I attended my first film festival ever this past weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. As someone who generally enjoys movies and sees the art as an important cultural phenomenon (not to mention being interested in writing and making them myself), it was a real treat to participate in an event that is shaped entirely around that phenomenon and the people who love movies.
Though I'm sure we didn't take on as much of a hard-core schedule as many others there, we got to see a nice mix of films: from feature-length flicks with a decent budget to "home movies" put together with iMovie. All were interesting, some were really good, some were "can I walk out now?" bad. I think my favorite "feel good" viewing was Childstar, which I would expect to see circulating in mainstream theaters in the near future if good taste has anything to say about it.
I also enjoyed the Screenwriters Panel hosted on Saturday morning, which had a great variety of screenwriters with varying experience and knowledge, so it really painted a neat picture of what an aspiring screenwriter might expect along that journey. I was sort of embarrassed about the degree to which I think I'd put screenwriters on a distant pedestal, at least in the context of what I might ever hope to do with that form of writing. But these were real, grounded, creative people who got to see their words turned into films (and sometimes even have creative control in that process), and they seemed very satisfied about it.
I guess most impressive for me was getting the sense by encountering them and their work up close that most of the world's filmmakers are driven by a passion for their ideas and their craft, and a desire to bring a realization of what's in their head to the screen to share with others. It's easy to forget that this is what the art is about, and not what is represented by and manifested in your typical Hollywood blockbuster. I came away from the weekend with a sense of renewed enthusiasm that, insofar as filmmaking can be a worthwhile way of communicating and spreading new ways of looking at the world, and making connections with our fellow humans in new and exciting ways, it's something in which I'm personally interested in being a part.