Event logs more than 6,000 visits
by Seth Rowe
Sun Sailor Newspapers
Five years after its founding, the Twin Cities Film Fest continues to grow.
The festival experienced about 6,200 visits during its run Oct. 16-25 at Showplace ICON Theatre in St. Louis Park. That’s up from an estimated 5,700 visits last year.
While four films sold out at the fest last year, this year that many movies had sold out before the festival even opened, said Jatin Setia, the festival’s founder and executive director. Nine movies in all sold out this year.
More filmmakers visited from across the country this year as well, Setia said. New York and Los Angeles were well-represented by visitors at mixers following screenings.
Out-of-towners often commented on the professionalism of the festival as well as its hometown feeling, Setia said.
“We do a good job in having both feet in those puddles,” Setia said.
The mixer space featured prominently among festival highlights. For the first time, the festival utilized a vacant retail space for after-parties. Large signs on the walls invited guests to guess the names of movies based on the lyrics of songs performed in the films.
The fest offered complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres to movie patrons, and contemporary furniture greeted VIPs in a curtained-off section of the space. Musicians performed, and visitors could pose for pictures with props like fake mustaches and bowler hats.
In the past, various restaurants have hosted mixers throughout the festival.
“One comment from staff was how awesome it was having one central location to go to every night for the parties as opposed to moving around,” Setia said. “It provided more of a vibe and place for networking between filmmakers, audiences and filmmakers and sponsors as well.”
Although that particular spot may be occupied by next year, Setia said the fest will seek to provide a centralized location for mixers in the future due to the popularity
of such a place this year.
Films from leading studios proved popular, including “The Imitation Game” and “Wild.” The former stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, an English mathematician whose machine cracked the German Engima code during World War II. “Wild” stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who takes a 1,100-mile hike as a method of recovery. The opening film, “Men, Women and Children,” also proved popular, Setia said. The film follows teenagers and their parents in an exploration of how the Internet has changed how people interact.
“Half of them were kind of hesitant in seeing it because it is an interesting topic and so relevant that people kind of shy away from dealing with the reality, but when they walked away people had nothing but good things to say about it,” Setia said. “You didn’t have to love the film but you appreciated the content.”
The festival tried to present a variety of films this year, Setia said.
“One of the things I think we broke a barrier on was our diverse program,” Setia said. “My goal is to get general consumers out of their comfort zone to experience films they probably wouldn’t be able to see and probably wouldn’t even make a decision to go see because it’s not their type of film. But those who did take a chance appreciated the content and where filmmakers were coming from.”
Having filmmakers present to answer questions after a number of the films also helped audience members understand the movies, he added.
The festival surveyed audiences, and Setia estimated 40-50 percent of those in attendance this year were new to the Twin Cities Film Fest.
The festival’s membership increased as well. Beyond the annual festival, the event offers monthly screenings throughout the year, including encores of films from the festival or new films festival staff are scouting. Members also receive sneak peaks to some studio films before their release dates.
The fest also flies filmmakers into the Twin Cities occasionally to provide educational events at area colleges, hosts an Oscar party at the Showplace ICON Theatre in March and conducts an annual actors expo at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in April.
Memberships provides free or discounted admission to most of the festival’s year-around activities.
Setia also acts and performs consulting work, but he said most of his time is spent working on festival activities.
“People think the festival is over right now, which it is for them, but it’s just the beginning of 2015 for me,” he said.
The festival does not employee a full-time staff yet, but Setia said he believes that will occur eventually. He said he sets high expectations for himself, his staff and the programming.
“To everybody else this is like, ‘Omigod, this is amazing.’ To me, this is what’s expected,” Setia said. “This is the type of event this community deserves. I’m ecstatic we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve been able to accomplish. But by no means is this the plateau. It’s all about setting the goal and exceeding it.”
He said he is encouraged by feedback from filmmakers.
“When you have filmmakers say you are as well run as Tribeca or Seattle or Newport Beach, it makes you feel good,” he said. “We’re going up, we’re continuing to go up and we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
For more information, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org
Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]