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Big Island film festival gets a taste of stardom


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Big Island “;Talk Story”; Film Festival is one of the top 25 coolest in the world, according to MovieMaker magazine — and it has some 5,000 festivals around the world from which to choose.

The magazine's summer issue, on newsstands and online, quotes festival founder and Executive Director Leo Sears describing how cool it is to view one's film with palm trees swaying and “;the fragrance of plumeria wafting around.”;

“;It's hard to argue with logic like that,”; the magazine reported, adding that filmmakers who suggested the festival said that Waikoloa Bowl at Queens' Gardens is “;a truly unforgettable screening venue.”;

It helps that VIP guests — including “;the John Saxons, D.B. Sweeneys and the Ron Osborns of this world — have far-reaching impact when they tell people what fun it was and what a great time they had,”; said Jan Sears, festival producer and Leo's wife.

Inclusion on the list is more than just a nice feather in the festival's cap, she said.

“;It certainly does make a difference in the number and quality of films that are submitted.”;

Some film festivals take all submissions but don't screen all of them, “;and give people awards for things that haven't been seen by the public.”;

Everything BIFF accepts is scheduled and screened “;to maintain the integrity of the event.”;

BIFF's theme is “;talk story,”; so it accepts independent, narrative films made within the past year that tell a story, she said.

Two years ago, in its second year, it was named one of the top 20 film festivals worth the entry fee — the entry fee for filmmakers, that is.

With thousands of festivals, filmmakers “;have to decide where they want to put their money,”; she said.

BIFF entry fees vary depending on certain aspects, such as film length, so a shorter feature film can enter for under $100, “;and some places it's way over $100.”;

Entry for Hawaii-made and student films is $25.

“;We're trying to encourage those up-and-comers in and out of our state,”; she said. There are more than 100 film schools in the country, “;so we get some wonderful films from very special film schools that have always been top-quality, top productions. These kids are going to do a great job”; after graduation.

An average of 6 percent to 7 percent of films screened at film festivals go into distribution, “;but we have, like, 17 percent that actually reach distributorship,”; said Sears.

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).