The El Dorado Film Festival was founded as a part of the 50th Anniversary of the South Arkansas Arts Center (SAAC). SAAC, in celebration of 50 years of artistic achievement, created many new events that will be the legacy of the next 50 years. The El Dorado Film Festival is one of these events. Laura Barrow and Austin Barrow agreed to take on this endeavor alongside festival committee Richard Wharton, Joanna Benson, Matt Benson, and Emily Cole. When Alexander Jeffery returned to El Dorado from Sweden in March, he helped with managerial duties on the first festival.
The inaugural El Dorado Film Festival featured special guest speaker Howard Klausner, Chuck Mere of the Emmy Winning “Zombie Go Boom,” and over 30 films from 12 different countries. The locals and the filmmakers ate it up, and we are keen to bring more amazing films to this year’s program.
The 2nd El Dorado Film Festival will take place Sept 17-19, 2015.
Matthew Toffolo interviews Festival Director Alexander Jeffery:
Matthew: What is the goal of your film festival?
Jeffery: The goal of our festival is to cater to filmmakers and local audiences who are sick and tired of the Hollywood Blockbuster playing at the local theatre. We embrace our Southern roots, throw some killer parties, and give filmmakers a fun place to mingle and even showcase work-in-progress films if they are up for it!
Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception until your upcoming 2015 festival?
Jeffery: Well, since we are only in our second year, the biggest change is that there is significantly less stress in approaching this year. We sort of went in blind our first year, and know what worked well and what didn’t work at all. We are giving ourselves more time to program and select films and approaching guests and judges much earlier. We will be announcing this year’s guests and judges very soon.
Matthew: How many films are you showcasing at your Film Festival?
Jeffery: Last year we screened about 35 films in 3 days, this year we hope to show more.
Matthew: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to except for the 2015 Festival?
Jeffery: We’ve received some incredible submissions so far. I know for a fact we are going to be showing some of the best short films that this year offers, some edgy, some wildly hilarious, and some quieter, honest films with beautiful performances. We won’t know what workshops will be offered up until closer to the festival, but we are working hard to expand the educational component of our festival and give the high school and college students a chance to learn from people working in their craft. I know we will have some wild parties, good networking opportunities, and we will be giving filmmakers a chance to show any work-in-progress films after the awards ceremony on Saturday night. Last year we were in the theatre until about 4am watching new films, drinking beer, and talking about the craft of filmmaking.
Matthew: Is there going to be an overall theme for the 2015 festival?
Jeffery: In terms of the films we are programming, no. We only seek to program the best films we get, be it drama, horror, experimental, comedy, farce, ANYTHING! We love giving filmmakers a place to showcase their time, effort, and artistic expression to a very eager audience. If anything, the theme for this year’s festival will be similar to last year’s theme: make movies and make them anywhere. We are located just 20 miles north of the state that took beat out California as the number 1 place to shoot films (Louisiana), and we believe that the South, the Midwest, New York, Texas, Tennessee, WHEREVER, is the best place to tell your story. Last year Howard Klausner did a presentation on the evolving film business and how to find your market in this rapidly changing industry.
Matthew: Where do you see your festival in 5 years?
Jeffery: The biggest compliment we get is that people want to come back to our festival – in five years I just hope we are a festival that filmmakers and audiences want to visit annually. We’ll never be Sundance or Toronto, we’ll never have premieres starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but that’s okay with us! We are trying to keep it fun, showcase great work on beautiful projectors and screens, and get filmmakers and audiences talking about the craft of filmmaking. In five years we will also have a new venue. El Dorado is currently under construction and we will soon have a brand new Arts and Entertainment district downtown, featuring a renovated old movie theatre called the Rialto. This endeavor is being taken on by El Dorado Festivals and Events, Inc under the leadership of Terry Stewart (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and Austin Barrow. With this entertainment district, we will have more venues and top of the line equipment to show even more films and seat more audience members.
Matthew: What’s the current status of the Film Scene in your city?
Jeffery: Right now film is more of an educational idea rather than production heavy. I shot a short film with some of the festival team here in El Dorado last year, and we have just been selected to screen at the 2015 Omaha Film Festival. So, that’s exciting. There is a desire to grow the film community here, to educate audiences and filmmakers, and to have El Dorado be a place where more films are produced.
Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life?
Jeffery: It’s a toss up between Empire Strikes Back and The Social Network… I watch them both religiously.
Matthew Toffolo, Interviewer BIO
Filmmaker of over 20 short films and TV episodes, Matthew Toffolo is the current CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival. He had worked for the organization since its inception in 2007 serving as the Short Film Festival’s moderator during the Audience Feedback sessions.
Go to http://www.wildsound.ca and submit your film, script, or story to the festival.
Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com and watch recent and past winning writing festival readings.