The Savannah Film Festival and All Its Glory

Each autumn the Savannah College of Art and Design (S.C.A.D.) presents the annual Savannah Film Festival. During its 15 years the affair has been known for both its innovation and inspiration.  Founded by a SCAD leader and festivity aficionado, Paula Wallace, the event is laden with creativity.  She envisioned a cooperative event joining students and professionals together while bringing the resources necessary to build a legacy for the college.  Wallace is known for designing a myriad of student focused events and it is clear the students and community alike drive her passion. Quite brilliantly, she understands the value of engaged learning and proves it by organizing festivals, book signings, exhibitions and other collaborative opportunities.

Savannah, the host town for this spectacular event, is adorned with southern charm and draping Spanish moss.  As showcase ideas emerged in 1997, the town began to buzz. The Film Festival’s progress has a history of fast-paced growth since inception and now utilizes a full staff and hundreds of volunteers, mostly students, to orchestrate its continued development.  Danny Filson, the event executive director, remembers when Wallace first caught hold of the film festival notion.  He also remembers her eagerness to bring the idea to life in a mere matter of months! By 1998, the annual Festival was in place presenting a versatile cinematic showing while engaging both award-winning professionals and budding student filmmakers.

Soon after it began, publicist Bobby Zarem joined the team with expertise and associations which advanced the festival rapidly and helped to create the foundation on which it now stands.  The cooperative work from leaders, community supporters and volunteers spirited the Savannah Film Festival into being the “longest running University sponsored film festival in the world”.   In addition to its span, the Festival also boasts eclectic crowds numbering in the tens of thousands, making it possibly the most dynamic event put on by this town!  

With an abundant seven days to enjoy the festivities, the Savannah experience becomes available to all.  Workshops, film showings, lectures, and other industry incentives encourage participation while historic venues, squares and natural elements blend the local persuasions.  This event combines a rich history of creativity with the deep roots of the soothing southern lifestyle.   Social participation perpetuates a connection to the film industry cultivating the path for filmmaking hopefuls.  While most comparable film festivals run an average of 4 days, the Savannah Film Festival allows participants to settle in, relax and become immersed in the artistic culture.

Over the years, renowned film artists have contributed not just to the events success but also to the student’s personal and professional growth.  Whether it is homework help, technical guidance or a pep talk, their encouragement gives rise to future vision.  As proof of this, several students have gone on to become gilded in the discipline of film-making. Student participants add to their list of achievements by benefiting from the Savannah Film Festival’s possible catalysts which have included network contracts, industry awards and cash prizes.  Students should certainly consider the event a launching pad when diligent in their effort to commit to the cause. 

Similarly, other film festivals choose venues rich in historical value which seem to be the best suited for events such as these. College towns also seem to be great hosts.  Cities around the United States thrive on Festivals such as this one and while there is growth in almost all markets, Savannah’s Film Festival shows more promise than most.  Attendance has flourished to over 40,000 participants!  Choosing a host site which has historical ambience and a college influence seems to be the trend for events such as this one. Choices like these inspire excitement and a feeling of inclusion in the sense of community. Using an old school house or a renovated theater helps to promote the sense of connection between all members of the community.  S.C.A.D., for instance, is deservedly notorious for restoring at least sixty-five buildings in Savannah’s Historic District that now constitutes its campus.  This accomplishment reflects the capability of the college and its devotion to the area. 

Growth of the Savannah Film Festival shows promise for the future while maintaining the intimate atmosphere paticipants have come to love.  During 2013, the expectation is set for no less than 75 screenings and events.   The Trustees and Lucas Theaters will, once again, be the star locations during the week with a special viewing of Dracula on Halloween.  Growing from a handful of showings with sparse crowds to this year’s whopping expectation presses the festivals team toward inspiration.  Brain storming sessions and diligent preparation are sure to boost the chance for an increase in community participation.  Leaders of this event continue to collaborate with enthusiasm for its possibilities.  2013 will, no doubt, be more spectacular than any year past!

With the date fast approaching, student excitement moves through the campus with ease.  They know while prizes from similar festivals range from a few hundred to a few thousand, the Savannah Film Festival prizes total $100,000!  The heart and soul of this event is the free flow of ideas between professional and budding filmmakers.  With education as the focal point of the endeavor, this Film Festival offers an exceptional gift in creating this opportunity.  Learning is never better than when the process is honored by both the teacher and student.  In this particular case, the “teachers” happen to be craft soaked mavens with a desire to genuinely contribute to the S.C.A.D. students.  What a magnificent gift for these and all Savannahians.

A teenager by definition, the festival is sure to continue on its pathway as a respected member of the Savannah community!

In 2013, the Festival will begin on October 26th and continue through November 2nd.  Ticket prices range from $50-$750 and are moving fast! For instance, the Bronze Pass is already sold out for this season.  A Reserved Pass gains an all access experience to the film screenings, workshops, lectures and evening receptions as well as early entry and reserved seating arrangements.  Several other options are available as well.

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