for watching films in our own home (or anywhere, with a laptop, smartphone or tablet). Yet we all still love the excitement of being part of a large and engaged audience, together in the dark with a story unfolding before us on the silver screen.
The big studios are distributing fewer films than in the past, leaving theaters with little recourse but to replay the same films for weeks, on multiple screens, to an often empty house. These films are often the multimillion-dollar budget extravaganzas that too often overspend on special effects and star power, and skimping when it comes down to the quality of the story and the heart behind the art.
But film-lovers rejoice–there is change in the air! The industry’s most talented have begun focusing their craft on smaller, often independent or small studio films. The theaters can’t afford not to satiate moviegoers’ broadening tastes, and want to capitalize on the diversity of visual content available by tapping new means of distribution. Small budget yet artfully crafted, regionally produced films could soon find their audiences no longer limited to a smattering of festivals and art house theaters.
One of the goals of the Fairhope Film Festival is to help advance the momentum of the public’s increasing awareness and interest in the breadth and depth of filmmaking as it exists today. It is beyond the reach of most of us to attend all of the film festivals taking place globally year round. But we have the solution: our festival will bring the “best of the best” to you, gathering up the most notable, award-winning selections from the world’s greatest film festivals. So join us this November as we dim the lights, fire up the projectors, and revel in the finest of today’s cinematic arts.
on February 27, 2013 at 11:47 AM, updated February 27, 2013 at 1:48 PM
FAIRHOPE, Alabama – Organizers of the inaugural Fairhope Film Festival say they’re building the event to capitalize on the city’s tourist appeal, and hope to create “a substantial economic impact” by drawing patrons who come not just to enjoy the films, but to experience the charms of Fairhope and coastal Alabama while they’re here.
Organizers also are seeking volunteers for the event, which is scheduled to take place Nov. 7-10, featuring 40 films in four venues. It’s intended to showcase select works: “only films nominated for or receiving awards at other national and international film festivals will qualify,” according to promotional materials.
Founders discussed their inspiration and ambitions for the event at an Academy Awards viewing party held Sunday in Fairhope. According to information released after that event, founders Mary Riser, Phillip Norris and John Gautier hosted a visit by Jennifer and Michael Brody in late December. The Brodys are film consultants and co-directors of Colorado’s Crested Butte Film Festival; according to the Fairhope fest’s backers, they were “highly enthusiastic” about Fairhope’s suitability for film festival tourism.
At Sunday’s event, Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant drew a comparison between the film festival and the established Arts & Crafts Festival. That event started with a simple idea “which has since turned into one of the largest arts gatherings in the Southeast and put our area on the map,” he said.
Details of the festival’s lineup and ticket pricing have not yet been announced. Film festival developments and information will be posted at www.fairhopefilmfestival.org. Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the event can sign up for a newsletter at the site, or e-mail email@example.com or call 251-510-1311. Sponsorship inquiries are also welcome at the site.
Check out WKRG’s news story on the Fairhope Film Festival, including interviews with our very own Phil Norris (a festival founder) and several downtown merchants excited about the benefits our festival will bring to the area. Thanks, WKRG!
The Fairhope Film Festival launch party was a great success!
Our fantastic host Harry Johnson and the great staff at his new restaurant Courtyard at 311 provided the perfect setting for the festivities. Great food and drink, costumed guests and excited talk about this year’s festival… not to mention the Oscars watching!
These fun photos were taken by talented local photographer Catt Sirten–thanks Catt! And thank you to everyone who attended and helped make the launch such a wonderful event. This is just the beginning…
Available to Media
What: Fairhope Film Festival Announcement and Party
When: Sunday, February 24, 2013, 7:00 pm
In conjunction with a showing of this year’s “Oscars”
Where: Courtyard at 311
311 Fairhope Avenue
Why: Organizers will announce the 2013 Fairhope Film Festival showing 40 unique films at 4 downtown Fairhope venues, over 4 days, November 7-10.
The Fairhope Film Festival is a film lover’s film festival, offering participants the opportunity to see world-class award winning films in a unique, picturesque location over a four-day period. The focus is on national and international film festival competition finalists of the past year: the “best of the best” in cinema arts. Notable foreign and feature films, documentaries and shorts—many that never made it to the big box theaters or were only there briefly—will be selected for appreciative audiences. Although the festival will pull out all the stops, Southern-style, to host opening and closing events and parties, the emphasis will be on the art of filmmaking and the experience of seeing exceptional films. Directors, actors and screenwriters will participate in the screenings both in person and via live electronic transmission.
The event is expected to attract thousands of locals and visitors from across the Southeast to our beautiful coast and result in significant economic impact.
Who: Speak to key organizers, Mary Riser and Phillip Norris, local community leaders and veterans of film to learn why they hatched the idea of the Fairhope Film Festival and what they’ve heard from the organizers of such notable offerings as the Telluride and Sundance Film Festivals.
Contact: , 251/802-3341