Interview with Roger Durling, SBIFF Executive Director

Reviewed by Rosanna Lapinski.

Each year, Santa Barbara City College offers students total immersion in the world of film appreciation—a chance to spend hours viewing films, discussing films, attending tributes to film artists, and Q & A’s with leaders in the film industry. This unique opportunity is called the “Film Festival Studies” class. The class requires students to follow a rigorous schedule of screenings, discussions, and writing film reviews. The only entry requirement for this class is a passion for film.

On Day 6 of this year’s 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, our class met with Roger Durling, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. We met with Mr. Durling in the Rosebud Lounge, next door to the Lobero Theater, where Mr. Durling provided us a behind the scenes look at how to organize a film festival.

Planning–It takes a year to put the festival together. Roger Durling and his staff will begin working on next year’s festival on February 15. To create a unique identity for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Mr. Durling scheduled the festival to start after the Academy nominations and before the Oscar award ceremonies. Mr. Durling must ensure that the festival does not conflict with other important dates in the industry.

Staff–Roger’s staff consists of himself and two assistants. They have a $3 million dollar budget.

Organization–The SBIFF is organized into film categories that are a reflection of Santa Barbara. The categories of films this year are Latino, surfing, food cuisine, extreme sports, emerging French directors, documentary, nature, Jewish culture, and social justice.

Venues–Events are held in several venues including the Metro theater complex on lower State, the Arlington Theater, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Lobero Theater.

Sponsors—Donations take the form of gifts in kind, corporate sponsorships and grants. One of the most challenging aspects of the Mr. Durling’s job is to secure the necessary funding to put on the festival.

Timeline—This year’s festival runs for 11 days. There were five special events or panels providing the opportunity to discuss specific area with working professionals: screenwriting, producing, directing and local film history. In addition, the festival feted eleven outstanding members of the film industry in in five special evening tributes at the Arlington. There were also after parties and other soirees.

Selection–This year, 130 feature length films and 81 short films were accepted into the festival. Mr. Durling starts looking for films in July. He also utilizes a website, “Without a Box,” where film producers upload their films for consideration.

Invite directors, writers and producers to introduce their films—This year’s festival showcased Lawrence Kasdan’s new film, “Darling Companion,” and also offered a retrospective of Kasdan’s films.

Red Carpet Reception for VIPs—This year’s red carpet included big screens to display the VIPs to the crowds outside on the street. This was an idea Mr. Durling picked up by attending another film festival.

Audience Voters—allow the audience to participate by passing out ballots to viewers. Award films selected by audience balloting.

Secure volunteers–Volunteers are required to keep things running smoothly during film showings and parties.

Festival Guide—This year’s festival guide featured movie descriptions, director and writer profiles, sponsor and in-kind donor listings, logos and ads, and special event information in the festival guide. The Festival Guide was also published on the internet and updated daily.

Based on the galaxy of stars and the quality of this year’s films, we can’t wait for the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. See you next year!

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