A man of in­de­pen­dent means Fes­ti­val ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jac­ques Pais­ner

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

S even years ago, au­thor and film­maker Jac­ques Pais­ner, re­act­ing to the news that his movie Rejection had been re­jected by the San ta Fe F ilm Fes­ti­val, de­cided to start an al­ter­na­tive fest high­light­ing in­de­pen­dent movies.

Pais­ner and David Moore ini­ti­ated the Santa Fe In­de­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val in 2009, fund­ing it “mostly on hand­shakes and a bud­get of about $2,500,” as Pais­ner put it. Pa­trons re­sponded to the fes­ti­val’s gritty can-do at­ti­tude and its abil­ity to draw a mix of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional film artists. That line-up has in­cluded John Wa­ters (of Pink Flamin­gos and Hair­spray fame), Na­tive Amer­i­can ac­tors Wes Studi and Gary Farmer, the late com­edy writer Digby Wolfe, and ac­tress Shirley MacLaine.

The pro­gram­ming has leaned to­ward fea­tures and doc­u­men­taries about so­cial jus­tice is­sues, war, same­sex re­la­tion­ships, and nu­clear energy, but it has also show­cased off­beat odd­i­ties like the zom­bie mu­si­cal The Dead In­side and the New Mexico-made film ver­sion of Ru­dolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ul­tima.

Pais­ner, the fes­ti­val’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said that last year, SFIFF at­tracted more than 10,000 pa­trons. The bud­get is close to a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars, and screen­ing venues have in­creased from one the first year to five this year. Movie Maker mag­a­zine has touted the fes­ti­val as one of the to p 25 co olest film fests and twice cited it as one of the top 50 in the coun­try worth the en­try fee.

This year’s fes­ti­val runs from Wed­nes­day, Oct. 14, to Sun­day, Oct. 18. Pais­ner spoke with Pasatiempo about its place in th e film w orld and his hope to in­crease its pro­file and pa­tron­age.

Pasatiempo: What is the def­i­ni­tion of an in­de­pen­dent film these days? Jac­ques Pais­ner: Some­thing just out­side of the stu­dio sys­tem. Some say it’s not in­de­pen­dent if it’s made for over $10 mil­lion. Jean Cocteau said, “Film will only be­come an art when its ma­te­ri­als are as in­ex­pen­sive as pa­per and pen,” and in­de­pen­dent film to­day is the be­gin­ning of that move­ment. Pasa: Is at­ten­dance a good barom­e­ter of suc­cess for the Santa Fe In­de­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val? Pais­ner: It’s def­i­nitely a re­sult of good pro­gram­ming and peo­ple want­ing to show up and be there for it. Pasa: Do you keep track of the de­mo­graph­ics? Pais­ner: We do. We have a rel­a­tively young de­mo­graphic for a film fes­ti­val, but we also get a lot of re­tired peo­ple. They come heav­ily from Los An­ge­les and New York, but we also get them from Ok­la­homa, Texas, Colorado, and Ari­zona. About 2,500 or so came from out­side the state last year, so about 7,500 were from New Mexico. Pasa: What do you look for when you pro­gram the fes­ti­val — the so-called “eclec­tic mix”? Pais­ner: We are not look­ing for an eclec­tic mix. We are look­ing for the top na­tional and top in­ter­na­tional in­de­pen­dent films. We also want the top lo­cal films. Some of the films we were lucky enough to show in Santa Fe last year, like My­roslav Sla­bosh­pyt­skiy’s The Tribe, went on to play at AFI [Amer­i­can Film In­sti­tute] Sun­dance in Jan­uary. Be­ing able to show that kind of film in Santa Fe six months or a year be­fore they open some­where like CCA or Vi­o­let Crown is re­ally cool. Pasa: Are you still mak­ing films? Pais­ner: I’m work­ing on small projects here and there, but I’m not writ­ing or di­rect­ing. Pasa: Has run­ning the fes­ti­val sapped that cre­ative energy? Pais­ner: No, it hasn’t. I have a real mis­sion to get the fes­ti­val up to where it’s at­tract­ing 50,000 visi­tors and have busi­nesses and tourists line up in a cor­ri­dor be­tween the Len­sic and the Jean Cocteau and the Vi­o­let Crown ev­ery year fol­lowin g the we ek­end of Bal­loon Fi­esta. While run­ning the fes­ti­val has put me int ouch with new peo­ple and film­mak­ers and op­por­tu­ni­ties that I never thought I would have, in terms of drop­ping ev­ery­thing to pro­duce an in­die fea­ture now — well, that would be grea tbutIdo n’t see that hap­pen­ing in the next cou­ple of years. Pasa: All the press for the fes­ti­val has so far been pos­i­tive. We haven’t heard of any grow­ing pains yet. Are there any? Pais­ner: No, I think we’ve had a re­ally good pro­gres­sion. Last year we gave the Life­time Achieve­ment Award to Shirley MacLaine, and that’s the cat­a­lyst for giv­ing it to Gena Row­lands this year. The Academy [of Mo­tion Pic­tures Arts and Sciences] is go­ing to give her an honorary award fol­low­ing ours. That gives us a chance to show some John Cas­savetes movies.

While I think our pro­gram­ming is big, we have the the­aters in Santa Fe to ac­com­mo­date it and we have the au­di­ence to fill those the­aters. My think­ing is, why do it smaller and more spe­cific when Santa Fe can be a des­ti­na­tion for film just like Park City [for the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val] and Telluride are? Santa Fe is a much bet­ter city for this type of fes­ti­val. We have this artis­tic cul­tural history, we are the old­est cap­i­tal, and there is so much more to do here. — Robert Nott

photo Clyde Mueller/The New Mex­i­can

From left, Jac­ques Pais­ner, SFIFF’s pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant Frank Qu­a­trone, and fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Liesette Pais­ner;

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