The festival circuit is a beating.

Like traveling salesmen of the past, we, the indie moviemakers of the world, travel from town to town repeating our rehearsed sales pitch, dancing our desperate dance. We earnestly pitch the same “My product will amaze you” pitch as in the past. We dance the same “Please like me” despondent shuffle as our forefathers before us, and, like them, we wear a smile to mask an exhaustion no sleep could ever satiate. Shaking hands and remembering names in an attempt to push our product, we share the hope of success, and for one more “Yes,” one more ally, one more ass in a seat for a screening. 

Toward the end of the festival tour of my film Lucky, I landed in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for the Edmonton International Film Festival (September 28-October 7, 2017). From the moment Kyle, the festival’s transportation captain, picked me up, I didn’t feel like a guest, but like a family member being welcomed home. By the second night, I found my life and my moviemaking plans had interwoven themselves with the people of EIFF. I started scouring my archives as to what I could film here, and how I could incorporate the wonderful people and the beautiful location of Edmonton into a future film, just as an excuse to come back. 

Lucky director Logan Sparks (C) and friends at the 2017 Edmonton International Film Festival. Photograph courtesy of Edmonton International Film Festival

EIFF’s entire team—from producers, to publicists, to programmers, coordinators and volunteers—are kick ass individuals who don’t just love film and moviemakers, but respect their struggle as well. The minutia of the festival wasn’t just about the step and repeat, or the radio bites, but about the humanity of film and the importance of storytellers. 

Lucky screened in the festival’s prestigious closing night gala slot. Festival Producer, Kerrie Long, personally selected the film for this time slot because it’s “the last memory our audiences will make” before the next festival, and there wasn’t an empty seat. Then, during the post-screening Q&A, not a single audience member left. They all stayed. They, the audience, those lovers of art whom I had once found myself desperate to find, didn’t just show up—they came out to engage and participate in the culture of their society. 

I sat in a warm kitchen with my new EIFF family on the cold Sunday morning I was scheduled to leave Edmonton, sharing our dreams over an Irish coffee. Although tired, I no longer felt beleaguered. My time at EIFF had been a beautiful respite, and I found a renewed love for the shared experience of film. When I realized that this is their “product,” I laughed out loud. They must see it every year: the residual effects of operating in the commerce of good. MM

Featured image photograph: L to R: Moviemakers Mike Brandin (Someone), Meedo Taha (The Incident), and Dallas Allegra and Kris Booth (Ordinary Days) mingle after screenings at Edmonton International Film Festival 2017. Courtesy of Edmonton International Film Festival.

This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Spring 2018 issue.