Letters to the Editor 10/31/13
FILM FEST BACKGROUND
I was excited and pleased to see your article in the Illinois Times about the Route 66 Film Festival [Nov. 1 and 2 at Capital City Bar and Grill. Go to illinoistimes.com for the schedule]. The original idea of having a film festival for Springfield was mine.
Back in 2002, I was an adjunct psychology, history and film instructor at Lincoln Land Community College. A student in one of my classes, Tom Synder, asked if there was a film club on campus. I told him there was not but that if he was interested we would start one, which we did (The Reel to Real Film Club). I also suggested that the club with the backing of LLCC bring to Springfield its very first film festival. The Springfield Art Association had been having a “film series” for years. LLCC was willing to give us a one-time financial grant.
I gave the festival its name and also asked for volunteers from the community as well as the film club and LLCC student body. Certain organizations and business helped, such as the Springfield Art Association, Kerasotes Theaters (who let us use screens at the Esquire) and Knights Action Park (who let us use the drive in screen). I formed multiple committees with chairs to run those committees: Independent Films, Studio Films, Marketing and Promotion, Souvenirs, Actor Recruitment, Budget, Security, etc. Many from the community heard the call. To name some: Bob Bartel (local filmmaker and playwright), Dean Williams (Hollywoood still photographer), Dr. Randy Roller (theater director), Dr. Ed Hoffman (who had directed film festivals at colleges he had taught at), Pat Holstein (manager of Hollywood Video) and Linda McElroy. In addition, I was able to consult with Roger Ebert (whom I became acquainted with by going to his film festivals in Champaign).
Several articles were written about the festival in both Chicago and St. Louis papers, as well as local papers. In addition, a film documentary about organizing a film festival was made by film students at Webster University. A film critic from the Chicago Reader, Peter Sobinisky, was brought to Springfield to host the festival at the recommendation of Roger Ebert.
The original format was to show both studio and independent films and bring in some recognizable Hollywood names. We obtained Bruce Campbell and Marty Milner. Robert Forester had also been booked but he had to cancel at the last minute due to being called to work on a major motion picture. Through our ticket and souvenir sales receipts, we were able to break even with a few hundred dollars left over. Post-festival articles about the festival discussed how for a first year film festival, we had been highly successful.
Putting together a film festival demands an incredible amount of time. So at the end of the festival, I resigned. Linda McElroy, then chair of the Independent Film Committee, volunteered to become the new director, along with continuing help from the Reel to Real Film Club at LLCC. We agreed that money would have to be obtained from wherever we could find supporters and to move the film festival to strictly an independent film festival format. The film club at LLCC faded out of existence and the festival became strictly a Springfield community project getting encouragement and support from both the Springfield Film Commission, hosts of the radio show “The Fly Over Zone,” and the Springfield Art Association and Springfield Area Arts Council.
Linda did an excellent job of keeping the festival going and then growing. With Linda moving out of state in 2012, it was necessary to move the organization of the festival to a board which now directs and organizes the festival. I feel like a proud father watching the festival growing and gaining in both recognition and popularity throughout the national and international film festival community and the continuing support from the community.
I hope this year’s festival is a huge success and that I might again someday find some time to participate as a film screener for the festival.
Dr. Randall J. Soland L.C.P.C.
Artist Dale Chihuly is known throughout the world for his innovative sculptures and epic outdoor installations. PBS viewers will be among the first to get tickets to a nearby exhibit during a special joint documentary broadcast of “Chihuly Outside” on WILL-TV and WTVP (Peoria), Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.
During the broadcast, viewers will learn more about “Chihuly and Friends: Highlights from the George R. Stroemple Collection” coming Nov. 23, 2013-April 13, 2014, to the new Peoria Riverfront Museum.