Michael Samstag, Festival Director, Film Score and the Scruffy City Film & Music Festival

Film Score and the 2015 Scruffy City Film & Music Festival will be held April 28 – May 3, 2015.

A celebration of film and music, The Scruffy City Film & Music Festival (formerly the Knoxville Film & Music Festival) http://www.knoxvillefilms.com/festival411/

Matthew Toffolo interviews festival director Michael Samstag:

Matthew: What is the goal of your film festival?

Michael: Our goal is to shine a bright light on the heart and soul of film—the songs and scores that really make films sing. Any film selected for the festival must have a stand out soundtrack or score, whether it’s a documentary or a narrative film.

The festival was created and is run by filmmakers and musicians so it’s our goal to showcase incredible films with great audiences. All of our screenings are in prime time or during the weekend to ensure the best audiences possible. We also work hard to show our visiting filmmakers, composers, and special guests what true Tennessee hospitality is all about, from accommodations, food and drinks, to our legendary TN Moonshine Gift Bags, we go the extra mile to ensure everyone has a great time.

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

Michael: Our festival is driven by change. We began as a simple 24 hour competition then evolved to a full blown film & music festival with 6-days of live music and incredible screenings. This year we’ve introduced two new competitions, our Music Composers Challenge that gives composers 5 trailers to score, and our Music Video Challenge, where filmmakers have six incredible tracks to choose from with which to create an incredible music video. The tracks have been submitted from national acts like the Black Lillies, The Features, and 10 Years, to name a few.

Next year we will be introducing a Trailer Challenge and the winning trailers will become the trailers for our Music Composers Challenge, and a Band Challenge, where the winning bands will have their tracks available for our Music Video Challenge.

Change or die, that should be our motto.

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

Michael: Not enough. We don’t run multiple screens or screenings during the week days so we have a very limited amount of slots. Our Selection Committee is reviewing over 300 films of which approximately 5 features, and 35 shorts will be selected. We are so fortunate to have James McNally, from Shorts That Are Not Pants as our Director of Film Programming this year. He has done an amazing job recruiting films and overseeing the Selection Committee. Our final deadline is March 23rd, so we are in the midst of making really difficult choices.

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

Michael: We have only officially selected a hand full of films so far, among them “The Tunes Behind the Toons”, an amazing documentary featuring a veritable who’s who of award-winning composers (among them Alan Menken, Randy Newman, Richard Sherman) and other experts share their insights into the role of music in adding character into animation over the decades. Our first official selection was the beautiful music video, “The Lion” about the troubled and redemptive family history of singer/songwriter Benjamin Scheuer told using a pride of cardboard lions, and their friends. We’ll be announcing more films soon.

For festival goers, this year we will be offering free student screenings and Movie and Massage nights where audience members can grab a free chair massage and cuddle up with a therapy dog while watching the films. And of course, we have incredible craft beers, great food, and the best location in downtown Knoxville in the thick of Market Square.

Matthew: What are you most excited about for the 2015 festival?

Michael: Thanks to Film Freeway, our festival is thriving so we’re hoping to bring in as many filmmakers as possible. Beyind the music and the screenings, my favorite moments are sitting around the bar, talking shop with filmmakers, musicians, film lovers, and whomever happens to be part of the conversation. The festival staff goes the extra mile to make sure everyone has a great time. Filmmakers are the new rock stars, and we like to hang out with rock stars too.

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

Michael: Based on the films being submitted this year, I think it’s clear that we will become a hot spot for great music docs, music biopics, music videos, incredible animation, and films that really celebrate their sound track or score.

Beyond that, I think crowd sourcing, crowd screenings, and social media will continue to change the way we think about film, music, and festivals in general. I can’t wait to see how companies like Film Freeway will continue to impact the festival community. Connecting audiences to artists will become easier than ever before.

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

Michael: Knoxville is one of the largest producers of television in the United States so we have a very active group of filmmakers that range from hobbyists to seasoned full-time professionals. It’s also home of the University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State Community College so there’s a great mix of filmmakers, students, musicians and innovators. Knoxville is the original music city (before Nashville shrewdly out marketed us) and I think it will be incredible to see where Knoxville ends up in terms of media innovation.

In the mean time, it’s a great place to make film and music. We’ve got as much talent here as in Austin and a much prettier city.

Matthew: What advice would you have for emerging filmmakers and musicians?

Michael: Follow your heart, live with your parents. Find new ways to make ramen noodles taste delicious. Keep on, keeping on. You will find your audience one day and all the bullshit you had to shovel along the way will have been worthwhile.

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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.

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