Interview with Michele Baker, Crossroads Film Festival

The 16th Annual Crossroads Film Festival is happening April 9-12, 2015 at Malco Grandview Theater in Madison, Mississippi, with parties and receptions around the Jackson Metro area. The festival features cash prizes for filmmakers, workshops, evening receptions and live music.

Crossroads Film Society was born out of vision of a small group of Mississippi filmmakers and enthusiasts wanting to celebrate the art of filmmaking by providing a venue to enjoy selected films and by providing opportunities for aspiring and established filmmakers to learn more about the craft. Patrons enjoy Crossroads events throughout the year, but Crossroads Film Festival is the headliner of the Society’s calendar. Film awards are chosen through a juried process. Films are selected from submissions coming from Mississippians and from filmmakers around the country and even beyond.

The Crossroads mantra is “Everyone has a story” and it spends its time and energy promoting and exploring some of the best stories.

Matthew Toffolo interviews Crossroads Film Festival Coordinator Michele Baker:

Matthew: What is the goal of your film festival?

Michele: The goal of Crossroads Film Festival is simple: to promote and support Mississippi films and filmmakers, which includes bringing in films from throughout the country. Part of our mission is also to promote up and coming filmmakers, including female and minority filmmakers.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception until your upcoming 2015 festival?

Michele: Crossroads Film Society began the annual film festival in 1999. In the beginning, the festival was a few film lovers coming together to see a couple of indie films. In the 16 years since then, it has grown to a four-day event showcasing hundreds of films from across the globe. Crossroads has grown and evolved to a marvelous mix of short films about politics, features about the Southern experience, wonderful animation including animated films by high-school-aged filmmakers, and much more. Each year we include a huge variety of films on every topic imaginable – from experimental silent films about kudzu, to making craft beer, to inspiring films about social justice, to stories about the LGBT community, to faith-based documentaries, and more. There are family-friendly and kid-friendly films, and we always show a widely distributed feature with a well-known cast.

Matthew: How many films are you showcasing at your Film Festival?

Michele: We received nearly 850 films this year (Thanks, FilmFreeway!) and are still selecting our films right now, but we anticipate showing about 75-85 films, including a Showcase of local music videos.

Matthew: Can you give us a sneak peek of what to except for the 2015 Festival?

Michele: Well, it’s still in the works, but there will be an exceptional lineup. We have several international films that will screen together, and some wonderful films made by a young filmmaker from our Gulf Coast.

Matthew: Is there going to be an overall theme for the 2015 festival?

Michele: Our theme this year is one we’ve embraced for several years now: “Everybody has a Story. What’s yours?” This year is also our 16th birthday.

Matthew: Where do you see your festival in 5 years?

Michele: Crossroads’ ultimate goal is to become more of a regional festival. Right now we’re well known in Mississippi and Louisiana, because we actively partner with festivals in those areas. But Crossroads has a venerable history which leads me to believe that expansion is the way to go.

Matthew: What’s the current status of the Film Scene in your city?

Michele: Jackson and nearby Canton, Mississippi are both becoming more popular with filmmakers. As you know, Mississippi Film Office is the liaison to filmmakers hoping to shoot their masterpieces in our beautiful state. I can proudly say that Mississippi has one of the best financial incentives packages around, which, when combined with our hardworking and talented cast and crew members and our varied and beautiful landscape (not to mention our history), makes Mississippi an ideal place to film.

Matthew: What films have you seen the most in your life?

Michele: Personally, I like stories of all types that make me think. I like action films, romantic comedies, documentaries, experimental films… I like it all. As long as it tells a story, and the characters compel me to feel something, I’m going to like it. In that way, Crossroads Film Festival Coordinator is a dream job – I get to watch movies all day!

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