Coronavirus Forces Cancellation Of San Diego Film Festivals
Speaker 1: 00:00 People often look to the art for comfort during unsettling times. But San Diego's arts community is feeling the effects of the Corona virus. Pandemic last Thursday was supposed to be the kickoff of the 27th San Diego Latino film festival. Instead, it was the day founder and executive director, Ethan van Theo had to announce that the festival would not take place. KPBS archery Porter Beth Armando speaks with van DEO about the impact the Corona virus is having on the arts. Ethan, you were faced with having to stop your film festival on what was supposed to be its opening day. So what was that decision process like? Speaker 2: 00:41 Yeah, it was definitely, um, heartbreaking. Um, and really it kind of happened the night before, like right when I was kind of going to sleep about midnight. I think we got this announcement from the California state health department and the governor made this announcement about, you know, not having more than 250 people in a room and, and the six foot, uh, you know, social distancing rules. So that kinda just like, you know, uh, didn't allow us to have a good sleep to say the least. And so we woke up that next morning and I said to myself, well, let's, you know, let's contact a few film makers. Let's contact some board members, let's, you know, let's have a dialogue there. But just quickly, you know, the more and more we got into it, it's just this like this is not going to happen. You know, this is probably the hardest decision I've made in the past 27 years. You know, I'm the kind of person who've committed my life and passion to putting on this festival for 27 years and always making sure it always would happen. You know, I always said to myself, no matter what, even if we have to screen on a side of a wall, we're going to make this festival happen. But it just seemed, you know, at this case, you know, it was completely out of our hands. Speaker 1: 01:53 Well, and also for a film festival canceling or possibly postponing, this is going to have a huge financial impact on your organization. Do you have any idea what that'll be? Speaker 2: 02:05 This is the crazy thing, mate. You know, if we maybe would have, you know, had a month or two months or something to prepare or whatever, but you know, at this, at that point or this point like, you know, Thursday morning of course, the day of the festival, we had already, you know, major credit card expenses, you know, down payments to the movie theater, the AMC, um, uh, rental companies, tech companies, hotels, airlines. So these are costs that, you know, you probably won't get back. You know, you, you might, we might get lucky to get some credit to be able to, you know, use the space at a different part of the year, but you're talking, you know, just, you know, hundred 50, a hundred, $150,000 and just hard expenses right there. Not to mention all the staffing. And so it's, you know, close to 250,000 to $300,000 just to put on this festival every year. Speaker 2: 02:59 And if you're not getting the ticket sales, and I think a lot of people don't really understand the, um, most arts organizations, especially smart arts organizations are, you know, are really, you know, always a difficult challenge in terms of cashflow, right? So you, you are having to expand and have having to hire people and do all this production before it even happens. And so, you know, for 27 years we've been able to kind of balance and understand like, okay, this is how much we're going to get and ticket sales. And so, you know, we kind of jump off a cliff, you know, like every year. But you know, we're kind of, we, it's based on, uh, experience and guesstimation. We know we're going to get back, but in this case, so you know, if we're not allowed to get the a hundred, $150,000 of ticket sales plus the loss of some corporate sponsorships, again, you're looking at Hunter 150, even close to $200,000 potential loss. Speaker 3: 03:52 And what do you feel the community also loses in terms of not having a festival like this? Especially a festival like this, which is for the Latino community and in a border region, we're, you know, immigration and, and those kind of issues are very much in the forefront. I mean, what do we lose as a community by not having this kind of artistic expression? Speaker 2: 04:16 Yeah, I mean, I, I think for the community here, it's almost like, you know, we've seen your family, you know, a once a year or it's like seeing good friends, like once a year, it's like a reunion, uh, that people like, you know, they take off work, they go on their vacations, uh, they plan around, you know, this film festival for, it's been 27 years and it's been a, a tradition for so many people and you know, so the attendees missing each other, they miss hearing their language on the big screen or seeing something about their country, their Homeland, and then, you know, it's not just, you know, the attendees, but you have, um, all these community partners, you know, how support a Rico that every year, like organizes a, a co-presentation and it's a fundraiser for them as well. You all these musicians that participate in Sony, the Latino and play of live music, uh, artists, art, they Latino who present their artwork. Speaker 2: 05:07 So all these different, um, community organizations, the partners, attendees are effected. And it's definitely a loss for everybody. And you know, we know we want to obviously, you know, adhere to what the health departments, everyone's suggesting in terms of, you know, staying inside and being careful, being safe and stuff like that. But for us as an organization, you know, 27 years it's all been about getting people out and together and discussing issues and seeing films and talking about these wonderful films in a community gathering. And the same thing with our movie theater here, the digital gym, cinema, it's all about getting people to see it together and have that communal experience. And so by not having that, it's really, you know, I think a shock to all of us, both mentally, physically, uh, that, you know, it's going to take weeks, months, potentially a year just to recuperate personally too. Not just financially, but just on a personal level. I think all of us, all the staff, everybody you know, and the attend. Speaker 1: 06:05 And at this point in time you are hoping, this is not a cancellation, but hopefully just a postponement. Speaker 2: 06:12 Indeed. I think, you know, I mean, you know, there's so many unknowns right now. I mean, I wish this, this, uh, this whole crisis has just been, uh, a challenge for us because, you know, we, we try to plan right? You know, we, we, we planned before the festival and we keep on moving. We keep on moving. We have the movie theater open right now. Uh, we keep on trying to plan, but then every day it seems like there's a new announcement that's just, you know, put it in challenges. You know, it's like our educational programming with the schools closing. Now our educational programs, most likely, well for sure they've stopped at all schools and community organizations and most likely that all of our camps for spring will be canceled. Now there's announcements about movie theaters closing and LA in different parts of the country. So now you're looking at the movie theater closing. Speaker 2: 06:59 So you're trying to organize yourself and plan ahead, but it's becoming really difficult if every day, um, there's new announcements. So is it four weeks? We're looking at, is it eight weeks looking at, are we looking at July and August? Our initial goal as of like three days ago was to yeah, for sure. Go into the fall. Yeah. Barring any other major issues we would do, you know, place it somewhere in the fall. And of course we also have to be careful there's other film festivals and other events taking place at the same time. And you know, and, and that's internationally too. It's all these film festivals are going to try to like, you know, reschedule themselves. So it'd be an interesting juggle of, uh, access to films, content, media partners, sponsors. It's going to be interesting, but no matter what I believe the festival has to happen. It's going to happen. It might take a different form, but we have to get these films out here, out to the community and support the filmmakers and the artists and, you know, a moist say, send a wan. I've done an amazing job curating these films. It's close to 200 films when you include the shorts as well, so we want to make sure people get to see them on the big screen. Speaker 1: 08:07 All right, Ethan, I want to thank you very much for talking about the San Diego Latino film festival. Speaker 2: 08:11 Thank you very much. Speaker 1: 08:13 That was Beth Haag. Amando speaking with Ethan van Theo of the San Diego Latino film festival. You can find more information on how film festivals have been impacted by the Corona virus on Beth's cinema junkie blog.