Interview with Festival Director Sally Bloom (LONGLEAF FILM FESTIVAL)

A free-to-attend film festival that highlights the best short- and feature-length documentary and narrative films in a place that recognizes that filmmakers and film fans DO make history—this is Longleaf. This weekend festival screens films that demonstrate a Tar Heel State connection, through the people involved in making them or through their subject. Of course, we hold near and dear all (current and former) Longleaf Official Selection filmmakers.



 What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Longleaf offers filmmakers the opportunity to screen at a free-to-attend festival, which allows them access to audiences who might be new to independent film. We also host panels and workshops for filmmakers that are free to attend. Finally, we work to support filmmakers throughout the year—with events, gatherings, and more, like providing meeting and collaboration space!

What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

Folks attending Longleaf have choices! We screen in three spaces, so folks can review the program and select what films they want to see—for Longleaf 2018, our 73 options included narrative and documentary shorts and features, animated films, music videos, and student-made films. Attendees will also meet friendly staff and volunteers, they’ll have opportunities to talk with filmmakers, and they’ll always enjoy free popcorn.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Longleaf has eight categories for entries, including narrative and documentary shorts and features, animated films, music videos, a history-related theme, and middle and high school student-made films. Films must have a North Carolina connection of some sort, through the people who make them, their location, or their subject matter.

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

Because of scheduling constraints, perhaps it is harder for feature-length films at some festivals? We’re glad we have the space and time to include feature-length works.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Longleaf Film Festival is a program of the North Carolina Museum of History, a free-to-attend public museum. We know that making films is making history; in fact, films have been made here since at least 1912 with The Heart of Esmerelda, and they have been made in all of the state’s 100 counties. The art and craft of filmmaking is part of North Carolina’s past, present, and future.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Submitting to Longleaf has changed over our five years. We began accepting submissions on WithoutABox and FilmFreeway and have moved to using FilmFreeway exclusively. We have rolling submission deadlines until March 1; we opened for this year’s festival in July 2018. Official Selections will be announced on April 12, 2019, and the 2019 festival will be held at the museum on May 10–11, 2019.

Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Nice question! By 2023, Longleaf will have outgrown the Museum of History (although it will always be our home base) and we’ll have expanded to other venues that are within walking distance. We’re located in the heart of downtown Raleigh and are fortunate to have terrific spaces nearby.

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

Hmmm . . . well, I have four children, so, probably, I’ve watched all the Toy Story films more times than I can count. Otherwise, I watch Harold and Maude (1971) and The Princess Bride (1987) on a regularly rotating basis!

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film has a compelling story—whatever the type of film—and allows us to experience something more than the story, without knowing it until it’s over.

How is the film scene in your city?

Raleigh-—and by extension, the state of North Carolina—has a HAPPENING film scene. From the 1980s through 2014, many commercial films and television shows were made in the area. When the tax incentives changed, however, the state lost much of that industry; but, at the same time, the growth of independent film has been explosive. With film schools at our public universities and community colleges, varied and beautiful settings, and an experienced population of filmmakers and folks with film-related talents, North Carolina is a great place to make movies.

Sally Bloom bio: Sally is a co-organizer of Longleaf Film Festival and believes in the power of independent film to make connections, to entertain, and to form community. Sally finds many connections between her “other” work for the North Carolina Museum of History and her work with Longleaf because “everything has history!” Her other work includes writing and producing videos for the museum’s website and YouTube channel, reaching students through live-streaming classes, and, oh, you know, making history cool. A native North Carolinian, Sally attended UNC and has an MA in history, along with a husband, four kids, and a lot of laundry.