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San Diego Film Festival Kicks Off 11th Year On Wednesday

The documentary "Not Yet Begun to Fight."
Sabrina Lee
The documentary "Not Yet Begun to Fight."

New Leadership For Festival

San Diego Film Festival Kicks Off 11th Year On Wednesday
GUESTS: Dale Strack, Chairman of the Board, San Diego Film FestivalTonya Mantooth, Director of Programming

The 2012 San Diego film Festival is going big. The festival's new leadership says on its website this is a year of big ideas, big impact and a big festival. Part of that big misses the fact that the festival spreading out in multiple theaters and will be showing films all year round. I'd like to welcome my guests tell stack is chairman of the board at the San Diego film Festival in detail, welcome to the program. DALE STRACK: Hi Maureen. Glad to be here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tonya Mantooth is here as well. She's in charge of programming at the San Diego film Festival. Thank you for being here. TONYA MANTOOTH: Thank you, Maureen. Nice to be here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dale, you took over the film Festival this year and you made changes right off the bat setting up screenings around the city. What is your vision for the festival. DALE STRACK: We want to build the festival into a major US Festival in order to do that we've got to be able to reach out to a broader part of the county. So by being able to establish the area and the North County along with downtown we are able to engage more people in the festival that way. Our vision is to build this into 100,000 people within five years attending this festival. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay so one of the centerpieces of this years Festival is a tribute and retrospective of Gus Van Zandt's work. How did you decide on him? DALE STRACK: Good question he actually represents to us the independent spirit of film that we feel is very much a part of what we are building. Because we are all about supporting filmmakers as well as supporting filmmaking in San Diego as well as economic benefits that this brings to San Diego also. So, he represents all of that to us. He started as an independent filmmaker and has kept that spirit throughout. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Tonya, which of the Gus Van Zandt films are you showcasing and why? TONYA MANTOOTH: Well there are five of them, Good Will Hunting, Milk, To Die For and My Own Private Idaho. We are doing Good Will Hunting during the tribute and one of the reasons we are doing that is because of the 15th anniversary of the re-release for good Will hunting. And one thing that we found out we are very excited about is an attribute we are also going to be allowed to show the new film that he's doing, promised land, the trailer just came in from focus features. So we are so excited about that. What's interesting about that, Maureen, is that it is the first time that he's worked with Matt Damon since goodwill hunting and so it is a Matt Damon Gus Van Zandt film again. So we are so excited and really honored to have Gus with us. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Reunited. Now let's listen to a scene from To Die fFor starring Nicole Kidman as an overly ambitious weather girl. FILM RECORDING: Hi my name is Suzanne Barreto. All right, I'm sorry. Suzanne Barreto is my married name. My own name is Suzanne Stone. That's my professional name. Suzanne Stone. It's not like I have any negative feelings about the name Barreto. Barreto is the name after all of my husband. Who I loved. Very, very much. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is Nicole Kidman in to die for, one of the films in the retrospective of Gus Van Zandt there will be part of the San Diego film Festival. Gus Van Zandt is going to be in attendance of course, he is going to be there to show his trailer. Is that right? TONYA MANTOOTH: Absolutely he will be there for the tribute. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The San Diego film Festival is not limited like other festivals are perhaps focus on Asian films or Italian films or horror films. So what guides you in selecting the films and programming the films for the festival? TONYA MANTOOTH: Actually it's really wonderful because it allows us to kind of open up across the board. So really we are looking for terrific features, foreign films documentaries as well as a variety of shorts both comedy and. If this ultimately we are looking for great storytelling, great production value, something that makes it unique. So, that is really at the heart of it is what guides us. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you have a focus on locally made films? TONYA MANTOOTH: You know we love local filmmakers, we encourage them and that's one thing we really want to do more of. We're really fortunate because one film that came to us was actually filmed almost completely here in the director is originally from here. So it is a wonderful story. They've done a terrific job. We've been able to reach out to the press not only in San Diego but also in Los Angeles to get them some terrific coverage and we are really proud of them. We are really proud to have it come from San Diego about something we want to support. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you talking about Not Yet Begun to Fight? TONYA MANTOOTH: Actually I'm talking about the film called red line but Not Yet Begun to Fight was one of my favorites from a documentary standpoint and the stories were about wounded warriors here in San Diego. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a scene featuring (inaudible) Col. Eric Hastings from Not Yet Begun to Fight, a documentary, and he's talking about, how he coped with his PTSD. FILM RECORDING: I came back from combat and found I needed relief. And the more I was out there flyfishing the more I needed more of a. It became an absolute desperate physical and mental need. And I had to do it or I was going to kill somebody. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is from the documentary Not Yet Begun to Fight, one of the local filmmakers whose work will be spotlighted at the San Diego film Festival. Which begins on the 26th, Wednesday of this week. And I'm speaking with Dale Strack, he's chairman of the board of the San Diego film Festival in the Tonya Mantooth who is director of programming. I wonder if you go to talk about the scope and diversity of the festival. Foreign films, shorts, documentaries, how do we fit in with the feature films that you are going to be showing? DALE STRACK: Let me take the first part of that, Maureen. I think first about a lot of people do not know what shorts are and shorts are basically telling an entire story in 10 to 20 min. and generally in a (showing) we will put five or six of those together so the shorts consist of one hour or so of actual programming and they are amazing and so many film makers got their start there. So we have five different tracks on shorts and I would strongly recommend people give that a try because it is a lot of fun and it was pretty quickly. The other thing we are excited about this year is we believe that a festival should reflect the culture of the area that isn't. And we've brought a Native American track they are both insureds as well as documentaries as well as narrative features. Tonya, can you talk to that because we have signed an are coming. TONYA MANTOOTH: Here we've been very fortunate, I reached out to the Native American community to come in and support this and I got an incredible panel that will be coming to the people who just finished the film with Johnny Depp, Lone Ranger The fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins, so they will be coming in speaking about what it's like being Native American and industry as actors. So, really really fortunate, Marisa Quinn will be joining a spirit she was in twilight as well. So all the Native American tribes have come and really embraced us, Larry Benitez has joined us, he's an elder at the Kumeyay tribe. He has joined us on the advisory board so we are really honored and that's something we want to move forward. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Dale, you mentioned that there are multiple venues for the DALE STRACK: We actually tried to keep them to two villages the gaslamp at the reading (inaudible). The other is the Museum of contemporary Art in La Jolla. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Tonya, I want to ask you a little bit about the idea of having year-round screenings to, how much is the presence of the San Diego film Festival going to have year-round? TONYA MANTOOTH: We are planning a year-round program we are bringing studio films dealt with actors are cast attached San Onofre we can sit and have a Q&A with them as well as showing films want to do that every month, maybe even more than once a month and we're going to try to move it around the county a little bit. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The San Diego film Festival was awarded best party festival in the past. Will there still be parties? DALE STRACK: Oh yes there really will and we have a party for everybody. Gus Van Zandt tribute is our Thursday night opening, and it's going to be a big cocktail party and reception for that it will be a great evening in La Jolla the first night, but (inaudible) gaslamp is Wednesday and we left the big opening night party at Fox San Onofre we will have hosted bars and the whole thing and there will be stars present. It will be a lot of fun and this time for the first year which we are making a signature event we are shutting down the walkway next to the Art we are doing the almost famous party based on the Cameron Crowe movie will be screening the movie we've got a retro band, equally retro band. We've got a hosted bar, we've got food with (inaudible) we've got it all going on so we have less parties but we have bigger parties. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, yes. And Tonya? TONYA MANTOOTH: I want to be specific Friday, the Almost Famous party is on Friday night so we are really excited about that MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It occurs to me from what you said at the beginning, guilty really want to increase the profile of the San Diego film Festival. I mean, you guys are up against him real competition. I mean there are some major film festivals as you know in the United States. There's Tribeca, there is of course some parents, there is Telluride, there is established some festivals that draw in, you know, tens of thousands of people at times. I'm wondering how do you position yourself to compete with festivals that are welcome like that? TONYA MANTOOTH: Well that's a good question and I will start and I will pass it off to Dale. You know, festivals I really position in and around how the award season marks. And so you know it is very strategic. It is San Onofre they commit to the season and the films that are seen and passed on into festivals. For instance, Toronto Jesper Milton premiered a film silver linings playbook and we are very fortunate because they've now reached out to us to also premiered here, so that is huge for us and we're really excited and very proud of that so we are looking to be the support system for because that is assertive the award season. DALE STRACK: We are also doing is we are beginning to bring more buyers and distributors to the table to buy films and get them into distribution. That supports filmmakers and in addition to that the world is going digital. So we're moving towards creating a big digital distribution for our filmmakers and funding for filmmakers. So, I think what we are going to be able to do is insert ourselves right into the track San Onofre people can buy films, San Onofre they will be able to go into distribution as well as becoming a Toronto West, so the industry as a West Coast Pl. to see films and buy them. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does our proximity to Los Angeles help us at all? DALE STRACK: I think it does we are two and a half hours away and if you look at Palm Springs and Santa Barbara they do very very well with the festivals there. Palm Springs is 100 hundred 20,000 people and you know they are kind of tiny in comparison to the San Diego but I think we have is a greater infrastructure. We can bring many many more people here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there. I have been speaking with Dale Strack, he's chairman of the board acidic film Festival and taught him onto the program successful. The San Diego film Festival runs this Wednesday through Sunday at venues in downtown gaslamp district and in La Jolla. You can check them out at Isn't that your website? Thank you both very much I appreciate it. BOTH: Thanks, Maureen. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Join us again tomorrow for conversations on San Diego's top stories right here on Midday Edition at noon. I and Maureen Cavanaugh and thank you for listening.

