Interview with Festival Director Todd Looby (BendFilm Festival)

13th Annual BendFilm Festival : October 6th – 9th, 2016

BendFilm celebrates the brave voice of independent cinema through films, lectures and education. A constant member on Movie Magazine’s 50 Fests worth the entry fee.

Interview with Todd Looby:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Todd Looby: We provide a platform for underrepresented / under-appreciated filmmakers. We want to help them build their careers. Our feature filmmakers are now receiving travel stipends to encourage attendance. We also provide lodging for all filmmakers. We want our filmmakers to spend their money on their films and not on plane tickets. We also want to provide an atmosphere where our filmmakers can network with each other and the public to encourage future collaborations. We also offer $8,500 in cash awards (including $5,000 for Best in Show) and a $60,000 Panavision Camera Package.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

TL: If you’ve been to BendFilm before, you’ll expect to see our best addition yet. We just brought on Erik Jambor as programmer. He has 17 years experience Directing some of the best Fests out there: Sidewalk Moving Pictures, IndieMemphis and even a short stint at BendFilm in 2007. Erik is already putting together a program that will give everybody something to see and hold on to. And, of course…since we are serious about “Celebrating” independent Film, our parties and events will not disappoint!

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

TL: We typically prefer Oregon premieres, but we often screen films that will have played at Ashland or Portland. What we really look for are the diamonds in the rough – again, films that have been underappreciated or we predict will be so. We want to see someone do the impossible. An example is a film that just shouldn’t work on paper and when you actually see what the director, actors and crew were able to do with nothing, you walk out amazed.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

TL: Yes. I think some festivals rely too much on where the films have played previously. We want to be a discovery fest and that fits well with Erik’s philosophy as well. Of course, we also program more popular films, but we want to give the smaller films the same amount of exposure and better chances to win our cash awards.

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

TL: We’re motivated by our belief in the power of film to change lives and improve our community. Bend is relatively isolated in the middle of Oregon. Though a popular destination, our community doesn’t get regular access to working artists. We also only have one small arthouse in town. Our fest provides access to films that wouldn’t otherwise screen in Bend and also provides access to the artists that make these films. Independent Films are more conversation starters than the Hollywood fare. Our community and visitors learn more about hot-button issues and the outside world. Independent films also have higher minority and women representation. We are introducing our community and visitors to different points of view they do not see in mainstream films or media.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

TL: We do a lot of things the same as we’ve always done. However, Bend is changing fast and we are keeping up with the changes and expanding exponentially. In 2015, we received 3x the amount of submissions we did in 2014. This year we expect more. We are doing many more screenings and events throughout the year. We are also expanding our education programs.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

TL: I think BendFilm has the potential to be a leader in the independent film festival industry. This town can’t be beat. I’m relatively new here and still awed by it’s natural beauty and laid-back feel. Though as a filmmaker I never screened here, the minute I came I had an inking of what a filmmaker sees when coming here for the first time. They’re in awe. Our feedback each year gets better and better. As we improve our programming and national exposure, I think even more and more people will come here for the fest. It’s simply the perfect place to host a festival like ours.

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

TL: Probably “Midnight Run”. Our family finally got cable in 1989 and I was introduced to so many films I hadn’t seen before, but “Midnight Run” sticks with me (though it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it). There was a time when I knew it by heart. It’s my perfect kind of film: It’s hilarious, it has incredible heart, it has a great moral compass and it can change tone at the drop of a hat. It’s really one of the more underappreciated films in existence. I also think it was either that or Untouchables that introduced me to DeNiro and, thus, the other movies I’ve watched most are DeNiro films: Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Deer Hunter, etc, etc.

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

TL: My compass for a great film is simply that elicits a strong emotional response – whether it’s laughter, tears, genuine shock or deep thought (which I consider emotive). I see too many films these days that are languid. I understand that filmmakers want to get away from the action and plot-driven Hollywood fare, but I think they also sacrifice the need to emotionally connect with an audience. Great filmmakers are able to make character-driven films that are artful, heady, yet engaging and accessible.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

TL: Our community has a deep appreciation of cinema. This fest is really a community-driven event. It’s so well supported locally. And as far as filmmakers, more and more move here each year. They may fly out to shoot, but the more they’re here, the more local filmmaking will increase. At BendFilm, we’re trying to coalesce everyone together at least quarterly to network and develop collaborations. We also have a great relationship with Tim Williams at the Oregon Film Office. A former BendFilm Director, Sandy Henderson, is also opening up a Central Oregon Film Office to increase local filmmaking.


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 Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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