Interview with Festival Director Eric Quander (Joshua Tree International Film Festival)

The 2016 Joshua Tree International Film Festival’s mission is to provide a platform for independent and noteworthy films and filmmakers to connect with industry professionals and the diverse audience that recognizes Joshua Tree as an oasis of creativity, art and culture throughout the international arts community. With special focus and support for projects that encompass the diverse vision of the urban and LBGTQ communities and bring to light the perspectives of indigenous cultures from around the world, we hope to cast the widest possible net to grow future generations of filmmakers and movie goers in Joshua Tree and beyond.

Interview with Eric Quander: 

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

Eric Quander: The Joshua Tree International Film Festival offers filmmakers the opportunity to exhibit their work before an enthusiastic, curious and intelligent audience, in a community known for its creativity and mystic surroundings.

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

EQ: The theme for this year’s festival in “SACRED SPACE”, and will feature an eclectic mix of features and shorts that exhibit filmmakers and characters exploring their relationship to both their inner and exterior spaces.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

EQ: Submitted films are screened by a panel of judges, who are committed to the vision of the JTIFF. Films are distributed and are based on a set of criteria which are scored 1 (the lowest) to 10 (the highest). Films with the highest cumulative scores are submitted to the Programming Committee who make final determinations based on the festival’s theme and anticipated level of audience interest.

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

EQ: I can’t really speak for other festivals, but JTIFF screeners and judges are trusted to view each submission with an open mind. We received over 100 submissions to this year’s festival, and undoubtedly among them, there were more than a few that simply don’t meet the standard of the type of films we want to screen before an audience. We don’t force screeners and judges to endure an obviously amateurish work, or those that lie far beyond the theme.

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

EQ: Our inaugural event last years was motivated by a challenge as to if a film festival in our community could attract an audience, in that we succeeded; however, admittedly, neither my staff or myself were not prepared for the technical difficulties that we experienced, which really threw the entire schedule off. We learned a lot from that experience, and this year, we are motivated to produce as professional event as possible. We have ½ as many films, a trained volunteer staff and venues that make it easier for attendees to see more films.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

EQ: The JTIFF is much more organized this year. We have taken the time to really coordinate our efforts with venue owners, and we all recognize that he festival is a community effort, that will benefit all. We have been able to educate ourselves on how a festival should go, how to make seeing films easy for attendees and how to prepare technically, to ensure that every film on the schedule is screened. We’re proud of the work we have done, and know that returning attendees will see a big difference, while first time attendees will enjoy the experience.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

EQ: That will be our 6th festival, and honestly, I have no idea how the JTIFF will change in the intervening years. I do know that we will be around; between now and then, I would mid engaging in building a permanent space for the JTIFF, that shows films monthly. In the meantime, we will aim to exhibit independent films that challenge audiences, encourage introspection, and stimulate audiences to contribute to the positive growth of the local and global community.

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

EQ: Night of the Living Dead (b&w version)

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

EQ: A great film’s main character stimulates its viewer(s) to consider their life and environment.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

EQ: Although there are a few sporadic screening throughout the year, the JTIFF is our community’s main platform to see independent films in the hi-desert.


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 for more information and to submit your work to the festival.


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