A Film Fan's Southern Sweet Spot
Savannah Film Festival - Personal Essay
Everyone has at least one favorite movie. Growing up, mine was Toy Story and I made it my mission in first grade to get all my friends to watch it before summer break. Unfortunately I wasn’t the best salesman at 6 and didn’t get the whole class to watch it; but ever since then, sharing great movies has always been a part of me. As I got older, my love for Toy Story shifted to Star Wars, but I never stopped sharing and celebrating my love for films. One type of celebration that continues to spread the word of amazing movies, just like my first grade class and me, are film festivals.
Similar to 6 year-old Myles and Toy Story, different cities and regions all around the world host film festivals to celebrate and present movies to as many people as possible. It was in 2012 when I first learned about film festivals and the concept of sharing movies on a large scale, much larger than my first grade class. While college searching, I came across the logo for the Savannah Film Festival and my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to do more research on the festival and the city and I discovered dozens of celebrities and professional filmmakers who’ve all attended the Savannah Film Festival. Since its inception in 1998, the festival has had guest and honorees ranging from John Goodman, James Franco, and Diane Lane, all the way to Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-man and the Avengers.
I’ve been in Savannah for over a year now and it amazes me just how influential the film festival is for SCAD and the city itself. For an entire week, thousands of invited guests and visitors from around the world come to Savannah to experience a celebration of the art of film and share that passion with Savannah residents and SCAD faculty and students. More than 40,000 people attend the festival each year and that number continues to rise as years go on. Each year, SCAD and its School of Entertainment Arts host panels and “coffee talks” with renowned screenwriters, directors, and producers to discuss the ins and outs of the entertainment and film industry. SCAD professors even host unadvertised master classes with festival guests to give students advice and inspire them to work nonstop to become the next new faces in Hollywood.
Professors and industry guests aren’t the only ones inspiring visitors and students; the films themselves have the ability to ignite the “film-lover flame” in anyone open to it. Take my friend Sierra, for example: we saw the film Whiplash together and she left the theater speechless. We had gotten to the Trustees Theater right at 6 pm, one hour before the start of the movie for my obsessive tendency to get perfect seats. After the hour-long wait in one line for tickets and another line for popcorn, the lights dimmed and the projector started to roll. During the movie I caught myself looking out the corner of my eye at Sierra to make sure she didn’t nod off to sleep like she does during most of the movies I take her to. Something was different this time though. She wasn’t just awake for the movies; her eyes were wide open. Throughout the movie she would lean in and grip her armrest during scenes of unbearable tension and she’d burst out in laughter from the crude, quick-witted banter between the film’s characters, brought to life by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.
I knew I loved the film immediately as the credits rolled, but I wasn’t expecting Sierra’s reserved response. We left the nearly pitch black theater and as soon we got outside underneath the streetlights I could see Sierra grinning cheek to cheek. Most of the walk back to our dorms consisted of calling friends to tell them to go see Whiplash. “I think I want to change my major to film,” she told me with a stern, serious look on her face, “I just want to make people feel the way I feel right now after seeing that.” Whiplash, like many other films at the festival, ignited something new and almost career changing in Sierra and I’m sure there’re many others out there who’ve had similar festival experiences in Savannah.
While many festivalgoers enjoyed Whiplash— Sierra and I included— many theaters across the country weren’t able to show the film when it was first released at the start of 2014. Like most movies at festivals, Whiplash was an independently produced film that didn’t have the same multi-million-dollar budget that most Hollywood blockbusters do. With limited budgets to market and distribute most “indie” movies, film festivals have become key to promotion and creating more word of mouth for the movies chosen for the festival. Independent films and film festivals go hand and hand; without one, the other might not survive very long. That partnership between the two is another reasons why many celebrities visit festivals. At the end of the day, they’re fans just like the rest of us, so why not take a break from work to watch a few fantastic movies?
The Savannah Film Festival is just one of the many ways fans of movies can get a taste of great visual stories and professional insight into Hollywood. Of course with any type of festival, with a boost in tourists there’s bound to be a boost in sales revenue, and Savannah’s no different. Networking opportunities with experienced filmmakers and maybe even snapping a selfie with one of the many celebrities are all in store for SCAD students, tourists, and Savannah natives attending the fest. Aside from drunken tourists wandering the city late at night, there aren’t many negatives about the festival that cross my mind. If anything, I just wish it lasted longer than one week.
o Words – 987
o Characters – 4680
o Paragraphs – 11
o Sentences – 39
o Sentences per Paragraphs – 5.6
o Words per Sentence – 24.9
o Characters per Word – 4.6
o Passive Sentences – 0%
o Flesch Reading Ease – 57.0
o Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level – 10.9