NEW ARTIS­TIC DI­REC­TOR HAS SEEN CHANGES

Calgary Herald - - YOU - ERIC VOLMERS The Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val runs from Sept. 19 to 30 at var­i­ous the­atres. Visit cal­gar­y­film.com

Brian Owens over­saw his first film fes­ti­val in 2004 and he re­mem­bers car­ry­ing can­is­ters of 35mm films to the local UPS to ship back to film­mak­ers around the world.

It was the in­au­gu­ral In­di­anapo­lis Film Fes­ti­val, which Owens founded nearly 15 years ago. Things have changed, to say the least.

“Now some­body just sends you a file and away you go,” says Owens, in an in­ter­view from his home in Nashville. “So, yeah, it’s a dras­ti­cally chang­ing in­dus­try.”

For the past decade, Owens has wit­nessed these changes first-hand as artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Nashville In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, a post he took over in 2009. Af­ter help­ing dou­ble its au­di­ence dur­ing that time, he over­saw his fi­nal fes­ti­val in Mu­sic City this past May.

Hired as Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val’s first artis­tic di­rec­tor, Owens of­fi­cially be­gins his job in Oc­to­ber. But he plans to be on hand for this year’s fes­tiv­i­ties, from Sept. 19-30, as an ob­server. He took some time to chat with Post­media this week about the fu­ture of Cal­gary’s biggest film fest.

Q What are your ini­tial im­pres­sions of the Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val?

A I think the pro­gram­ming team has done a great job, I think the mar­ket­ing has been solid. Ev­ery­thing looks re­ally pro­fes­sional. I only had a day-and-a-half in the city and it was re­ally foggy, so I couldn’t see a whole lot. The parts of the city that I was able to ex­pe­ri­ence I en­joyed and I’m look­ing for­ward to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the whole of the city.

Q Are there aspects of the fes­ti­val you would like to see changed?

A I wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily say change. My hope is to go there and en­hance the qual­ity of things that are al­ready hap­pen­ing; through ex­pand­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, grow­ing the pool of en­tries and taking a cou­ple of the re­la­tion­ships that I have with some stu­dios here to bring more spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tions and larger ti­tles up there.

Q As far as I know, this is the first time the fes­ti­val has had an artis­tic di­rec­tor sep­a­rate from the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. What is your role go­ing to be and how is it dif­fer­ent from Stephen Schroeder’s? How will you be in­ter­act­ing with the vet­eran pro­gram­mers here?

A As artis­tic di­rec­tor, my job each year will be to shape the vi­sion of the fes­ti­val. It hap­pens or­gan­i­cally to a de­gree. But I think for it to hap­pen or­gan­i­cally, there needs to be some­one there who is also guid­ing it. The film­mak­ers, ob­vi­ously, have the biggest say. But as you start to see what’s hap­pen­ing in the pool of en­tries and what’s hap­pen­ing in the an­nual trends in cinema, that’s how you start build­ing a com­plete fes­ti­val. It’s al­ways been left to Steve to do that but Steve has so many other hats to wear and jobs to do as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor that they felt like it was the right time to cre­ate this po­si­tion and I have 15 years ex­pe­ri­ence do­ing it.

Q You founded the In­di­anapo­lis In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in 2004. How has the land­scape changed for film fes­ti­vals and cinema in gen­eral?

A (laughs) I don’t even know if it’s the same business. Peo­ple still sit down and watch movies on the big screen and peo­ple still make movies, but how they watch them is so vastly dif­fer­ent than it was 15 years ago and how the con­tent is cre­ated is so dif­fer­ent than it was 15 years ago. It’s been so de­moc­ra­tized that lit­er­ally, any­body with an iPhone can make a movie, not that ev­ery­one in the au­di­ence wants to see everybody’s iPhone movie. But there is that ca­pa­bil­ity to do that. In a way, that de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion has been fan­tas­tic be­cause it’s opened the doors to fresh voices who wouldn’t have had ac­cess fi­nan­cially to cre­ate a film be­fore. If there is a draw­back, it also means there is a lot more to wade through to get to the high­est-qual­ity stuff. So it has its ups and downs. It’s been fas­ci­nat­ing to watch the changes hap­pen from this view­point.

Q Pre­sum­ably, one of the frus­tra­tions for fes­ti­vals pro­gram­mers is that au­di­ences will flock to higher-pro­file films that will be in the mul­ti­plexes in a few months but stay away from smaller, hid­den gems. How do you en­cour­age au­di­ences to be more ad­ven­tur­ous?

A I think there’s dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing that. There’s ob­vi­ously mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions but as I de­velop my re­la­tion­ship with the au­di­ence and work with the pro­gram­mers to grow their re­la­tion­ship (with the) au­di­ence, there are ideas I have to bring peo­ple in a lit­tle bit ear­lier so there’s more com­mu­nity own­er­ship of some of the films be­fore the fes­ti­val be­gins. I’ve al­ready got one for this year’s fes­ti­val that I’m try­ing to hype up from here. It is Thun­der Road, Jim Cum­mings’ fea­ture film. Ac­tu­ally, we pro­grammed it here. We were one of the first ones af­ter it world pre­miered at (South by South­west) to have it, be­cause I’ve been sup­port­ing Jim’s short work for quite a while. It’s a new Amer­i­can film and there are not ma­jor names in it, but it’s a re­mark­able work of cinema that is both oc­ca­sion­ally hys­ter­i­cal and oc­ca­sion­ally heart­break­ing. I hope that it gets as much at­ten­tion as the larger ti­tles do.

Q A big part of the Cal­gary film fes­ti­val is Cana­dian cinema. What is your im­pres­sion of Cana­dian cinema? Is it some­thing you’ve been ex­posed to in Nashville or In­di­anapo­lis?

A Oddly enough, as I was grow­ing up the first one I ever went to in In­di­anapo­lis was the Fes­ti­val of Cana­dian Cinema. There were a cou­ple of trans­plants who wanted to bring a part of their home­land to In­di­anapo­lis. It’s not around any longer, but I’ve been aware of Cana­dian cinema and a fan of Cana­dian cinema ba­si­cally be­fore I was do­ing this. I think of the Fast Run­ner, I think of Strangers In Good Com­pany, I think of (Cal­gary film­maker Gary Burns’) way­down­town. That’s one of the things that cracks me up. When I first got (to Cal­gary) I was like 'Oh yeah! I re­mem­ber that movie!' One of my favourite film­mak­ers is from Canada, Jamie Travis. If any­one hasn’t seen the Pat­terns tril­ogy I strongly rec­om­mend it.

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