The San Diego Film Festival Kicks off its 11th year on Wednesday night with a film and opening night party, and runs through Sunday.

Founded in 2001, The San Diego Film Festival is produced by the San Diego Film Foundation. The festival says its mission is "to support the best in independent filmmaking while enhancing the diverse cultural landscape and economic vitality of San Diego."

This year, the festival is launching with new leadership and a new vision for the future. The obvious changes are an increase in films and venues. But Festival Director Kevin Leap hopes that the San Diego Film Festival will become a major force and destination for independent film. This year's festival will feature a tribute to director Gus Van Sant, industry panels, parties, and a collection of shorts, features, and documentaries.


Some stats for this year:

  • More films in 2012: 113 films are officially selected from over 1,300 submissions from 55 countries
  • Two Film Villages: Gaslamp Quarter and La Jolla
  • New Film Category: Native American Voices
  • More Interactive Q&A’s with filmmakers
  • CONNECT: The Filmmaking Experience (for high school students)
  • Exclusive VIP Hospitality Lounges for Festival VIP Pass holders, Patrons, Sponsors
  • Gus Van Sant Celebrity Tribute, Awards Evening and festival after-parties

The San Diego Film Festival kicks off Wednesday at the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15 and runs through Sunday at the Gaslamp and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla. For a complete schedule of films and to purchase tickets go to the San Diego Film Festival.