Interview with Festival Director Roger Sampson (Focus International Film Festival)

Roger’s creative journey started late in life. He didn’t realize his passion for the theater arts until his 30th birthday.  In 2003, Roger moved from Dallas, TX to Los Angeles, CA to pursue his dream. Since then, Roger has enjoyed acting, screenwriting, and directing success through the years.
Roger started the Focus International Film Festival in the fall of 2015.  His mission was to celebrate and honor the best in independent cinema through a festival which lets the working professional community judge the material presented.

Interview with Roger Sampson: 

Matthew Toffolo: What is the Focus International Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Roger Sampson: The Focus International Film Festival provides film makers a platform to showcase their skills and talents using the opinions of the working professionals that film makers hope to work with and impress as the baseline to providing them a level of credibility many festivals lack. Its more meaningful to the films and the film makers.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience when you attend the festival?

Roger: The festival is actually online only at this time. We hope to grow into a live festival with screenings, but we’re just starting out with this format and need time for it to grow legs before we venture into a live event.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Roger: The grading system used to select the films looks at three primary areas of focus, which are production quality, performance and story. Many films excel in one area or another, but great films excel in 2 or more areas. We seek out the most well rounded material. Story well told with excellent production quality given in excellent performances. As film makers ourselves, we are all students of the craft and all have areas to improve on. But we seek to honor those film makers advanced in their craft enough to produce quality material but have yet to be recognized on a larger scale by the entertainment community.

Matthew: Why would a filmmaker be motivated to submit to your festival?

Roger: Since the event is online only at this time, we are able to keep our submission fees low, which is an aid to all film makers. Add in the credibility of our celebrity jury and if a film maker can spend a small amount and be able to promote their film as having been voted the best by working entertainment industry professionals, that is something as a film maker I would do without hesitation.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Roger: Our primary motivation relates to our own festival experiences. Festival choices are always subjective, and determined by the education and experience level of the decision makers. So we figured if those decisions should be made in terms of cinematic excellence at the independent level, who better to judge that than the working professionals the film makers are striving to be and work with.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Roger: We’ve actually had only 1 event so far, in the winter of 2015. The jury voting period expires January 31. The Spring 2016 event is the first with the celebrity jury panel. In the summer we’re planning expansion efforts to include longer trailers, longer shorts and feature films in addition to other changes.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Roger: Its hard to tell at the moment if this format will find a sustainable market, but we’re confident that the celebrity jury format will take hold and by 2020 we will host a live event once or twice a year and with any luck feature appearances by the jury itself. For this article though, lets call that a wish list.

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

Roger: The film I’ve seen the most times would have to be The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Roger: A great film is an amazing story well told with excellent production quality and committed performances which provides the audience a meaningful emotional experience.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Roger: The film scene in Dallas and North Texas as a whole is vibrant and active. Film makers are hungry for quality story telling and take steps toward mastery of the craft every day.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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