Al­bu­querque Film Fes­ti­val: A sim­ple ex­change

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week -

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.

— R.N.

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