Film Forum

If I Can Festival, So Can You

Filmworks board member Cindy Peters Duzi at a recent San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.


There are many reasons why film festivals feel so exciting. Fresnans are fortunate, as Filmworks hosts a first-class annual festival, showcasing a wide variety of films at an affordable price. A $50 festival pass to the 14th Annual Fresno Film Festival enables you to see seven feature-length movies and two short films you will not see in your local theaters.

But what about other film festivals? Are the big names like Toronto and Sundance only for the industry elite or the rich and famous? The answer is an emphatic no!

With a bit of research, any film lover can take advantage of the many film festivals in California, or even venture to beautiful Park City, Utah to attend Sundance. Following is an average person’s guide to attending film festivals.

You may wonder why you should incur the expense of traveling to another city to see films that you can eventually stream online at home. While the studios do pick up many festival offerings, the majority of films at major festivals may never receive distribution deals. In many instances, your only opportunity to see some of these remarkable films will be at a festival.

There is nothing quite like the energy one experiences at a film festival. Whether it is the buzz about films shared while standing in line or the thrill of being on a Sundance bus and listening to young filmmakers talk about their first projects, it is a magical experience to share your passion for cinema with like-minded people.

At larger festivals, most films are followed by a Q&A session with the film’s production team and often its actors. One’s understanding of a film is deepened by listening to these individuals talk about everything from the origin of the original idea to the challenge of making an entire film in less than 30 days on a tiny budget.

California plays host to many film festivals, some widely known, and others small but just as enjoyable. While the festivals in Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Mill Valley are most on people’s radar, there are many impressive smaller festivals like the one I attended this past year in San Luis Obispo. Learning “How to Festival” at each of the big events is available online, and while it can take some experience to work through the kinks of buying tickets, it is all fun and relatively easy.

It took me a number of years to learn how to successfully navigate the huge Sundance Film Festival, and while it has admittedly become more expensive, it is still possible for a cinephile enjoy. Encourage your fellow film-loving friends to turn a festival experience into an adventure they will never forget.

And remember, the 14th Annual Fresno Film Festival runs Nov. 2-4 at the historic Tower Theatre.

Cindy Peters Duzi is a new Filmworks board member, and she teaches high school English. She blogs about cinema on her Instagram.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.