Albuquerque Film Festival: A simple exchange
As some film festivals struggle to move forward or remain artistically relevant while dealing with financial shortfalls, the Albuquerque Film Festival, which debuted this summer, confidently moves forward into its second year. Pasatiempo interviewed founder and executive director Rich Henrich about his experience to date. Pasatiempo: How did your first year go? Rich Henrich: Attendance exceeded my expectations. I was aiming for about 2,000 [viewers], but when we totaled it up, we had about 3,000. And we’re very happy with the quality of our pictures. We opened with Baraka and gave nods to [New Mexican film artists] AltonWalpole, Michael Stearns, and David Aubrey ... and we closed with Gospel Hill, directed by and starring Giancarlo Esposito, who, while not a native New Mexican, has appeared in [the shot-in-New Mexico TV series] Breaking Bad. We screened Easy Rider and honored Dennis Hopper, so there’s a thread of films connected to New Mexico. Pasa: Are you defining yourself as a festival yet? Henrich: We’re looking at that. I want to focus on emerging talent and technology. Having Todd Jefferson, the director of games for Marvel Comics, at the festival— that’s the direction I want to push it toward, focusing on the emerging aspect of media while screening films that were shown at Sundance, Toronto, and other fests around the world. Pasa: Did you have any sponsors drop out due to the bad economy? Henrich: One major sponsor pulled out at the last minute, which caused minor setbacks. We weren’t able to offer our guests airfare; the hospitality end is where we had to cut back. Pasa: You screened about 25 features and 50 shorts. Is it important for a film festival to emphasize quality over quantity? Henrich: I’ve been to a lot of film festivals, and the challenge is always becoming overwhelmed, because the slate is so large that it’s impossible to take them all in. So offering 25 [features] is where we will keep it next year, but maybe we’ll add more to the short-film section and boost the number of panel talks and workshops. Pasa: What advice would you have for someone starting a new film festival? Henrich: Don’t do it. I’m kidding. The key thing is to make sure you have support from your community and building a strong group of volunteers who are dedicated. Pasa: What’s your take on the future for film festivals? Henrich: Most of them are in a position where they have to scale back. ... But when you have to cut back, the focus returns to the filmmaker and the audience, that simple exchange of being able to screen a filmmaker’s work and have the audience respond.