Baseball isn’t the only thing returning to Boston this month. Just days after the Red Sox swing into action at Fenway, the Independent Film Festival of Boston will host its seventh annual event. Jam-packed with panel discussions and opportunities to mingle and network with other moviemakers—all while enjoying the great city of Boston—the IFFB is a not-to-be-missed event.
Just weeks before the launch of what’s bound to be another successful event, MM caught up with IFFB program director, Adam Roffman, to get a sneak peek of this year’s fest.
Nora Murphy (MM): What inspired you to get involved at IFF Boston?
Adam Roffman (AR): I got involved with the Independent Film Festival of Boston in its infancy, a few months before the inaugural festival. I had already been thinking of starting a film festival in town because there wasn’t really a world-class festival that covered every type of film in Boston—at least not one people could be proud of. There were some very good film festivals that focused on a specific ethnicity or region, but Boston just didn’t have its equivalent of a Seattle International Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival or SXSW.
As someone who works in the film industry for a living and was traveling to festivals like Sundance, Seattle, etc., it seemed mind-boggling to me that a city like Boston didn’t have something of its own. Then I was at Sundance in 2003 and I met Jason Redmond, the executive director of IFFBoston. He was there handing out postcards saying he was going to start a film festival in Boston. We ended up talking for a while and I came on board to program the festival. They haven’t been able to get rid of me since.
MM: On average, how many films are accepted out of all of the submissions?
AR: We receive 1,400 to 1,500 submissions each year and out of those we program somewhere in the range of 100 each year, including features and shorts. We try not to go too far over that number because we honestly don’t feel that there are more than 150 or so very strong films out there in any given festival season. When a festival is programming 200 or more films, the quality suffers.
MM: What key aspects of the film are looked at when considering it for the festival?
AR: Most of this may sound obvious, but then there would probably be more than 150 strong films a year if it were that obvious. First, writing. If the material is weak it will be very hard to overcome that. We have seen so many films with beautiful cinematography, perfect sound, great production design and talented actors; but if the script is bad, none of those other things can prop it up. Originality is also key. We strive to show our audience films that seem fresh and exciting and are not just carbon copies of films that everyone has already seen.
Outside of those two broad things that we look for, we also keep an eye out for themes and topics that we feel people in the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area would have interest in. We have a very artistic and educated community here, so films about artists of all stripes go over like gangbusters as well as any documentaries about law, the environment, prison reform and local topics.
MM: What can attendees expect when the festival kicks off later this month?
AR: Long lines, packed theaters, lots and lots of director Q&As, some interesting panel discussions on acting and documentary filmmaking and some great parties. We’re also going to have some great special guests including Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Hal Holbrook, Barry Corbin, the Farrelly brothers, Red Sox legend Luis Tiant, Kevin Corrigan, Bobcat Goldthwait and many more. More people are confirming they’re coming every day. We’ll be showing some fantastic films including Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom (on Opening Night), Ondi Timoner’s Sundance award-winning documentary We Live in Public, Cory McAbee’s Stingray Sam and Bruce McDonald’s intelligent horror film, Pontypool. We’ve also added an amazing new venue, the Institute of Contemporary Art in downtown Boston. We’re really proud to add the ICA to the festival along with our regular venues, the Somerville Theatre, the Brattle Theatre and the Coolidge Corner Theatre.
MM: Other than recognition at the leading film festival in Boston, what else can winners walk away with?
AR: Some of the prizes that go along with the awards include a year’s free travel on JetBlue Airways, five days free rental of the RED camera on the filmmaker’s next project, six hours of free telecine time and the opportunity to have your film distributed by Cinetic Digital Media Rights Management. We don’t put as much emphasis on the awards at our festival as some do at other festivals though. Our focus is on bringing the best young filmmakers together in one place and providing them with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where they can get to know each other and form long-lasting relationships, both personal and professional. Some good examples of this are that some of the teams that made Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs and Lynn Shelton’s Humpday came about because they met at the Independent Film Festival of Boston. Forging those relationships is what IFFBoston is all about.
The Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFBoston) will take place April 22-28,2009. Festival passes and tickets are available online at http://www.iffboston.org.