SanLuisObispoFounded in the early 1990s to provide opportunities for likeminded souls to share in the appreciation and experience of film in the natural beauty of California’s central coast region, the San Luis Obispo Film Society viewed the establishment of an annual film festival as a natural extension of its central purpose. Led by local attorney and cinephile Mary Harris, the Society held its initial San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) in 1993. At that first fest the Society established the King Vidor Award for Lifetime Achievement, presenting its inaugural award to noted director George Sidney.

Harris continued to spearhead the film society for the next nine years, expanding it to include the George Sidney Independent Film Competition and adding moviemaking seminars and workshops, featuring a wide variety of professionals from Hollywood and beyond. In 2004 Harris passed the torch to a new group of film society members, who stepped in to sustain and grow the festival to its present 11-day celebration.

SLOIFF festival director Wendy Eidson says “It’s great having a local film society, because it gives us an automatic direct support base for our fundraising efforts as well as a reliable labor resource to draw from at festival time, when we need a lot of people to staff the films, events, panels and workshops.” Without such a built-in resource, Eidson says the job of organizing and administering the film festival would be much more difficult.

This year’s SLOIFF has been expanded to 11 days, featuring more films, events, panels and workshops than ever before. In addition to its annual George Sidney film competition, for the first time the festival is scheduled to present two King Vidor Awards: One for lifetime achievement in directing to Norman Jewison on Saturday, March 3rd and one for lifetime achievement in acting to James Cromwell on Saturday, March 10th.

For more information on the San Luis Obispo Film Society and this year’s SLOIFF (which will run from March 1 – 11, 2007), please visit

Sound Off: Does your local film festival have the benefit of a film society or some other such support organization? If so, what measures do they employ to assist in the sustenance and growth of the festival? Share your observations in the comments section!