Rip City Rendezvous: Portland Film Festival Writes its Own Narrative

When Portland Film Festival director Josh Leake called me to say he wanted my first independent feature to debut as the opening night premiere, it was a dream come true—a long, long awaited dream come true.

Up to that time, the process of making Sex Ed had been a knock-down, drag-out dogfight. When potential investors passed on financing the movie, sometimes all that kept me going was the vision of presenting a finished film to a juiced-up, eager audience. An event screening, a film festival premiere—these are the dreams you have when you’re slugging it out for a green light to finally start casting. Or when shooting six to seven pages a day over 19 days, and it’s about to start pouring rain in Florida, and you know you gotta get that shot in the can, make your day, and keep moving.

The truth is, we did not initially submit Sex Ed to Portland. Portland found us. We had been rejected from a few festivals. Some programmers were kind enough to call and reject the film personally: “Your movie is so fun! I know people are going to see it… our festival is looking to show films we don’t think people are going to see.” It was brutal. One generous programmer asked to show my film to Leake. He thought Portland would respond to the movie and be a good cultural fit.

Actor Haley Joel Osmont (center, right), director Isaac Feder (center, left), cast and crew at the opening night screening of Sex Ed

Actor Haley Joel Osmont (center, right), director Isaac Feder (center, left), cast and crew at the opening night screening of Sex Ed. Photograph by Elliot Schofield

Here’s what I love about the Portland Film Festival: It wants to be a tastemaking event. It isn’t just copying and pasting other festival’s programs, replaying movies that have won awards elsewhere. It wants to be part of the story of discovering and showcasing independent movies like Sex Ed. And Portland is a special place to be over Labor Day weekend. The city is bumping and the weather is ideal. The community comes out to celebrate. The mayor gets involved. The food is fantastic, the beer is extraordinary, and joints are open late. The movie theaters are unique: each with a bar and a vibe, and packed with people eager for an authentic moviegoing experience.

MovieMaker named the Portland Film Festival one of the coolest film festivals in the world this year, and as an alum, I know it’s well-deserved. Sex Ed is proud to be part of the story. We came to the festival to celebrate with everyone—our cast, the producers, the writer, and I. The local filmmaking scene is vibrant, supportive, and I know it’s going to continue to grow. I can’t wait to see what films the festival discovers for 2015. MM

Isaac Feder directed the feature Sex Ed, starring Haley Joel Osmont.

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