Interview with Festival Director Sasha Santiago (GRID EDGE FILM FESTIVAL)

Grid Edge Fest wants to live screen your short film in Brooklyn, NY. The festival is one part tech conference, two parts community workshops, and a grand finale live screening event as the centerpiece.

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

Sasha Santiago: People generally want connectivity and to be part of a community that feels creative, fresh and original. Grid Edge Fest wants to make an event out of the films it selects. To spotlight films that take on the complex subject of climate change and create a space that makes it accessible to a new audience.

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

If you’re like me, you sometimes wonder why don’t people go to movies as much anymore? That last few times I’ve been to a theater, I found it odd how I’m one of maybe a dozen attendees present. Maybe it’s because of the content, maybe it’s the $18 matinee ticket price or maybe it’s the lack of a community.

Grid Edge Fest first and foremost is a film festival, with a series of interactive events that lead up to the live screening event. These include tech talks on innovative breakthrough solutions that look at data as the new fuel of the future (see exergy.energy) to fight back at climate change, as well as family-friendly community workshops that find the fun in educating people on what can be done about climate change at the local level.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Grid Edge Fest wants the best films yet on the topic of climate change or important environmental stories. The films can DIY stories shot on an iPhone or high caliber professionally produced gems, the sincere hope is that people who watch these films would be both united and inspired and that they will leave the festival with a new commitment in their hearts to combat climate change in a manner that truly resonates.

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

Film is an expensive and competitive art form. Organizing a sustainable film festival isn’t cheap nor easy. New film festivals like Grid Edge Fest have a proven failure rate after the first or second year because they don’t successfully find their audience. As far as giving films a fair shake, I can’t speak for other festivals but I’ll presume it has something to do with targeted demographics. Who will make the pilgrimage to the film festival? Usually, the films selected looks like the audience it’s trying to attract.

The film business has been historically ruled by white men from upper-middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds for a very long time, but the good news is that we’re seeing more evidence of that being reconciled as the old guard dies. I think we’re seeing some pretty good strides and small wins (Boomshakalaka!!!) in the last few years but a film festival that stands for just fairness or diversity sake isn’t enough to be sustainable or engaging. The films still need to be good and a festival’s most important job is to offer a well-curated experience.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We’re totally new to FilmFreeway. It’s a cool service, makes it super easy to submit a film. We’re still looking for more short films to be submitted. Each of the short films selected for the Spring 2019 live screening would be considered a winner and be awarded a $250 prize.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Grid Edge Fest intends to constantly reinvent itself in order to maintain agility and flexibility while it keeps its eyes peeled for the oncoming 3° freight train, that’s threatening our planet.

In 2023, we see GEF being a seasonal roadshow style film festival. It’ll be outstanding if GEF would have a structure or mechanisms in place to increase the liquidity of film investment and distribution for filmmakers around the world that might not have easy access to resources to tell their environmental stories.

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

That’s a personal question I’m not ready to answer here but I’ll give you a hint, he may wear a yellow hat and trench coat.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film is one that you can return to time and time again, like when your hanging with a good ole bud who is aging gracefully with you.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Rent is too damn high and we’ve been losing too many indie theaters because of it. New York City is a constant hustle. When I asked the same question to my GEF film advisor, Joel Fendelman, he told me that this challenge of high rent is what drives half the city to constantly push through anyway. It’s a melting pot of idealists and artists on the cutting edge filled with ambition. Maybe this is why NYC is the perfect place to launch the festival.

To answer your question, I think the film scene in my city is the company you keep and the projects you put your life into and take over the finish line no matter what.

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